On A Pinehurst Golf Vacation
I have written previously about the courses I played on my Pinehurst vacation this last spring: Pinehurst No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 , No. 8 and the Cradle. Pinehurst, however, is more than just golf — it is a vacation experience. The lodging is luxurious, the food delicious and the surroundings relaxing.
Pinehurst Resort is the brainchild of James Walker Tufts. In 1895, Tufts, a Boston soda fountain tycoon, bought 5,500 acres of land in the area and opened the Holly Inn (which is still one of the resort’s lodging options). Tufts conceived of it as a health resort for middle class Americans.
The land Tufts purchased was a deforested, sandy expanse. Perfect, as it turns out, for golf. But that came later.
Initially, the resort featured riding, hunting, polo, lawn bowling, bicycling, archery and shooting. A plan for the village of Pinehurst also was laid out, inspired by New England towns.
Tufts was nothing if not ambitious.
The first golf course was laid out in 1898 — a nine holer. In 1899, an additional nine holes were added under the direction of John Dunn Tucker, and Pinehurst No. 1 came into being.
Donald Ross was hired in 1900 to direct Pinehurst’s golf operations. Pinehurst No. 2 opened in 1907.
During my visit, I stayed at the legendary Carolina Hotel. Constructed in 1901, the Carolina absolutely exudes history. The architecture, with its wide porches, copper cupola and horizontal (rather than vertical) expanse hearkens to another time. When it opened, the Carolina boasted all the modern conveniences, such as electric lights, elevators and telephones. It has of course been updated since, and the inside is the picture of modern luxury.
If you stay at the Carolina — or even if you stay at one of the resorts other lodgings — I think it is worth your while to take a walk down the length of the long central hall. The walls there are decorated with hundreds of photographs, drawings, period advertisements and explanatory text. It’s like a museum, and I spent a good two hours one evening looking at every one (I’m a history buff, so I couldn’t tear myself away).
On my stay at Pinehurst, I ate at four of the resort’s restaurants. For breakfast, I ate at the Carolina Dining Room, where they had a very nice breakfast buffet.
For dinners, I ate at the Ryder Cup Lounge at the Carolina Hotel and The Tavern at the nearby Holly Inn. There’s a shuttle that runs regularly between the properties, but in truth, I discovered that it is a short and very pleasant walk between the Hotel and the Inn.
The Lounge and The Tavern are both low-key, with straightforward food. My favorite menu item was the crabcakes and hush puppies at The Tavern. The desserts are ridiculously good — and large.
As a cocktail connoisseur, I found that the drink selection there was terrific.
Pro tip: If you want to eat at the Carolina Dining room or the Holly Inn’s 1895 Grille, make reservations well ahead of time. I didn’t, and missed the opportunity (although I really don’t regret it).
Lunch in The Deuce in the main clubhouse was also quite good.
While at Pinehurst, set aside some time to take a walk around the Village of Pinehurst. It has some really cool-looking cottages, quaint shops and some additional dining opportunities. You can catch one of the shuttles, but the main part of the village is less than half a mile from the Carolina Hotel, and a sand wedge away from the Holly Inn.
While there, you absolutely do not want to miss the Old Sport & Gallery. The gallery has a collection of golf art, memorabilia and antiques that boggles the mind with its volume and eclectic nature. I could have spent hours there.
The proprietor is Tom Stewart, PGA, who turned out to be a Michigander. It’s a small world.
I had a long talk with Stewart (probably too long for his liking). Stewart got his start in golf as a caddy at Petoskey Bay View Golf Club (which I have driven past many times but never had the chance to play) and worked as golf director at many Michigan golf facilities.
Stewart gave a young man named Bernie Friedrich his first job in golf. Friedrich now is a Michigan Golf Hall of Famer and the Vice President of Golf Operations at Boyne Resorts. It also turns out that Stewart knows Dave Kendall, a Michigan Hall of Fame golf pro, and the owner of the Kendall Academy of Golf and of my home course, Washtenaw Golf Club.
During his thirty-year career as a pro golfer — including as a professional player — Stewart amassed a vast collection of golf memorabilia, which became the basis of his Pinehurst store.
I don’t think I need to remind anyone to take a couple of moments to stop by the Payne Stewart statue outside the Pinehurst Clubhouse. Stewart won the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst and mere months later was dead in a plane accident.
Every golfer of a certain age remembers where they were when they heard Stewart’s plane went down, killing all six on board. I was supervising the cafeteria at the middle school where I taught when I learned that his plane was flying pilotless across the country.
As it turned, out one of the passengers was Stewart’s agent, Van Arden, whose mother was a member of the Church I attended when I lived in Maryland.
Near the Stewart statue are bronzes of Donald Ross and Richard Tufts. Tufts, the grandson of founder James Tufts guided the resort through much of its growth — and growing importance — in the game of golf. He was president of the USGA in 1956 and inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.
The plaque to the right of the Tufts statue reads:
CREED OF THE AMATEUR
The work that I have done has been done for amateur
sport, and I hope that you won’t mind if I leave you with my
creed on amateurism.
Amateurism, after all, must be the backbone of all sport, golf
or otherwise. In my mind an amateur is one who competes
in a sport for the joy of playing, for the companionship it
affords, for health-giving exercise, and for relaxation from
more serious matters. As a part of this light-hearted
approach to the game, he accepts cheerfully all adverse
breaks, is considerate of his opponent, plays the game fairly
and squarely in accordance with its rules, maintains self-
control, and strives to do his best, not in order to win, but
rather as a test of his own skill and ability. These are his
only interests, and, in them, material considerations have no
part. The returns which amateur sport will bring to those
who play it is this spirit are greater than those any money
can possibly buy.
Richard S. Tufts
Sadly, the Tufts family faced financial strains and in 1970, sold the resort to the Diamondhead Company for $9.2 million. That company subdivided the properties, built condos, and tried to “modernize” the resort and operations, including installing a discotheque in the Carolina. Ultimately, though, the resort declined badly as Diamondhead collapsed as a going concern.
By 1978, Diamondhead’s Pinehurst operations were $73 million in dept ($304 million in current dollars). In 1984, the courses, hotels, clubhouse, gun club and riding stables were bought by ClubCorp of America for $14 million.
ClubCorp in the ensuring years has revived Pinehurst, restoring the courses and traditions, and expanding operations. They repurchased the Holly Inn, and added No. 7 and No. 8.
Pinehurst now has been revived to the point where the USGA has decided to make the resort its second home and bring the US Open to Pinehurst No. 2 every five years. Kudos ClubCorp.
My impression of Pinehust is nothing but positive. Everyone from the greeters to the wait staff to the custodians is incredibly nice. With my deafness, I struggle sometimes in a way that I am cognizant annoys people. If anyone at Pinehurst was bothered by my asking for a repeat of information, it never showed in their eyes.
Pure southern hospitality.
A few more golf notes:
You should absolutely walk the courses at Pinehurst. They’re really a pleasant hike. The resort has push carts if you need them, or you can take a caddy.
If you want a caddy, though, reserve one well ahead of time.
You may also want to reserve a push cart. I am not sure of that, though.
I recommend taking a caddy on Pinehurst No. 2. I did not, and regret it.
Park your car and take advantage of the shuttle service. When you arrive, they’ll put a tag on your bag and get it to wherever you need it to be. Then you can just hop a shuttle to the course and you bag will be waiting there. There’s no need to get back in your car from the beginning of your trip to the end.
If you want to eat at The Carolina Room or the 1895 Grille, make reservations a couple of days ahead.
Give yourself time to play a couple of rounds at The Cradle in the evening. I did not, and regret it.
Take time to just sit on the porch at The Carolina. It is amazingly relaxing.
Temper your expectations. Pinehust is a year-round golf resort, but will not be green in the winter months. That’s ok. I played in March and found that the conditions were absolutely stellar. Brown doesn’t mean the grass is dead. I never felt as though I was somehow at a disadvantage for playing when I did. I would absolutely go back in March.
Finally, don’t sell Pinehurst short as only a golf resort. I wish that Mrs. GolfBlogger — a non-golfer — had been able to travel with me. She would have enjoyed some of the other activities that Pinehurst has to offer, such as bicycling, the spa, the pools and just hanging out on one of the big porches at the Carolina and reading. The resort also has a private 200-acre lake for fishing, swimming and boating.
On A Pinehurst Golf Vacation was first published on GolfBlogger Golf Blog on July 20, 2021 from notes and photos on a trip taken in March 2021.