It seems like a lot of golf destinations claim to be the Golf Capital of the World. Some places have more courses, some have more night life, or more theme parks for the kids. But for pure golf, on great courses designed by the greatest names in the game, the Pinehurst- Southern Pines- Aberdeen area of North Carolina is hard to beat! Imagine 43 golf courses in a 15 miles radius, now imagine that over half (23) of the courses have been awarded a Golf Digest Rating of 4 stars or more.
There are 8 courses located in a 4 mile stretch of Midland Road, which connects The Village of Pinehurst and Southern Pines. The names of the architects of the courses on Midland Road alone are worth the drive. The list includes Donald Ross, Rees Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and local designer, Dan Maples. A golfer could never venture off this road and still enjoy one of the best weeks of his life. But just when you thought you had found golf heaven, Midland Road takes you into the Village of Pinehurst and The famous Pinehurst Resort. This is great stuff, with 8 championship golf courses in one resort and a famous old clubhouse that features a hallway of artifacts and memorabilia to take you back to the early 1900′s when golf was beginning in the area.
The Pinehurst area is not renowned the world over as one of the top golf destinations for no reason. In fact, there are 43 reasons. There is golf here for everyone, courses designed to please the most discriminating player. Some of the courses are challenging enough to keep the best players in the world scrambling for par. But all of them are playable and guaranteed to give the golfers something to talk about after the rounds. In a little over a decade, there have been 3 U.S. Women’s Open Championships, 2 U.S. Men’s Open Championships and both are scheduled to return in 2014 in consecutive weeks. There have been three Women’s U.S. Opens and two Men’s U.S. Opens held here in the past ten years. And for those who think that Pinehurst is limited to 8 courses at Pinehurst Resort, there are 35 more reasons to pack your bags and head for the Sandhills.
Pine Needles and Mid Pines are two Donald Ross courses, built in the 1920s that may be the best golf experience available anywhere. Owned and operated by LPGA legend Peggy Kirk Bell, Pine Needles and Mid Pines continue to receive praise from everywhere.
OK, we’re still on Midland Road and we have not mentioned Rees Jones’ Talamore, Palmer’s Mid South Club or Nicklaus’ National Golf Club. These and others are on a five mile stretch of Midland Road, but there’s even more! Forest Creek, a private, gated 36 hole community with two courses designed by Tom Fazio is only five minutes away on Airport Road. Other highly rated private venues include the 36 hole private CCNC (Country Club of North Carolina) and Pinewild Country Club’s 45 holes.
When you tee it up in the Sandhills of North Carolina, you are literally walking in the footsteps of some very famous golfers. Ben Hogan won his first professional tournament at Pinehurst in 1940 in the North and South Open. Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Dr. Cary Middlecoff also won titles there.
Jack Nicklaus built part of his legacy with a win in the North and South Amateur when he was a 19-year old in 1959. He returned 16 years later to win the 1975 World Open. Raymond Floyd, who took the highway through his hometown of nearby Fayetteville to get here, won the World Open in 1976 in a one-hole playoff with Jerry Magee, shortly after winning the Masters.
While Ross is the most famous of the architects who designed courses in the area, he is surrounded by some pretty good company. Included are Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Ellis Maples, Robert Trent Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Dan Maples, Tom Jackson, Gene Hamm and Gary Player.
Pinehurst No. 2‘s legendary status was even more firmly entrenched in 1999 when Payne Stewart out-dueled Phil Mickelson and won the U.S. Open in June, then died in a tragic airplane accident a few months later. A statue honoring Stewart’s memory adorns the Walk of Fame behind the 18th green on Pinehurst No. 2. Joining him there are statues of Donald Ross, Pinehurst developer Richart Tufts and Robert Dedman, whose company, ClubCorp of America, was responsible for the “rebirth” of Pinehurst when it purchased the resort in 1984. The USGA was so enamored with Pinehurst No. 2 and the area that it brought the Open back to Pinehurst in 2005, where Michael Campbell fought off a charging Tiger Woods down the stretch to claim his first major.