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Pinehurst gears up for two weeks of championship golf as the U.S. Opens come to town
Myrtle Beach may be home to nearly 100 golf courses, but there’s a historic town to our north that claims it’s the home of golf. Even the chamber of commerce and convention bureau uses homeofgolf.com as its website address.
There’s no doubt that Pinehurst, North Carolina, will be the home of the best golfers in the world for two weeks in June. For the first time in history, the U.S. Opens for both the men and the women will be contested on the same course in back-to-back weeks. The famed Pinehurst No. 2 will be the host course.
If you’re planning to attend either of the week-long competitions, or if you decide to make a visit to Pinehurst once the tournaments are over, here are some tips to help plan your trip.
Located in the Sandhills region of North Carolina, Pinehurst is about a three-hour drive from Myrtle Beach. Along with its neighbors Southern Pines and Aberdeen, the area is known for its long-leaf pines and sandy terrain.
Scottish immigrants came to the area in the 1700s to harvest the pines for timber, resin and turpentine. When the railroad came in the mid-1800s, vacationers from the North sought out the Sandhills area for its mild winters and the reported recuperative powers of its pine trees. In 1895, James Walker Tufts established the Village of Pinehurst and shortly thereafter brought in Donald Ross to be the director of golf for its first golf course.
The Pinehurst area boasts more than 40 golf courses, and Pinehurst Resort has eight of them. Some of the greatest golf course designers have built courses in this region, including Donald Ross, Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ellis Maples and Mike Strantz—many of whom have also been instrumental in the development of Grand Strand golf courses.
According to Caleb Miles, President and CEO of the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Pinehurst is also a hotbed for equestrian activities. The Pinehurst Harness Track is an 111-acre equestrian facility that has been a winter training center for Standardbred horses since 1915 (www.pinehurstharness.org). The Stoneybrook Steeplechase is held at the Carolina Horse Park in nearby Raeford every April (www.carolinahorsepark.com). And polocrosse, a crossup of polo and lacrosse, is one of the latest crazes to hit the area. The Carolina Polocrosse Club is one of the largest polocrosse clubs in the country (www.carolinapolocrosse.com).
The area is also home to world-class fishing, boating and hiking, as well as the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance, a competition showcasing classic automobiles held the first weekend of May (www.pinehurstconcours.com).
The U.S. Opens
If you want to attend the tournaments and stay in Pinehurst and walk to the men’s event, you’re out of luck. All rooms in the county have been booked, mostly by the United States Golf Association. But the local Realtor association is helping to assist those looking to rent houses. For more information, go to www.homeofgolf.com and click on the “Where Can I Stay & Play During the U.S. Opens?” link. The site also has a listing of hotel properties in surrounding counties.
Tickets were still available as of press time at www.usga.org/tickets or www.usopen.com. The men’s competition will take place June 9–15. Practice round tickets for Monday through Wednesday start at $60, Thursday and Friday tickets start at $120 and Saturday and Sunday tickets start at $135. The women’s competition is June 16–22 and prices start at $30.
Pinehurst No. 2
This will be the third and fourth U.S. Opens contested on the No. 2 course. In 1999, Payne Stewart sunk a 15-foot putt to defeat Phil Mickelson in one of the most memorable finishes in U.S. Open history. In 2005, the trophy was won by New Zealand’s Michael Campbell.
The course is known for its crowned greens, which were originally only sand until Ross changed them to grass for the 1936 PGA Championship. According to the course’s golf guide, “Donald Ross spent by far more time and effort designing No. 2 than any other course, refining it until his death in 1948. He created hollows and undulations around the greens like those found on the links of Scotland.”
In preparation for this year’s tournament, the course underwent an extensive renovation in 2010 to return it to Ross’s original design. Approximately 35 acres of rough were removed and were replaced by natural waste areas.
If Pinehurst No. 2 is a must-play on your golf itinerary, your best bet is to stay and play through Pinehurst Resort. The company offers packages that include breakfast, dinner, accommodations and golf, and you don’t ever have to leave the resort or drive your car, thanks to the complimentary shuttle that provides transportation throughout the village. And if you plan to play No. 2, here’s a word of advice: Before your round, head over to the 18-hole Thistle Dhu putting course, which is right near the driving range. It’s a fun test of your putting skills and a great practice for some of the real putts you might have out on the course.
Pinehurst Resort is offering golfers a chance to experience the course in the same conditions as the pros played it. The Champions Golf Package includes three nights of accommodations and four rounds of golf, including a round on No. 2, from June 26–29. But this experience comes at a steep price: $2,014 per person based on double occupancy.
Other Pinehurst Courses Worth Playing
Just down the road from the Pinehurst Resort courses are Mid Pines and Pine Needles, which are also Donald Ross creations that opened in the 1920s. Pine Needles has hosted three U.S. Women’s Open Championships in 1996, 2001 and 2007, won by Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr, respectively (www.pineneedles-midpines.com).
Mike Strantz, who built Caledonia and True Blue on the south end of the Grand Strand, also left his mark in Pinehurst with Tobacco Road. Built on a former sand quarry outside of Sanford, Tobacco Road is known for its blind shots and features five “all clear” bells to ring when golfers are leaving the green. It has a reputation as being one of the hardest golf courses in North Carolina (www.tobaccoroadgolf.com).
The CVB’s Miles encourages golfers who attend the U.S. Opens to try to squeeze in a round of golf. “The perception is that people think you can’t play golf (during the U.S. Opens).” In reality, plenty of tee times will be available.
If you’re planning a visit after the Opens, there are several packagers that can arrange a stay and play trip for you. Try First Tee Golf Packages (firsttee.net), Golf Escapes of the Sandhills (www.golfescapesinc.com) or Maples Golf Packages (www.maplesgolf.com).
Whether it be during the upcoming tournaments or after the crowds go home, don’t miss visiting this gem of American golf. For more information, contact the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 346-5362 or go to www.homeofgolf.com.
IF YOU GO:
The U.S. Open, June 9–15
The U.S Women’s Open, June 16–22
Tournament and parking