The Sandhills area of North Carolina is well known for Pinehurst Resort and Donald Ross’s famed Pinehurst #2 course, but let’s not forget that there are numerous other opportunities to see great Donald Ross designs in the area . . . and at a fraction of the price of #2.
Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club officially opened for business in 1928 and the golf course here is widely considered to be one of Donald Ross’s most celebrated designs in his portfolio of over 400 courses. The U.S.G.A. must be in agreement with the general consensus as they have selected Pine Needles three times to host the premiere women’s golf event in America, the U.S. Women’s Open (1996, 2002 and 2007). That’s quite an endorsement from the U.S.G.A., especially considering they returned to the site that many time in just a span of 11 years.
Speaking of women’s golf, an interesting side note about Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club is that it is owned by LPGA charter member Peggy Kirk Bell and her family. The Bells acquired Pine Needles in 1953 and then in the mid 1990s purchased sister property Mid-Pines Inn & Golf Club which also boasts a well regarded Donald Ross golf course. Mrs. Bell is widely known in the world of golf for her commitment to women’s golf and for being the first woman inducted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame. She is a bit of a legend not only in the Pinehurst area but in the golf community in general.
After our morning game at Pinewild Country Club’s Holly Course we zipped over to Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club for our afternoon game. Upon arrival we checked in with the proshop and then popped into the nice little grill area where we sat down for a quick bite to eat. With a few minutes to spare before our tee time we hit the practice green and then headed to the 1st tee when the starter gave us the signal.
The teeing options here start at 7,015 and go down to 4,936 with all of them playing to a par of 71. We opted for the 6,436 yard tees which were one up from the tips and much more manageable than 7,015 yards for our group. Please keep in mind that the photos below were taken in mid-March and the turf was in a transition period which is why it is has the greenish brown appearance. Below are some of the holes I enjoyed the most.
Hole 1 – 482 yards – Par 5
We start off with a short par 5 that plays uphill but is definitely reachable in two for longer hitters. The photo below was taken from the tee box. the hole bends to the right so tee shots too far on the right side of the hole might have a tricky second shot.
Here is a look at the approach shot into the green. The shot still plays a little uphill so extra club might be necessary.
This is a look back down the fairway from behind the hole.
Hole 3 – 135 yards – Par 3
This nifty little par 3 requires just a short iron, but is plenty testy once reaching the tricky putting surface.
Hole 4 – 382 yards – Par 4
This hole didn’t look all that long from the tee, but it was every bit of the yardage and then some with the uphill. The water really shouldn’t be an issue for most players unless their tee shot is very poorly hit.
Hole 5 – 181 yards – Par 3
Here we have a good mid-length par 3 that requires a well executed shot to hit the green. There is plenty of room to miss and still have a chance to get up and down for par.
The only thing I didn’t like about this hole is that this is where we hit a log jam and had THREE groups on the tee. There were two groups of college players up ahead of us and I’ve never seen anyone play S O S L O W. These guys were even slow walking in between shots. By all appearances they looked like they didn’t even want to be there. It was pretty disappointing because we ended up waiting on them for the rest of the day which kind of ruined the round for our group.
Hole 8 – 353 yards – Par 4
I really liked this shortish par 4 with its interesting angle off the tee. Make sure to get aligned correctly as the tee box just begs players to hit their drives through the fairway and into the woods on the left. I found this to be a great place to hit a nice easy fade.
Below is a look at the short little pitch to the green that will be required after a nice drive.
Hole 11 – 369 yards – Par 4
The look of this hole from the is fairly narrow, but the reality is that there is plenty of room out there, especially on the left side of the fairway.
Below is a look at the 11th green from the 12th tee.
Hole 13 – 181 yards – Par 3
This one shot hole plays just a touch downhill and again is fairly forgiving for players who miss the green.
Here is a closer look at the green.
Hole 15 – 485 yards – Par 5
The last par 5 on the course is another short one. I have to admit that I love the short par 5s that are reachable in two for players like me. Long and down the middle will suit just fine here.
Below is the view from the left bunker up near the green that caught my second shot. Going for the green in two is not without its hazards.
Hole 17 – 432 yards – Par 4
This beast of a par 4 requires a very well executed tee shot that turns the corner of this dogleg left hole.
This green also has some significant movement to it as well.
Despite the excruciatingly long round we had a good time at this golf course and really enjoyed playing it. It is a nice walk and a great example of vintage Donald Ross. If I had to make one criticism of the course it would be that there is a lack of variety from tee to green at times. I love a short par 5, but all three of them play about 485 yards. There also were a lot of long par 4s without any really short ones that tempt the player to hit driver when maybe he shouldn’t. That said, Pine Needles is an enjoyable golf course and an excellent opportunity to see a quintessential Donald Ross design at a very reasonable price. This course is definitely on my short list for places to play in Pinehurst.