An introduction to Pinehurst

There are more than 40 golf courses in Pinehurst, North Carolina, which for such a small village is pretty impressive.

Amongst these are golf courses designed by some of the most iconic golf course architects. A couple of these are widely regarded as being the finest in the world, specifically Pinehurst No.2. 

Pinehurst is an enigma amongst golfing circles. It is less of a city, more of a golfing mecca hidden far away from everywhere else in North Carolina. The closest major cities include Fayetteville, an hour’s drive as is Raleigh, and Charlotte, which is a two hour drive. 

Clearly golf is the main attraction here. But for those accompanying a golfer there are still some scenic spots to visit. Reservoir Park is a lovely place to strolling around. Whilst in downtown Southern Pines is a great place to go shopping or just stroll around.

Generally though, outdoorsy types enjoy the greenery of Pinehurst and will find plenty to do here. But clearly it is the golf we’re interested in. So let’s have a look at some of the best golf courses in Pinehurst.

See also: What are the best golf courses in North Carolina?

The best golf courses in Pinehurst, North Carolina

RankGolf Course
1Pinehurst No.2
2Mid Pines Golf Course
3Pine Needles Golf Course
4Pinehurst No.4
5Pinehurst No.8
6Pinehurst No.9
7Southern Pines Golf Club
8Talamore Golf Club
9Pinehurst No.7
10Mid South Golf Club
11Legacy Golf Links
Table showing the best public golf courses in Pinehurst

1. Pinehurst No.2

Finally we get on to Pinehurst No.2, the course many consider as the best golf course in North Carolina and one of the finest golf courses in the world, this truly is an icon in the world of golf. 

This is the flagship course at Pinehurst and opened for play in 1907, designed again by the man who has influenced so many of the top courses in the area, Donald Ross. So good is No.2, it has hosted the U.S Open on many occasions and it is an absolute beast to play. 

At the best of times, this is a tough course. Not so much hitting the fairway, this is relatively achievable. It is the approach play where things can go awfully wrong as the crowned greens are brutal. A cheeky chip from just a few yards can end up in completely the wrong place due to one of the many humps and bumps hidden somehow from view.

Playing a round here is like stepping into golfing history. So many greats have walked these same fairways but the scenery is just mind-blowing. There aren’t enough superlatives diagnosing the landscape when walking Pinehurst No.2’s fairways, for let’s be honest, you won’t like your scorecard when you’ve finished!

Coore and Crenshaw gave the course a major facelift in 2011, bringing many of Ross’ original features back to life and this has re-injected another element of life into the already mighty course. 

See also: What are the best golf courses in Raleigh, North Carolina?

2. Mid Pines Golf Course

Mid Pines Golf Course 13th Green, Pinehurst, North Carolina, Permission Given - Photo Credit Matt Hahn
Photo credit Matt Hahn

This is one of the original courses in the Pinehurst Sandhills area, and without a doubt one of the best. As we all know the No.2 course gets the plaudits and acclaim. Yet there are many locals who consider Mid Pines on the same level, or even superior. 

It is part of the Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club resort, with a sister course, Pine Needles, over the road. But it was Mid Pines which was the first to arrive on the scene, opening for play in 1921.

This absolute masterpiece is a classic Donald Ross designed course. In a bid to restore the original Ross design, in 2013 it was fastidiously renovated by Kyle Franz. This project has helped reassert Mid Pines’ status as one of the best in Pinehurst.

There is more elevation here than one might think and this is a distinctly challenging layout. The fairways are deceptively treacherous, with the hilly terrain pushing any loose drives into the sandy-waste areas. Most greens are incredibly well protected and even once you hit the dance-floor, don’t expect any easy putts. 

See also: What are the best golf courses in Wilmington, North Carolina?

3. Pine Needles Golf Course

Pine Needles Golf Course 13th Green, Pinehurst, North Carolina, Permission Given - Photo Credit Kevin Murray
Photo credit Matt Hahn

Like its sister course Mid Pines, Pine Needles is another Donald Ross design which opened for play in the first half of the 20th century, 1927 to be precise.

As with all golf courses in this part of the Sandhills region, there are gently rolling fairways and beautiful dense pine woodland. Pine Needles often gets overlooked with discernable golfers treading the more conventional Pinehurst route, or alternatively most veering instead for Mid Pines.

But miss this one out at your peril. Pine Needles is up there with the best and rightly so.

A truly outstanding course which is more often than not ranked as one of the best in the state and has on numerous occasions been the host venue to the U.S. Women’s Open Championship.  

After his superb renovation of Mid Pines, Kyle Franz was again commissioned to restore Pine Needles’ original Donald Ross features, and the work was another unanimous success.

I would argue this is one of the hidden gems of the Pinehurst area, not because no one knows of it, simply the fact it is constantly overlooked for some of the more famous layouts. 

4. Pinehurst No.4

Nestled between the No.2 and No.1 courses, Pinehurst No.4 is one of the original Donald Ross layouts. It is routed on similar terrain to the world-renowned No.2 course.

Pinehurst No.4 is without doubt the course which has undergone the most change throughout its life-cycle. Some of the greatest course architects have had the opportunity to make the No.4 course their own. Over the years, Robert Trent Jones Sr, Rees Jones, and Tom Fazio have all imprinted their style on the course. 

But in 2016, a major decision on the future of the course was taken. The objective was to take the course back to its roots. And to do that, they decided to bring in a designer who embodies the same minimalist design style as Donald Ross. And the man chosen for this work was the highly respected Gil Hanse. 

Despite a time limitation placed on Hanse, the course underwent a complete change and is now without doubt a Hanse course. Many greens were relocated and a brand new holes was created. That is apart from two holes, the 13th and 14th, which are routed next to the lake Fazio added in 1999. Neither really reflect the new Hanse upgrades. But nonetheless, this is an epic makeover. 

No.4 was always a bit of an oddity in Pinehurst. It was constantly changing its identity and never quite fitting the terrain upon which it was routed. But now, belatedly, Hanse has created a rightful masterpiece. It will without doubt continue to earn plaudits and rise in the rankings of best golf courses in Pinehurst.

See also: What are the best golf resorts in North Carolina?

5. Pinehurst No.8

One of Pinehurst’s more recent courses, Pinehurst No.8 is a Tom Fazio designed layout constructed in 1996 as part of Pinehurst’s centennial celebrations. 

Just to the north of Pinehurst off Murdocksville Road, was the 420-acre spot chosen for the No.8 course. The site is relatively unique in the Pinehurst collection of golf courses. Natural wetlands and marshlands make up a large percentage of the rolling terrain, as does the endemic pine woodland so prevalent throughout this region. 

There are many characteristics which draw inspiration from the other Pinehurst courses. This is especially visible around the greens where the movement and frontage draw parallels to No.2. There are also many elements inspired from Donald Ross’ classical style, merged with Tom Fazio’s approach.

Aside from that though, this is very much a Fazio course. In his typically challenging fashion, it stretches to 7,100 yards from the back tees. The course tests many facets of your game and will without doubt test your sand game. Most holes feature large bunkers or areas of sandy run-off.

6. Pinehurst No.9

Originally called Pinehurst National Golf Club, it opened for play back in 1989. It was acquired by The Pinehurst Resort in 2012. Pinehurst No.9 is literally over the road from the iconic No.2 and benefits from similar topography. 

This was originally a Jack Nicklaus course, the same man who restored it as part of the purchase in 2012. In fact this is the only Jack Nicklaus course in the Pinehurst area. It’s fair to say, not every addition to the Pinehurst collection has been truly up to the level required. But in the case of No.9 it absolutely has.

Meticulously designed and picturesque, as it meanders through the longleaf pines. From the back tees the course measures just over 7,100 yards. There are some sumptuous holes, particularly the stretch which kicks off the course. 

The 2nd hole is a wonderful par 3 with a carry required over water to a picture postcard green. The 4th hole gives you a wonderful vista and invites the driver despite the water on the right. It’s a long par 5 and the hardest hole on the course.

Arguably the 7th is the first hole where you remember you’re playing in the Pinehurst area. It’s the first featuring vast areas of sandy run-offs and waste areas common across this region.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Charlotte, North Carolina?

7. Southern Pines Golf Club

Southern Pines Golf Course, Pinehurst, North Carolina, Permission Given - Photo Credit Matt Hahn
Photo credit Matt Hahn

Many consider the No.2 course at Pinehurst as Donald Ross’ first layout in the area. But it was actually Southern Pines that was his first fully completed 18-holes here, with the No.2 course opening a year later in 1907.

Owned by the group who also operate Mid Pines and Pine Needles golf courses, Southern Pines is another Ross creation in the Pinehurst sandhills area and is an absolute delight to play.

Like both the Mid Pines and Pine Needles courses, it was that man again, Kyle Franz, who was called upon to renovate Southern Pines and re-emphasise the original Donald Ross design features. The course finally opened for play in September 2021 and has already earned rave reviews.

It’s fair to say over the years Southern Pines had happily kept its head under the radar. But now post-renovation, there are many who believe it will rapidly overtake many of the other courses in the area in the ‘best of’ rankings.

8. Talamore Golf Club

Talamore Golf Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina - Photo 3

Talamore Golf Resort is one of the most popular places to stay for golfing groups visiting the Pinehurst region. This is largely because of three reasons.

Firstly, it has a number of accommodation options perfect for larger groups including villas, cottages and lodges. Secondly, there are two golf courses onsite. And lastly, it is really affordable. 

Talamore Golf Club is one of the two golf courses onsite, and it was designed by Rees Jones back in 1991. 

This fine layout is forever popular amongst visitors to Pinehurst. Even more so following a recent renovation which was completed in 2016. 

And this was no small touch up. All the greens were resorted to the original designs resulting in them increasing in size by around 25%. Fairways were opened up, excessive rough cut and unnecessary bunkers removed.

To compensate for the loss of so many bunkers as well as instill some classic features, twelve sod-wall bunkers were introduced. Not only has this added a real element of intrigue, but a new challenge to contend with. 

This renovation has firmly placed Talamore Golf Club back on the golfing map. Time will tell if the plaudits and reviews push this course further up the rankings of best public golf courses in Pinehurst.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Greensboro, North Carolina?

9. Pinehurst No.7

Pinehurst No.7, 6th hole, North Carolina, Permission Given

The No.7 course at Pinehurst was designed by that man again, Rees Jones. 

The son of Robert Trent Jones Sr, and the brother of Robert Trent Jones Jr, Jones has had a hugely successful career designing and restoring golf courses. 

And to have received the honor to design a golf course at the world-renowned Pinehurst Resort, says much about his reputation at the time.

The No.7 course is separated from the resort by the No.2 and No.4 courses, but is still this side of Highway 501. Which is all the more surprising when you consider the difference in terrain.

Where the No.2 course is relatively flat, the land upon which the No.7 Course is located, is much more rugged. This movement in the topography is certainly unexpected. It also ensures the layout is one of the more challenging at Pinehurst to play. 

The vast variety of holes will also ask you to play a vast variety of shots. Throughout the round, you’ll enjoy a number of elevated tee boxes, some of which are positioned on various ridges. Whilst many of the elegant green complexes are also raised. 

This is not your stereotypical Pinehurst course, and for that reason it maybe doesn’t rank as highly as it should. But rest assured, this is still a quality layout and one you will be pleased to have experienced.

10. Mid South Golf Club

Mid South Golf Club, Pinehurst, North Carolina, Permission Given

The second of the two golf courses onsite at Talamore Golf Resort, is Mid South Club. This superb layout is an original signature design by ‘The King’ himself, Arnold Palmer. 

Just minutes from Pinehurst village, the backdrop to this championship layout is sensational. The gently rolling sandhills are broken by large lakes and swathes of longleaf pines. 

And it is within this 545 acre plot that Palmer was commissioned to create a first-class layout back in 1993. And that he did with over the years Mid South Club regularly being recognised as one of the best golf courses you can play in Pinehurst.

This recognition has also ensured various high-profile events have been played here. U.S. Amateur Qualifiers, U.S. Open Qualifiers, U.S. Senior Open Qualifiers and more. 

The front nine features its fair share of water hazards and strategic play. Whilst on the back nine, the number and size of bunkers seems to increase exponentially. It certainly feels like the back nine contains the large proportion of the eleven acres of bunkers dotted around the course.

A fantastic course with a superb variety of holes.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Asheville, North Carolina?

11. Legacy Golf Links

Legacy Golf Links, Pinehurst, North CArolina, Permission GIven - resized

Why bother traveling out of Pinehurst to play golf? Surely you have everything you need centrally?

Well, yes and no. Yes, there are plenty of great golf courses, many highly regarded. But no, because inevitably they come with a fair price tag. And not everyone can afford to play all the best golf courses on a Pinehurst golf vacation. 

And this is where some of the ‘other’ golf courses come in. Those which get overlooked but are still very credible and enjoyable places to enjoy a round of golf. 

Legacy Golf Club is one of those. 

Located in Aberdeen, just twenty five minutes out of town, this is a Nicklaus Design no less! It also has pedigree, having hosted various USGA National Championships. 

Much like many of the Pinehurst regulars, the course meanders through a dense pine woodland. It also features plenty of water, with even as of the first hole water coming into play. Although you don’t see it again until the fifth hole, a par-3 with a lake flanking the whole left hand side. 

There aren’t quite as many bunkers and sand traps as other courses on this list, ensuring the course remains a lot more playable and open to less capable or confident golfers.

Clearly Legacy Golf Links doesn’t hold the same prestige as some of the core Pinehurst golf courses. But it is thoroughly enjoyable and worth considering if you’re looking for slightly more affordable alternatives.

What is the best golf course in Pinehurst?

The best golf course in Pinehurst is the Donald Ross designed Pinehurst No.2 course. It opened for play in 1907 and has over the years hosted many U.S. Open championships.

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