IN A LITTLE MORE than a year from now the USGA will descend on the tiny village of Pinehurst, North Carolina, for an unprecedented fortnight of championship golf—back-to-back men’s and women’s Opens. Last year, the resort unveiled a stunning restoration of its famed No. 2 course, which will host both events. We figured it was time to pay a visit and see how the rest of the place was faring.
The reservations lady who took my phone call was not only cordial but ran the numbers on her list of package options to find the most economical one for my needs. I booked a three-night stay with rounds on Courses No. 1, 2, and 4.
My room in the stately Carolina hotel was fine except there was no bathtub, and this being February I anticipated a need for some post-round soaking. But it took only a quick call to the front desk and I was moved from the third floor (all showers) to the second (showers and tubs) at no extra cost. Then it was off to a first-class meal in the warmth of the nearby Holly Inn, one of several dining options.
The golf package came with a $300 pro shop credit, and the timing was perfect as my putter and I had been going through a trial separation. When I got to the pro shop, however, I saw no golf equipment. “It’s all over at the Learning Center,” said a young lady at the counter, “and I’m afraid that’s closed today for redecorating.” Then, seeing my long face, she said, “let me make a call.” Moments later, they very kindly sneaked me in and armed me with an Odyssey 2-Ball.
My first round came, appropriately, on Course No. 1 with a local resident named Jerry. (I’d booked the day’s first tee time hoping to buzz around in about two hours and wasn’t excited to learn I had company until I realized Jerry played even faster than I did. We had a great time and finished in 1:45!) The original Pinehurst course (opened in 1898), No. 1 is less than 6,100 yards from the tips but has plenty of movement, both left and right and up and down. The greens had been resurfaced recently with a dark green bermuda called mini verde that putted beautifully and may soon be used on other Pinehurst courses.
Pinehurst has an innovative affiliation with Acura, allowing guests free use for three hours of any of several models. Without a car of my own and in need of a haircut, I opted for a shiny silver ILX Hybrid and paid an afternoon visit to a Southern Pines barber.
Dinner at the hotel brought my only disappointments when both my Chardonnay choices were out of stock and my medium-rare rib-eye arrived medium well. (I guess you shouldn’t order white wine with steak.)
The next morning, after a sinfully big breakfast consumed to the posh backdrop of live piano music, I headed to the No. 4 course. The Ross-designed, Fazio-renovated charmer was everything I remembered it to be and remains, along with Fazio’s No. 8, my favorite at Pinehurst. That evening I gave the Carolina dining room a second chance and it came through on all fronts.
My final day brought a showdown with No. 2. There’s no question that the renovation has made it a much prettier course and the firm sand now lining most of the fairways is less penal than the old bermuda rough was, but Ross’s humpy green complexes are as vexing as ever.
A final note: All Pinehurst staffers wear name badges with the words “Do What’s Right.” Everyone I encountered—from the front desk to housekeeping to the pro shop to the dining room staff—personified that motto and more.