Three Donald Ross Courses in One Special Resort

There are certain special places in the world that every time you visit, feels like coming home. Pine Needles is one of those places, familiar, comforting, classic. The smell of the pine trees, dogwoods, and azaleas in the air. The view from the lounge balcony of the vast practice ground beckoning us range rats with its’ pristine turf and Titleist range balls. The huge putting green, the clock, the first tee, and the giant 18th green behind it.

Pine Needles oozes history, the legacy of Peggy Kirk Bell, a founding member of the LPGA, home for decades too long hitting PGA star Jules Burros, and host to multiple US Women’s Opens.

Pioneer Peggy Kirk Bell
Pioneer Peggy Kirk Bell

But while Pine Needles is steeped in history, that does not mean it stuck in the past. A complete renovation by Kyle Franz to the course took place in 2017, to restore its’ shot values to Ross’s original intentions. Today, the course spans more than 7,000 yards with each rolling hill, and fairway bunker reimagined to reflect the challenges Ross envisioned nearly a century ago.

Recently, the resort added 16 golf motorbikes, which add to your fun and make the round faster.

Looking back from the 4th green
Looking back from the 4th green

There as so many memorable holes at Pine Needles that everyone’s favorites are likely to be different. I love the par 4, 4th hole a shortish par four that offers a tight drive off the tee over a lake, leaving a short iron up a steep hill to the green. The view from the back of the green towards the tee is one of the best on the course. The 11th, a reachable par five plays from an elevated tee across a lake, with a huge bunker guarding the left of the sharp dogleg in the same direction. It’s the perfect hole to bomb a high draw and try and reach the narrow green in two. 

Extraordinary Golf Instruction

When it comes to golf schools, Pine Needles has been doing them longer than most teaching pros have been alive. In addition to the traditional game improvement type, Pine Needles, matriarch, Peggy Kirk Bell invented an entirely new category, the Golfari, now in its 61st Year. The Golfari, is the ultimate combination of golf instruction, playing, social gathering, and fun and is available in three different flavors, ladies only, kids and couples.

Pine Needles legacy of golf continues with a long-running series of popular golf events attracting players from all over the world, including the Pine Needles Invitational, the Mid-Pines Invitational, Couples Carousel, Couples Jamboree, and the Mid-Pines Hickory Open.

Mid-Pines Is No Second-Class Sibling

Of course, one cannot talk of Pine Needles without mentioning their adjacent sister course Mid-Pines. Its’ also a classic Ross design yet very different from its’ more famous sibling. Mid Pines has more elevation and is tighter off the tee. While shorter than its sibling, may players find they score higher here than across the road.  A rarity among Donald Ross masterpieces, Mid Pines Golf course, remains exactly as the world-renowned architect built it in 1921 and impeccably restored by Kyle Franz in 2013.

The short par 4, 9th hole is a dogleg right, though a cathedral of pine trees from an elevated tee to a well-protected green. While the iconic 18th hole with its huge final green and the bricks of the historic hotel just a few feet beyond provide the best photo ops of the day.

The charming town of Southern Pines is worth a visit
The charming town of Southern Pines is worth a visit

The resorts recent acquisition of Southern Pines Golf Club, a short drive away, has put them in the enviable position as being the only golf resort in the world with three genuine Ross courses in their portfolio. It, too, will undergo an extensive renovation before reopening to guests next year.

Pine Needles offers a choice of lodge rooms, suites, and homes while the historic Mid-Pines Inn has traditional-style hotel rooms. Neighboring Pinehurst may be more famous but in an old newspaper article I uncovered, Donald Ross is quoted as saying, “Pine Needles was his favorite design.” Having just revisited, I’d find it hard to argue with the master.

At A Glance

  • Three classic Donald Ross golf courses
  • A historic hotel and a lodge
  • World-class practice facilities
  • Three pro shops
  • World-famous golf schools
  • Long-running events
  • Home of the Golfari
  • Golf bikes available
  • Charming towns of Southern Pines and Pinehurst 10 minutes away
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