SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (Sept. 7, 2012) -- Of all the adjectives used to describe the historic Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, the word ‘fun’, for some reason or another, isn’t among the most popular.
‘Fun’, however, is exactly how I’d describe my recent stay at Pine Needles and play at the Donald Ross-designed Golf Club.
Whether you’re playing well or not, simply being amidst the towering pines of the Tar Heel State and entrenched in such a beautiful setting should put a smile on your face.
The playability of Pine Needles, though, is what made my experience so great --- especially when considering the history of amateur and professional events being conducted at the course.
COURSE LAYOUT AND DESIGN
Following a 2004 restoration by Ross expert John Fought, Pine Needles now checks in at 7,015 from the tips but plays a challenging, yet manageable --- and rather fun --- 6,436 from the Ross Tees. There are three other sets of tees for all types of skill levels.
The beauty of Pine Needles is very much in line with Ross’ other creations: natural holes shaped around the earth they’re built on. And that process is evident from the get-go.
No. 1 is a user-friendly 482-yard (from the Ross tees) par-5, offering bigger hitters a chance to start their round off nicely with a strong drive on the left-to-right turning fairway. As is the case on almost every other hole at Pine Needles, though, importance is placed on the approach to the crowned and sloped greens --- pin placement, notwithstanding. The 438-yard second hole is a picturesque Ross par-4 with an equally devilish green that punishes golfers who don’t take distance control into account on their long approach. Your senses are rewarded on the 135-yard par-3 third hole. The tee shot over marsh and water heightens those senses, which are then calmed during the drive or walk to the green, which looks back on the perfectly-stacked tee boxes and wetland.
A complete game is needed to successfully traverse the remainder of the front nine where equal importance is placed on distance and target golf. Holes 4, 8 and 9 offer ample scoring opportunities for bombers or shorter hitters as they check in at near or well under 400 yards. But don’t take the short yardage for granted as the greens, as always, cut like a knife.
The 181-yard par-3 fifth and 455-yard par-4 seventh leave golfers happy with even par as both present plenty of room for error.
The back nine opens to a 482-yard par-5 that’s intimidating off the tee but rewards the golfers who fight through the nerves and place their drive in the fairway. Scoring opportunities abound for those playing it as a three-shot par-5 and for the longer players. No. 11, a 369-yard downhill par-4 tests your distance control and accuracy with nearly all carry to a small green. Nos. 12 (open 350-yard par-4) and 13 (inviting 181-yard par-3) are as easy on the nerves as they are on the eyes but No. 14 tests with trouble right off the tee and surrounding the green on the 402-yard par-4.
That trickery continues on the 169-yard par-3 16th where there’s simply no place to miss and the ensuing 432-yard par-4 17th, which bends right to left with out of bounds and other trouble lurking.
No. 15 (an open 485-yard par-5) and the closer, 18, however leave a sweet taste in your mouth as the back nine closes. No. 18 is the iconic closer that put a cap on the U.S. Women’s Open in 2007, 2001 and 1996 and can serve as a perfect end to your round in the form of a right-to-left 406-yard par-4 with lodges and the club's tennis court as a backdrop.
The summary is clear: Pine Needles is as equally fun to play as it is on the eyes with its tranquil Donald Ross beauty. Simply put, Pine Needles, whether you’re staying at the Inn, or not, is a must play for any trip to the Pinehurst and Southern Pines areas.
DRIVING RANGE AND PRACTICE AREA
Pine Needles boasts top-notch practice facilities with a driving range with multiple sets of indoor and outdoor tees, several large putting and chipping greens and a four-hole practice loop that provides golfers opportunities to practice virtually any shot.
The practice loop includes No. 1, named Strait. It’s a narrow par-3 with 45 yards of tee area, which allows it to play from anywhere between 115-165 yards. No. 2 is nicknamed ‘Wee’ and is a smaller par-3. The third practice hole, Gibraltar, can be a par-3 or 4, depending on where you tee it up. With a deep ravine and elevated green, the hole plays between 150 and 290 yards. No. 4 is Postage Stamp, which asks players to hit from 100-145 yards to a small, Ross-like Green.
The range is high-quality with various flags to practice nearly any shot and covered artificial tees if weather isn’t cooperating.
RESTAURANT AND 19TH HOLE
There are plenty of options for drinks and dining at Pine Needles.
The Crest Dining Room is open daily and available for resort guests, golfers and outside customers.
The In-the-Rough Lounge is also open daily with box lunches, a full bar and a terrific menu of pub sandwiches and meals. Try one of the Tar Heel state’s local brews, for added flavor!
Of course, for more variety, you can head on over to the Mid-Pines and eat at The Terrace and Dining Room or at Pop’s Lounge.
Next to golf, the accommodations at Pine Needles are what generate the resort’s most interest.
At Pine Needles, the atmosphere is very relaxed with rustic lodges featuring all the amenities of home.
The Lodge at Pine Needles has three room types: king, deluxe and master. While the styling remains the same throughout the lodge, each room type caters to the type of clientele visiting and stay they’re looking for.
Pine Needles also includes premier lodges for groups and they’re located steps from the 18th fairway and the 19th hole.
To learn more about Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club or to make a reservation, visit the official website, or call (800) 747-7272.