The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

It's Play 9 Day, which means we should all skip work and go play golf

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

It's Play 9 day! Does your boss know? You should tell your boss.

In case you're not already familiar, "Play 9" is a joint USGA-PGA-Golf Digest initiative that aims to bring more people into the game by encouraging them to play nine holes more often. Not having enough time is undoubtedly one of the biggest obstacles to people playing more golf, and nine holes is a pretty handy way around that. You may remember those Rickie Fowler commercials about it around the time of the U.S. Open.

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Rickie also talked about it on CNBC's morning show, Squawk Box, on Wednesday.

 

As part of the initiative, the USGA is hosting a tournament through its website. And if this post has suddenly inspired you to leave work and go play a quick nine, here's a list of the country's most nine-hole friendly courses, many of whom are offering special rates as part of the initiative.

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Courses & Travel

The St. Andrews skyline will look a little different for the 2015 British Open

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

The Hamilton Grand -- or Hamilton Hall, as it's more widely known -- is one of those distinctly Scottish buildings that litters the skyline of St. Andrews. It's among the town's more recognizable landmarks, sitting just behind the 18th green of the Old Course, a wedge from the R&A clubhouse.

And it’s looking a little grander these days.

In work that was completed earlier in 2014 the building now boasts a sixth floor and a four-bedroom penthouse, according to a company representative. The penthouse is believed to be valued at around $11 million and is part of a series of renovations being undertaken by owner Herb Kohler, a process included a 30-bedroom expansion.

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Hamilton Grand opened in 1895 as a hotel and remained as such until World War II, when the military used it to aid its war efforts. After that is was sold to the University of St Andrews and used as a residence hall for students until 2006. In subsequent years the building fell into disrepair before Kohler bought the property in 2009 with a view of turning it into a luxury apartment building.

In the before and after shot below, you can see a new row of windows and the penthouse extending over the dome on the right side of the building. It won't be a huge adjustment to the one, but a noteworthy one for St. Andrews' most astute followers.

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Courses & Travel

Allerton Park: Where John And Paul Strolled, Even Golfed A Little

By Geoff Shackelford

HOYLAKE, England -- Maybe if Allerton Park had the same ring to it as "Penny Lane" or "Strawberry Fields," the quaint Liverpool golf course might have been immortalized into a classic Beatles tune. Instead, the 18-hole Liverpool muni and nine-hole par-3 course that Paul McCartney had to cross to so he could strum guitars with John is hallowed ground to hardcore Beatles fans.

Related: Why you're not hearing any actual Beatles songs on ESPN this week

Those who have studied the early years of music's most prolific, famous and enduring songwriting partnership know the 5,494-yard course was the bridge to late afternoons trying to figure out how Buddy Holly played the opening chords to "That'll Be The Day" and developing their writing process. The former estate-turned-city-course sits between Paul's more modest home on Forthlin Road and John's more upscale abode on Menlove Avenue.

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"John lived just the other side of the golf course, literally and metaphorically," McCartney has said. "People don't realize how middle-class he was. It's a very fancy neighbourhood."

McCartney has recounted how on the late winter days walking back through the specimen tree-dotted course or on a particularly quiet path through Allerton Park, the almost-haunted vibe would prompt him to play his guitar and sing at the top of his lungs to "steady his nerve." If anyone came along, McCartney would pretend it wasn't him. Yet one night a cop halted him to ask what on earth he was doing. Paul has said that he thought and arrest was coming. Instead, the cop famously asked for a guitar lesson. McCartney says their golf passion was limited, and for the sake of rock and roll history, golfers will forgive them.

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"We'd go round for a laugh. We weren't very good but we'd do it. It was there, like Mount Everest, so you do it."

Today Allerton is still a stunning parkland property, controlled by the Liverpool City Council and managed lovingly by the Large family. Fourth generation pro Jonathan Large manning the counter on Saturday as the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool played out, while his father Barry, the head professional, rolled in to check up on things even though the course was closed due to the drenching overnight rains.

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The flattish parkland course, with large, beautifully-conditioned greens, could use a slight cleaning up and upgrade of the former estate's horse stables-turned-clubhouse. The city will be bringing in a management company to spruce things up, but hopefully only so much so that the Large's continue to oversee what has been the family business of instruction and course operation for four generations, including the years when those mop-topped lads took a short-cut to their dreams.

Related: 9 classic Beatles songs you didn't realize were about golf

All Allerton Park needs is love. It's just the kind of place golf must better appreciate: a casual, playable, open green space that is fun for beginners, kids, older golfers.

Or as Paul so succinctly puts it, a place to go around for a laugh.

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Courses & Travel

Here are some pictures of the second hole, before and after Tiger Woods played it

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HOYLAKE, England -- The second hole for the British Open course at Royal Liverpool is a 454-yard par 4 resting slightly out of the way on a plot of land on the eastern edge of the property. It runs parallel to the par-4 first, but limited crosswalks make it challenging to get to any decent viewing areas on No. 2, so spectators generally just jump from the first tee straight to the third hole.

An exception to this strategy, however, is often made when a big name golfer comes through. Because this year's British Open is Tiger's first major back since last year's PGA, I thought it would be fun to see how big the hole's crowd looked before Tiger played it, compared to when he was playing it. Here are the results; the pictures on the left were taken at just after 1:15 p.m., and the ones on the right were taken from the same spot just after 2:15 p.m., when Tiger's group was putting out.
140718-tiger-before-after-518.jpgThe top row of pictures was taken looking down the left rough about 100 yards away from the green. The bottom row of pictures was taken from just right of the green. As you can see, in each picture the stand completely fills out, and the gallery on the ropes swells to about three or four rows deep.

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Courses & Travel

Some of the rough at Royal Liverpool is so high that you can literally hide in it

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HOYLAKE, England -- U.S. Open rough may be heavy, but it's got nothing on the British Open in length.

The rough just off the fairway at Royal Liverpool is generally about a foot high, but there are spots around the course that are much higher. You have to miss it pretty big to find the really long stuff, but the rough about 25 yards left off the tee on the third (which comes into play because of the tight out-of-bounds on the right), 14th, 16th and 17th holes gets about five feet high.

Don't take my word it, here's the proof. To put things in perspective, I'm 6' 2":

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On a side note: if my boss asks where I am, don't tell him about this post.

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Courses & Travel

Let the links onslaught begin! Three weeks of pure golf and four things to look for

By Geoff Shackelford

The Scottish Open host course may just be better than the Open Championship site. The Senior British Open course could be auditioning for Wales to finally host an Open. And the Women's British Open site may be the toughest of them all.

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The par-3 13th at Hoylake.

If you love links golf, the next three weeks will delight to no end with plenty of television coverage. Trying to pick a winner out of the four venues is impossible, so instead, just sit back and take in the nuances because when the Ryder Cup returns to Scotland this September, they'll be playing an inland Jack Nicklaus design.

Related: Get to know your British Open courses

Here's what to watch for, with help from the legendary and timeless words of writer Bernard Darwin:

1. The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open has become a premier event reinvigorated by a top-flight sponsor and an adherence to one simple principle: give the lads a links to prepare their games on prior to the Open. Royal Aberdeen may be the most visually beautiful of the links you'll see this year, especially the stunning front nine playing through a dunes valley. "A noble links!" Darwin declared after having postponed a visit there for many years. Golf Channel and NBC split the coverage duties starting Thursday.

2. Royal Birkdale is difficult and big in scale. The Ricoh Women's British Open is going to give the ladies the sternest test imaginable, which was not to Bernard Darwin's liking. "There seemed to be rather too many holes of one type, with greens running up to a point at the base of a hill and having heathery banks on either hand. They have grown a little intermingled in my head which may be my heads fault, but so be it." ESPN2 has the coverage starting Thursday.

Related: Michelle Wie eying a second straight major at Royal Birkdale

3. Royal Liverpool, or Hoylake as the Open Championship host is properly referred to, has historically required a stout defense from golf writers because so much of its brilliance falls under the guise of nuance. "At Hoylake the golfing pilgrim is emphatically on classic ground," Darwin wrote. "As he steps out of the train that has brought him from Liverpool, he will gaze with awe-struck eyes upon surroundings in which the irreverent might see nothing out of the ordinary." ESPN's coverage starts bright and early July 17th.

4. Royal Porthcawl hosts the Senior British Open and ESPN2 will show it starting July 24th. Safe to say, Tom Watson will be favored to win at the youthful age of 64 on a links few of today's players have seen. But Darwin noted this is a "genuine" links, "the sea in sight all of the time, and the most noble bunkers. True to its national character, the course also boasts of stone walls."

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Courses & Travel

This might actually be the scariest entrance drive in golf

By Geoff Shackelford

As the Scottish Open kicks off this week at Royal Aberdeen, you'll hear mentions of the abutting Murcar Links. Because minus tournament paraphenalia, an unsuspecting golfer could walk right off of Royal Aberdeen's 9th green, tee off onto Murcar and not have a clue they've left Royal Aberdeen. 

But you'll undoubtedly see some Tweets regarding this excellent links and its, well, not so excellent entrance drive. As a connoisseur of entry ways to golf courses, I love to see how the build-up for an arrival is played by courses around the world. Murcar's may just be the most memorable. And frightening.

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Some entrances are intentionally understated, others over-the-top, but Murcar's charms in both its difficulty to find and once located, the sheer intensity of the journey. The one-lane road features a tiny turnout about midway through the narrowest stretch, but if cars meet at any other point in the nearly 3/4's of a mile stretch that is no wider than a mid-size sedan, someone will be backing up a long way.

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However, do not let this peculiarity deter you. Murcar is a must play if you head to the Aberdeen area for a golf trip. With Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay, Trump International Links and the seventh oldest links in the world called Fraserburgh, there is no shortage of grand golf within a one hour drive of Scotland's third most populous city.

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Courses & Travel

Try this 8-course, 5-day golf trip to Williamsburg, Va., and you will NOT be disappointed

By Alex Myers

The mark of a great golf trip is not being able to determine the best or worst course played along the way. As some friends and I drove back from a five-day journey to Williamsburg, Va., we happily struggled with both. So how did we get to that point? Here's a look back at our itinerary.

Related: America's 100 Greatest Public Courses

Day 1: Williamsburg had been mentioned as a possible venue for the annual HGGA (don't ask) Championship for years, but the underrated golf destination became a more popular choice as we passed signs for it on our way to Myrtle Beach last summer. Our group likes to drive from the N.Y. area and cutting the time in the car almost in half was very appealing. We broke up the sevenish-hour drive down even more by stopping in Maryland to play Bulle Rock Golf Club. Good choice. The Pete Dye course, which has hosted the LPGA Championship five times and is No. 78 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, was a treat to play, even in high winds that made a tough track even more difficult. The green fee was $130 and we paid an extra $25 plus tip to have a forecaddie. Worth it. Then we got back in the car and continued south. When we hit rush hour traffic, we waited it out by stopping for a long meal at Chili's . . . savvy! We arrived in Williamsburg around 10 p.m. and checked into the luxurious Kingsmill Resort. Not that we spent that much time inside or at the spa and pool -- there was too much golf to be played!

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The par-4 18th at Bulle Rock.

Day 2 - Morning: The opening round of the tournament was 10 minutes down the road at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club. In the morning, we played the Gold Course, which Robert Trent Jones Sr. called his "finest design" and is No. 54 in Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses. The course was in immaculate condition and featured one of the best collection of par 3s I've ever seen, including an island green on No. 16 that the starter made sure to inform us pre-dated TPC Sawgrass' No. 17 by nearly 20 years. Just be ready when you make the turn. A 450-yard par 4 starts a much more difficult back nine that also includes a 600-plus-yard par 5.

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The par-3 16th at Golden Horseshoe (Gold).

Afternoon: We drove about five minutes to get to the Golden Horseshoe's Green Course, designed by Rees Jones and the site of Yani Tseng's win over Michelle Wie in the final of the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. Despite Jones' reputation as the "(U.S.) Open Doctor," this was a perfect spot for a fun afternoon round, with mounds on many holes that acted as side boards to keep the ball in the fairway. The course wasn't in as great of shape as its sister course (but what is?), but it had nearly as many interesting holes, including the uphill par-5 18th.

Day 3 - Morning: Speaking of interesting holes, welcome to Tradition Golf Club at Stonehouse. Among its accolades, the course was named "Best New Upscale Golf Course" by Golf Digest in 1996. Unfortunately, the course's conditioning has apparently gone down since then. Or maybe we just caught it at a bad time. There was, after all, a crane digging dirt from the side of the 18th green that we had to try to avoid with our approach shots. Not even the innovative architect Mike Strantz meant for it to play like that.

Afternoon: If Stonehouse was an adventure, Ford's Colony Country Club was a more traditional layout. We played the Blackheath Course there and enjoyed being on a well-manicured course that didn't make you think about where to hit on every single shot, but still featured more than its fair share of dangerous spots with water coming into play on 13 holes.

Day 4 - Morning: After walking and driving around Kingsmill Resort for a few days, it was nice to finally get out on the actual courses within the resort. Up first, the River Course, which currently hosts the LPGA Kingsmill Championship every year and was previously a PGA Tour stop for 22 years. Ranked No. 90 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, its first 15 holes are very good and its last three are spectacular. The 17th is a stunning par 3 by the water and you might remember the 18th as the hole Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer played eight times in a playoff at the 2013 Kingsmill before Shin won the next morning on the ninth try.

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The par-3 17th at Kingsmill (River).

Afternoon: Instead of replaying the River Course, we tried Kingsmill's Plantation Course, which only cost $30 in the afternoon. After a few pedestrian holes, this course got really good. And not just good for $30 good. After finishing No. 18, we were left near that glorious finishing stretch of the River Course. Remember when we mentioned that long LPGA playoff? Well, we may have played that 18th hole an extra time, too. Shh. . .

Day 5: We played The Tradition Golf Club at Royal New Kent, another Mike Strantz design to finish things off, in part because it was 40 minutes in the direction we'd be driving home. Like Stonehouse, the links-style course featured some unique holes. But also like Stonehouse, the course had fallen off in the conditions department from when it was featured in Golf Digest's Top 100 Public Courses in 2007-2008. Another negative was all the blind shots, but that's something that wouldn't be as big of a deal a second or third time around.

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The par-3 7th at Royal New Kent.

So there you have it. Five days, eight different courses, and six very satisfied golfers. Williamsburg more than delivered when it comes to high-quality golf -- enough to leave everyone struggling to pick just one favorite track and unable to pick a least favorite. Throw in reasonable early summer rates and a reasonable drive and you've got the makings of a great trip. We'll be back.

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Courses & Travel

"Hit another one": 9 distinctly American contributions to golf


Once upon a time golf was as foreign to Americans as, well, soccer.  It was much too rich for most of us. Courses were sparse. And the world of competitive golf pretty much moseyed along without us.

Over time, thanks to curiosity, competitiveness, a very American technology called television and three heroes with the un-heroic names of Francis, Dwight and Arnold, we made golf our own. 

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It seems fitting then on this Fourth of July to reflect on what America has brought to the game, how we transformed it, and what makes golf here different from the game played elsewhere -- for better and for worse.

1. Motorized Carts. A nation falling in love with the automobile, when given the chance, was bound to want to drive the golf course as well. Born in the 1930s but not embraced until the 1950s (when you might have driven a Sears Roebuck), the golf car became our foremost addition to the game. And our biggest subtraction: We removed the walk. Though hoofing it -- via caddy, pull cart or bag-on-back -- has made a bit of a comeback among the fitness-conscious, carts are still the norm, with four generations of golfers, fit or not, knowing no other way. Our misgivings about this innovation remain. In 2001 professional Casey Martin, suffering from a debilitating condition in his right leg, sued the PGA Tour for the right to ride a cart. The tour, with the support of the USGA, said, in effect, that’s not golf. Martin won. In America we ride. You'd think carts would speed us up. It seems to have done just the opposite to our pace, another thing that sets us apart from most of the world."


2. The Big Dog. American golfers worship the Big Dog. The master teacher Bob Toski has spent a career telling students, “Golf is a game of how near, not how far,” but most of us aren’t buying. We love the 1-wood. We want to bomb it like Bubba, Big John, Jack, or George Bayer, depending on one’s era. We want the boys to know that last week we busted one down the hill or over that far bunker on 3. We buy new drivers when the mortgage is due to get “15 more yards” and support an industry that lives by, and turns out, new driver products as often as Detroit does. Our most American of competitions, the National Long Drive Championship, enters its 4th decade with prize money at $500,000 and winning drives routinely exceeding 400 yards. You can play smart, sure.  But real Americans let the Big Dog eat. 

3. The Greatest Player Who Ever Lived. Best-ever lists are as American as Mount Rushmore: We live to rank. In golf we not only have created the ranking, but we’ve produced the names to fill it. In no particular order: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bob Jones…(Okay, maybe there is a particular order), with Tiger being the perfect “greatest” of all. Only in America, dedicated to fairness but infected with racism, can a black man emerge as the greatest golfer of his, or perhaps any, generation, the most well-known, well-paid, liked, disliked and highly-watched player in the world. And only in a puritanical country like ours, with its voracious appetite for sex, could he self-destruct so spectacularly. Some of us forgive him. Some of us accept him as we did Big Jack when he worked so hard (in Arnold’s shadow) to win us over. Some of us know that he’s the face of our American game, the straw that stirs our country club drinks. And most of us, I think, believe he is the greatest player who ever lived. 

4. A Tradition Unlike Any Other. In so many ways, the Masters is our major. If golf is religion, Augusta is America’s cathedral and, for a week, high-sacrament. It is U.S. golf at its most tasteful and well-behaved, if anxious to remind you of that fact. In a crassly commercial world, it is both anti-commercial and exuberantly capitalistic. (See the green-jacket CEOs serving well-mannered patrons). It was inevitable then that the pristine lawns of Augusta National would become a model for clubs across the country, and that its treacherously fast greens would become the standard for green committees ambitious to make their club the finest. Our obsession with slick, expensive, difficult putting surfaces can be traced to the Masters in 1981, when bent grass replaced Bermuda. We love long, but we really love fast. Cost be damned.

5. “What'd ya shoot?” A golfer could always total his shots and report a score, but for centuries he or she was usually playing matches. There was only one result that counted: Up or Down. Play in Scotland or Ireland today and you will likely still experience the game that way. If you’re playing a match, what does score matter? You might encounter Stableford scoring, where you earn points, not tally final score. But Americans live for data. Golfers here want to Break 100, 90 or 80 (as Golf Digest organizes it) or to achieve a “personal best.” We want you to, as President Eisenhower’s button put it, “Ask Me What I Shot!” Our handicap system, with its Index decimals, slope system and adjustable course ratings, reflects this desire for scoring precision. Forget it that we roll the ball over once in a while, practice Equitable Stroke Control, and indulge in the occasional re-do, we live for THE number. 

6. Breakfast balls. It’s not easy to trace the origin of the Mulligan, and it may not even be American. Some say it began with a golfer named David Mulligan, a hotelier here and in Canada, who favored the occasional “correction shot” at his club in Quebec. That second shot became known as a “Mulligan.” But several U.S. clubs have laid claim to the term, including the Essex Fells C.C. in New Jersey, which attributes the term to John “Buddy” Mulligan, a locker room attendant known for replays on his Monday rounds. Suffice it to say, nowhere is the Mulligan more passionately embraced nor more diversely described than here: Breakfast ball. Lunch ball. Hit until you’re happy. Do-Over. Re-Tee. Don’t try any of those in Scotland; they’ll tell you you’re Hitting Three. So will persnickety rules nerds and golf committees who have banned the practice to speed play and protect the first teeing ground. No mulligans! That’s un-American. 

7. Partisanship. Or patriotism, depending on how you see it. To international competitions once treated as sleepy exhibitions, Americans have brought wartime jingoism, replete with face paint, nail paint, and decorum borrowed from football. Of all those competitions, the Ryder Cup ranks most nationalistic, stemming from “The Battle of Brookline” in 1999 when fans abused players, players forgot their manners, and the experience left golf with a black eye. The Solheim Cup, adding cuteness but no more sportsmanship, is a close second. Yes, the Euros cheer and dress funny and root against their opponents, but perhaps because they are playing not as a nation but as a conglomeration, they seem to keep it within bounds. Nothing quite matches American zeal when it comes to xenophobia. Which is why the Walker Cup, where patriotism but not nastiness reigns, is in our opinion the most “attendable” team event. 

8. BIG golf resorts. We’re on shaky ground here because there are wonderful golf resorts around the world -- Gleneagles and LeBorde come to mind-- but no one quite does massive golf development like the Americans. It begins with Pinehurst and the exquisite vision of James Walker Tufts --he created the town and some of its splendid golf courses at the turn of the last century, at $1.25 an acre -- and continues to this day with Herb Kohler who created the American Club in Wisconsin and Michael Keiser and his remarkably successful Bandon Dunes.  Add Donald Trump, mostly as an acquirer, and you get the grand vision of American golf resorts. Most important, there is no less emphasis on golf in these developments than on destination. A dozen of Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Courses are part of resorts, not including Bethpage Black, one track of a 90-hole state park in New York. Pinehurst, the model, now has nine courses, proving that in America we do golf big.  

9. John Daly. Let Daly here represent the American public golfer and all the fun he’s had learning this country club game. Let him represent league guys. Let him represent hackers who hate dress codes. Let him represent the hat-backward, t-shirt wearing, flip-flop dragging ex- jock who just can’t get enough. Let him represent the crude and the sweet, the embarrassing and the maddening, the foolishly devoted lover of the game, his marriages to it and his break-ups with it. In America golf is everyman’s. And most of our game is played where rules officials and green chairmen have never tread. Let John Daly represent every golfer who’s tossed a club, given up, fought back, and birdied the last hole. Let him represent our worst and most colorful moments. Let him represent our faults, our penchant for giving what we haven’t got to charity, our innocence and our guilt. Let John Daly represent what happens when you really share your game, when golf is accessible, when we all have to live, let live, and, in the end, learn. About the game, about ourselves, about one another. How American is that?

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Courses & Travel

8 things you must do when visiting Pinehurst (beyond the obvious stuff, like playing No. 2)

By Peter Finch


Inspired by the U.S. Open(s) to make your own trip to Pinehurst? Great idea. Golf Digest consistently ranks the resort among the very best in North America. But you should know there’s much more to Pinehurst than its famous No. 2 course. There are many other very good courses -- I count 927 golf holes within 30 miles of the resort entrance -- and endless other diversions worth considering. Here are eight things you really ought to do while there. 

Start your day right with breakfast at the Carolina Hotel: biscuits and gravy, omelets made to order, waffles, all accompanied by live music.

Fine-tune your game at nearby Pine Needles Resort & Lodge (below). It has an expansive practice area, and there’s a chance you’ll meet the, LPGA legend Peggy Kirk Bell, on the range.

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Make time for two lesser-known Donald Ross courses: the wonderfully restored Mid Pines and the fun, not-insanely difficult Southern Pines Golf Club.

Drive 15 minutes to Carthage for genuine North Carolina barbecue at Pik-N-Pig. Get there by 11:45 a.m. or expect a long wait for lunch.

Visit the King Fisher Society, a 3,000-acre playground for world-class bass and bluegill fishing, quail hunting, sporting clays, falconry and more. 

Hop on a fat-tire bike, free for guests of the Pinehurst Resort, and wheel through the surrounding village at your leisure.

Drop some cash at Tom Stewart’s Old Sport & Gallery, home to one of the world’s biggest collections of golf art, books and antique clubs.

Close out the night with a drink or three at the boisterous Pine Crest Inn. See Payne Stewart’s signature in the men’s room, try chipping a ball at the fireplace. 


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