124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2



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My 11 favorite Pinehurst courses, ranked

June 04, 2024
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If it has been a decade since you’ve been to Pinehurst, it’s time to go—much has changed. There are several additions to the scene, and most of the major courses have undergone serious transformations.

Although Pinehurst (and neighboring Southern Pines) is still Pinehurst, a quaint, historic village that’s not like anywhere else in golf—or even like anything outside its small geographic radius—the overall environment of the golf, resorts, lodging and restaurants is more evolved than it was 10 years ago, the last time the resort hosted the U.S. Open.

What hasn’t changed is the difficulty of selecting where to play. Choosing how to divide your rounds in such a target-rich environment can tie visitors in knots. 

Scroll through my selection of the best courses in the Pinehurst area, and be sure to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography and reviews from our course panelists. We also encourage you to leave your own ratings on the courses you’ve played … so you can make your case for why each course deserves, or doesn't deserve, more notoriety.

1. Pinehurst No. 2
Public
1. Pinehurst No. 2
Pinehurst, NC

No. 2, host of this year’s U.S. Open, would be the top selection on nearly any list, no matter where it was located. Already one of the four or five most original designs in the United States, the reestablishment of the original sand and wiregrass borders in 2010 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has given the course the aesthetic punch it previously lacked. Playing here is, in equal proportions, a deeply cerebral and emotional experience. Everything else in Pinehurst plays off the No. 2 course in one way or another.

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2. Tobacco Road Golf Club
Public
2. Tobacco Road Golf Club
Sanford, NC

Tobacco Road might not be the clear second-best course in the Pinehurst region, but it’s one that should not be missed when anywhere near it. The design was the apotheosis of late architect Mike Strantz’s unique take on risk-reward golf and visual agitation. Beautiful and bewildering, this is funhouse golf full of greens stretched into silly putty shapes, vast chasms of sand to play over and around and numerous blind shots that ask you to hit and hope and hold your breath.

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3. Pinehurst No. 10
3. Pinehurst No. 10
Pinehurst, NC

Several holes of this Tom Doak design, which opened in April 2024, plunge through old sand quarries, including the turbulent eighth where players will want to pop Dramamine before tackling fairway swells you could surf across. No. 10 feels like a world apart from the resort’s tight cluster of primary courses and symbiotic surrounding village. The grandeur of the isolated holes roller coasting through quiet sand barrens three miles to the south creates tension between the sublimity of the environment and the heroism of the architecture, demonstrated most intensely in the uninhibited green shapes, many of which are bowl-shaped and heavily segmented.

 

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4. Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club
Public
4. Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club
Southern Pines, NC

Located in Southern Pines, Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club, designed by Donald Ross in 1921, is pure elegance and beauty. The routing is spellbinding, with holes that stretch into corners at the property’s high points, then fall back down to intersect at junctions across the calmer interior. Kyle Franz’s 2013 work expanding greens and restoring the perimeter sandscapes has greatly enhanced one of Pinehurst’s most refined golf presentations.

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5. Pinehurst No. 4
Public
5. Pinehurst No. 4
Pinehurst, NC

Like a football team searching for the right coach, the resort could never settle on the right identity for the No. 4 course despite a series of major alterations by different architects. It found its match when it hired Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner to carry out a full-scale blowup and rebuild in 2018 that brought back the sweeping sand and pine character we identify with Pinehurst while initiating a style of shaping in the greens and bunkers that’s confident and distinctly its own.

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6. Pinehurst Resort: #3
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6. Pinehurst Resort: #3
Pinehurst, NC

Don’t overlook little #3, which many Pinehurst guests probably do once they note the course plays to a maximum yardage of less than 5,200 yards. You’d never know it. This is serious golf, pound for pound the toughest course on property and a scaled-down version of #2. The greens are dazzling with the same crowned edges as big brother and recently revived bunkers and perimeter barrens that match. It’s also the resort’s best walk.

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7. Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club
Public
7. Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club
Southern Pines, NC

Pine Needles used to lurk quietly in the Pinehurst background before the USGA chose to put it in their regular women’s championship rotation. It got another big boost in 2017 after Kyle Franz reworked portions of the course, putting the Pinehurst touch on the borders, cross hazards and bunkers. Although it lacks the intimacy and connectivity of its sister course, Mid Pines, with holes that wander farther afield because of being part of a 1920s residential development, it has grown into a big, championship-worthy course with arguably the most sublime set of greens after No. 2.

 

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8. The Cradle at Pinehurst Resort
Public
8. The Cradle at Pinehurst Resort
Pinehurst, NC

You wouldn’t want to skip any of these other courses just to play the Cradle, mainly because you shouldn’t have to—you can fit it in at twilight or between resort rounds (though that can be a challenge based on high demand). But it’s hard to beat the little one-shot, nine-hole course on the thrills-per-minute meter. Located just off the Pinehurst clubhouse, it’s a golf-and-social scene as all age groups play with a handful of clubs across a field of wild tees and greens as music pumps through speakers. It even has a halfway house, so you’re never more than a few dozen yards from provisions.

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9. Pinehurst No. 8
Private
9. Pinehurst No. 8
Pinehurst, NC

Cut from a nature preserve with no surrounding development, No. 8, designed by Tom Fazio in 1994, is one of the most serene experiences in the area. Fittingly, there’s a wild element to the course as the holes move in unexpected directions toward racy greens that change style from scene to scene. The modernness of the design cuts against the genteel Pinehurst aesthetic, and there’s not a lot of routing cohesion, but it’s a fast-moving train that’s worth the ride. Fazio’s team returned in 2022 for touch ups and to restore the fast and firm playing surfaces.

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10. Southern Pines Golf Club
Public
10. Southern Pines Golf Club
Southern Pines, NC

Southern Pines used to be a course that only locals and architectural bookworms played. Designed in the early 1900s by Donald Ross, the affordable public course occupied a wonderful, bucolic piece of land that seemed to have buried treasure underneath. After a change in ownership and a major 2021 renovation by Kyle Franz that added plenty of razzle dazzle to the design in the form of new greens and plenty of attractive sand barrens, the secret is out, and Southern Pines has now become a Pinehurst darling and one of the state’s better destination courses.

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11. Pinehurst Resort: #6
Private
11. Pinehurst Resort: #6
Pinehurst, NC

Many would put the sexier Jack Nicklaus-designed No. 9 in this spot, but No. 6’s simple logic is more appealing to me. It was designed and built in the dark ages of the 1970s by George and Tom Fazio and is one of the sleepier courses in the area. But don’t be too judgmental—with all the sandy pyrotechnics happening around the neighborhood, No. 6 chugs along with quiet grace, presenting traditional hole after traditional hole of smart, effective bunkering through a property that rolls high and low through lovely stands of pine. There’s a lot to be said for this kind of maturity.

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