Photos: The Real Pinehurst\nEveryone used to come to the Sandhills area by train, and some people still do. You can leave New York before noon and arrive in Southern Pines before midnight. That's the Amtrak Silver Star pulling into town.\nNo, I don't have my own street in the Village of Pinehurst, but it is named for relatives on my father's side of the family. Kind of makes a fellow feel welcome.\nI had heard about this tree and made the point of going to see it last month. Also on the Boyd tract, this is a detail shot of what is believed to be the oldest living longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) anywhere. In 2007, experts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro determined it to be at least 459 years old. That would make it 466 now.\nThis is the first place I ever hit full golf shots. It's the grounds of the Campbell House, an estate donated to the town of Southern Pines several blocks from our house. Nice to see folks still practice there. That's Pete Morris getting a few swings in during his lunch hour.\nYou'll see lots of longleaf pines (the state's official tree) framing the corridors of Pinehurst No. 2 Course, but not ones like this large beauty in the Boyd tract of the Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve. Less than 10 percent of the original longleaf pine forest in North Carolina during Colonial times still exists.\nThis is the fourth hole, a little uphill par 3 at Knollwood Fairways, a fun nine-holer that opened on Midland Road in the 1960s. It used to have a lighted par 3 course, too, and it still has a wondeful driving range.\nThis is from the tee of the par-5 fifth hole at Mid Pines, with the wonderful, short par-4 fourth to the left. It's late in the day, and reminds of so many rounds I got to play because I worked at Mid Pines as a cart guy and later a bellman as a teenager. Then and now, Mid Pines just feels the way golf should\nLate one afternoon in May, a group of kids teeing off on Knollwood's third hole brought back memories.\nAnd what would the area's golf reputation be -- or would it even have one? -- if this man, architect Donald Ross, hadn't been a huge part of its early years. This is the handsome statue of Ross, who died in Pinehurst in 1948, near the 18th green of the No. 2 Course.\nSo did the golf bag of his fellow at Knollwood that same day -- ball retriever being his longest "club." For me, though, it brought back memories of my father, who also carried only irons but still enjoyed the heck out of the game.\nOf course, there is golf outside of Pinehurst and Southern Pines. This is a homespun driving range next to the Gilliam McConnell Airfield in Carthage, Moore County's seat.\nThis is a bench and a bucket of balls at the range by the airstrip. One of its strengths? It's also adjacent to the Pik-n-Pig, a great barbeque restaurant.\nThe spring and pavillion at Jackson Springs, where people came a century ago to drink the water for what ailed them. "As soon as Donald Ross can get to it, we intend to have him establish an eighteen-hole golf course," a local newspaper reported in 1926. But the Great Depression hit and the Jackson Springs Hotel burned down.\nFor a large group of people, the Sandhills has always been about equestrian sports rather than golf. This is a pair of horses on a quiet morning at a farm along Youngs Road in Southern Pines.\nThese steps used to lead from the spring/pavillion up the hotel. For decades they have been lonely reminders of what used to be.\nSometimes the horses come to town, too . . .\n. . . And when they do, when they're on Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines, they have to "Yield To Left." That should be secret code for those of us who grew up in S.P. The reason: the train tracks bisect downtown, and no matter which side of the tracks you're driving on, you yield to cars that are crossing them.\nThis is a detail shot inside the post office. Our family has had a box there for 60 years or so. It was always a thrill to go in there as a child with my father and see what the mail had brought.\nTo me, few things in Southern Pines say "small-town America" better than the post office, which was built in the 1930s. The fine local paper, The Pilot, is one of the publications still available in that row of newspaper boxes.\nThis is The Village Chapel in Pinehurst, built on land donated by the founding Tufts family and completed in 1925. If you hear hymns or hourly chimes during the Open, they will be coming from this stately building.