CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, but going to play golf in Pinehurst just feels right.
I don't mean "right" in a "Rock on! I am out from behind the desk for a couple days!" kind of way.
I mean "right" as in "So this is what it feels like to come home to the "Home of American Golf."
That is what Pinehurst calls itself, you know - the Home of American Golf. The "Golf Capital of the World," is just a few hours south in Myrtle Beach, so we Carolina folks have the pleasure of living within proximity of both the "home" and "capital" of this grand game.
Honestly, we are modest people most the time.
When I go to Myrtle Beach, I feel like I am getting away, or escaping from everyday life. When I go to Pinehurst, I feel like I am returning to a warm, fuzzy place full of quaint inns, cozy pubs, and some of the world's best golf courses.
How can two golf destinations so close to each other, geographically, be so far apart conceptually?
Myrtle Beach has the coast, but most the golf courses are not located there. The best settings for golf you'll find in the Grand Strand are the old plantations of Pawleys Island and the barrier islands of Brunswick County. The rest of the land is flat, swampy, and infested with toothpick sized pine trees.
Pinehurst, as the name suggests, has pine trees, too. But these are majestic, bright green, long leaf pines that can be as breathtaking as the old Live Oaks of the Low Country, or the towering Willow Oaks of the Piedmont.
Then there is the name. "Pinehurst" is often used to describe what is actually a three-town region consisting of the Village of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen. This triumvirate of burgs sits in a subregion of the North Carolina Piedmont referred to as the Sandhills.
The Sandhills are nothing if not sandy and hilly, and for nearly 100 years, golf course architects have drooled over the superior drainage capabilities of this unique soil.
In Myrtle Beach, the drooling is primarily reserved for nights out at one of the beach's myriad of gentlemen's clubs.
We have to give the Grand Strand credit where credit is due. No golf destination in the U.S. is as reasonably priced during the offseason as Myrtle Beach, and among its 110 plus layouts, the beach does boast two Golf Magazine Top 100 You Can Play courses, and about 20 other tracks that can truly claim to be excellent golf facilities.
But remember, Myrtle Beach is the Capital, Pinehurst is the Home.
At home, everything is conveniently located so you can find it and use it with as little interference as possible. Pinehurst has almost 40 golf courses speckled within a thirty-minute drive of each other, and other than the hordes of foursomes darting here and there in their SUV's, traffic levels in Pinehurst are down right bearable.
A home always has history, pictures hanging on a wall that tell stories that cross generational lines. Southern Pines was founded as a health resort in 1887 by John Patrick, and in 1890, James Tuft hired Fredrick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park) to design the Village of Pinehurst in the fashion of a New England Village.
In 1900, Tufts hired famed Scottish golf course designer Donald Ross to design a series of golf courses in the village. When the dust settled, Ross had produced Pinehurst No. 2, one of the Top 10 golf courses in the world, and a handful of other award winning layouts.
A home performs a variety of functions, but it's sole function is to provide its owner with a warm, happy place to dwell. Spend an afternoon golfing at Pine Needles or Mid Pines, and settle in at the bar at the Squires Club for one of their 40 plus beers. If you aren't happy and warm at that point, you need serious coaching.
Arnold Daly once said that golf is like a love affair. If you don't take it seriously, it's no fun. But if you take it seriously, it will break your heart.
I can't imagine a better place to get your heart broke into a million pieces than Pinehurst.
December 11, 2001