The Best Golf Courses to Play Around Pinehurst

By Adam Stanley
Published on

When the tagline for the tourism bureau that represents your area – attempting to attract a global audience to come visit – leans too far into one particular theme, things might get tricky.
But in the case of Pinehurst-Southern Pines-Aberdeen, being known as ‘The Home of American Golf’ isn’t just a catchy marketing slogan, it’s also fully in the DNA of the area. And that’s just fine.
“There’s great pride in that trademark,” says Phil Werz, the president and CEO of the area’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re a globally recognized golf destination – arguably the best golf destination in the country.”
It depends on what kind of golf you like, of course, but Werz says there are 40 golf courses within a 15-mile radius. Certainly, something for everyone.
And now, Werz is proud to say, there’s plenty more than just golf.
More than 80 percent of the people who come to the Pinehurst area do come to play golf, but 40 percent of the CVB’s marketing budget is dedicated to non-golf pursuits – things the area has in abundance, too. Last year was “The Year of the Trails” as they amped up promotion of the area’s 32 hiking trails. There’s also the largest collection of potters in the United States. The dining scene is also getting better and better.
“You might see a half-a-mile of chain restaurants – otherwise it’s all local spots,” says Werz. “We’re pushing it as one of the best foodie-golf destinations in the country.”
Pinehurst Resort a perennial top spot
When planning a golf trip to the area, it’s good to know that there are more and more non-golf pursuits to explore.
But if it’s a golf trip, then, well, look no further.
“Pinehurst is that quintessential small town that’s so charming. It’s like something out of a Hallmark movie in a lot of ways. It’s a wonderful community,” says PGA of America Golf Professional Matt Barksdale, the Director of Golf at Pinehurst Resort. “Golf is at the forefront. It lives, breathes, and eats golf.”
Pinehurst is the un-ignorable centerpiece for all-things golf in the area, with 10 courses (No. 10 opened this year) and, very likely, No. 11, on the way soon. The United States Golf Association also opened another office in Pinehurst, while the World Golf Hall of Fame is also in town.
“It’s a golfing community – in a good way,” says Kyle Daly, the PGA Head Professional at courses No. 1-5 at Pinehurst. “It’s like a college town that is all about that one college. Everyone in Pinehurst is all about golf and definitely supports the U.S. Open.”
At Pine Needles, 'people come and enjoy'
Pinehurst – and the village surrounding the golfing mecca – has everything you could hope for in a trip. But the entire area has plenty of other options, too, like at the Pine Needles Club.
Mere minutes away from Pinehurst, there are a trio of incredible facilities under the Pine Needles umbrella including Southern Pines Golf Club, Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club, and Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club (the first four-time host of the U.S. Women’s Open).
“It’s challenging to some of the best players in the world with the champions we’ve had at the U.S. Women’s Open, yet it’s fun for the average person. People really enjoy it,” says Kelly Miller, the president of the Pine Needles Club. “What it boils down to is that we’ve got such a great staff that have been there for a long time.
“It’s just so relaxing. We’ve got three great golf courses. There is tremendous variety in the golf. And you can just park your car and that’s it. You’ve got restaurants in each of the facilities. There are hospitality rooms if you want to have groups of 16 or 20. People just come here and enjoy.”
PGA of America Golf Professional Graham Gilmore, the General Manager and Director of Golf at Pine Needles and Mid Pines, is one of those long-time staffers. He’s been there for almost a quarter century.
“I’ve seen a lot,” he says with a chuckle.
Whatever they’re doing seems to be working just fine. He admits they’ve never tried to be an “all-inclusive thing” but there’s obviously always been great golf and great dining options. The In the Rough Lounge, he says, may be one of the best 19th holes in the game. There’s elevated comfort food and a robust list of craft beers and local fare. Why not take advantage of what’s around?
Gilmore says the repeat ratio for golf guests is extremely high.
“A lot of times we know a group might be coming to re-book for the next year before they even leave,” he explains.
Tobacco Road a must-play
If you do end up leaving the area, there’s Tobacco Road Golf Club less than 30 minutes away – one of those golf courses that people are left talking about over and over again. It’s a different kind of design (and one of just eight completely by Mike Stranz before his untimely death) and while there are blind shots and unique views, it’s very playable, according to PGA of America Golf Professional Scooter Buhrman, the course's GM. It’s located in the growing area of Sanford.
“The design sets us apart, but the total atmosphere is just different than any other high-end public golf course in the country,” he explains. “The overall vibe of the place provides a relaxed atmosphere – we are professional. But we want people to come have fun and enjoy themselves.”
Whether it’s at Tobacco Road or Mid Pines or Pinehurst or a restaurant or a hiking trail – that sounds just about perfect.