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December 05, 2008

Pinehurst: America's golf mecca

Posted at 3:52 PM by Gerald McCullagh | Categories: North Carolina, Pinehurst

Many avid players often look to the British Isles for their golf pilgrimage, but don’t consider their own backyard.

Sure, St. Andrews and Turnberry are wonderful, but when seeking world-class golf, your first destination should be Pinehurst, N.C. Nowhere else in the United States can you play U.S. Open courses located just minutes from each another.

The rich golfing tradition of Pinehurst goes back more than 100 years to visionary developer James W. Tufts and legendary course designer Donald Ross. Since Ross’s Pinehurst No. 2 course opened in 1903, the North Carolina sand hills around Pinehurst have grown to include 43 golf courses with lodgings that include both on- and off-course accommodations.

The real heartbeat of the Pinehurst area is the Village Green, a small town reminiscent of New England charm. The town’s center is within walking distance to some of the finest old-world hotels I have ever seen. As I walked through the front door of the Pine Crest Inn, I felt as if I stepped back in time to the most romantic period in golfing history. Surrounding me were pictures of Sam Snead, Donald Ross, Julius Boros and other legends of the game.

I asked an older staff member what had changed over the years at the inn.

She replied, “Nothing.”

At the turn of the century golfers from the Northeast would ride the rail from Penn Station in Manhattan, arrive 12 hours later in neighboring Southern Pines, and be on the first tee in a half-hour. Along these lines, I heard a story of a father and son who frequently rode the train down on a Friday evening, played golf over the weekend, and returned back to Wall Street for business on Monday. The successful model that attracted visitors here 80 years ago remains strong today.

I can’t write about Pinehurst without mentioning Peggy Kirk Bell, a charter member of the LPGA. Her two magnificent golf courses, Pine Needles and Mid Pines, are the Donald Ross masterpieces and a testament to her contribution to the local community. When asked about the character of Mid Pines, Ross once stated that it played like a Viennese waltz with a subtle complexity and challenge that every player can appreciate.

When people visit the Pinehurst area, they often think of it as the perfect place to retire. It has so much to offer with affordable housing, great transportation, and a magnificent hospital. The medical center is one of the top hospitals in the country.

One of the most important things on any golf trip is the company. I found the perfect twosome to play with: my colleague Dee Forsberg Voss and my dear friend Dr. Douglas Knudson.

Thanks, Doctor, for a great birthday treat!

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Gerald McCullagh teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Le Bolstad Golf Club in Falcon Heights, Minn. He also blogs here.

Want to learn more about Pinehurst? Check out GOLF.com's articles, photo galleries and videos.

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