Pine Needles Golf Club in Southern Pines: A Ross original loved by women and those who love them

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. - Women love Pine Needles Golf Club, pros as well as amateurs. The U.S. Women's Open has been played here twice, and it'll be back next year.

Pine Needles Golf Club - Hills View
Pine Needles Golf Club's rolling terrain gives views of surrounding hills.
Pine Needles Golf Club - Hills ViewPine Needles Golf ClubPine Needles Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C.
If you go

"I've been playing Opens for almost 20 years now, and this is one of the better Open golf courses that I've played," former Women's Open winner Pat Bradley has said about the course.

"It just flows from start to finish. And there are no gimmicks out there."

That may be because they haven't fooled around with Donald Ross' 1928 design. Whereas many golf courses that age have brought in contemporary architects to modernize their layouts, Pine Needles has stayed true to Ross' vision.

For the most part. The women who play in next year's Open will be playing a longer course than they're used to, as officials lengthened it two years ago - a near-necessity in today's golf industry.

Still, the basic canvas looks much the same as it did nearly 80 years ago.

That means wide fairways with the best routes to the green guarded by hazards, a characteristic many designers copied from Ross. There are also deep, grass-faced traps alongside the greens, which are relatively flat but fall off sharply (another favorite Ross trait, perfected at Pinehurst No. 2.

Pine Needles is very female-friendly, hosting a number of women's golf events every month. The relatively short par 4s are also appreciated by women, as well as lesser-hitting men. The course now stretches close to 7,000 yards, but much of that added distance will only affect the pros.

It's also a very walkable course, and the club actually encourages hoofing it - something you don't find much these days on U.S. tracks. In the old days of golf design, they didn't use as much land as some of the behemoths do now, and Ross has used this corner of the Sandhills very economically.

It's a classic layout in classic local terrain, with the course playing up and down tree-lined hills.

Pine Needles Golf Club: The verdict

Pine Needles' staff takes pride in keeping the course in terrific shape year-round. Even in late August, when other courses are not faring so well, this one was in gorgeous shape - especially the greens, which were redone two years ago.

There is virtually no rough, only pine needles that fall from the trees which line most of the holes. But there are holes that will challenge the manliest of men, like No. 2, a long and difficult par 4 where you must reach at least to the crest of a hill to have a long iron to the sloping green. No. 7 is much the same - a good drive to the top of the hill will still find you with a long iron in your pudgy hands.

No. 15 has a severely sloping fairway you have to favor right. The closing hole features a downhill approach to a green guarded by deep bunkers on both sides.

Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club is an impressive complex that would be considered the best at most golf destinations but here is overshadowed by the famed Pinehurst Resort.

The clubhouse manages to be both spacious and cozy, brick, dark-wood paneling, a big fireplace and subdued lighting. Both the lounge and restaurant overlook the course. And the practice facilities are among the best anywhere, with covered stalls at the driving range, multiple tee areas and even a private tee area for guests who stay at resort villas.

Pine Needles dining

The Pine Needles Lodge has a full restaurant and a snack bar. Pinehurst has a good variety of restaurants, especially for such a small place. Top choices include Anthony's, which serves Italian; seafood eatery Aqua; Biscuitville, which specializes, obviously, in biscuits; and, for serious carnivores, Beefeaters.

Fast fact

Donald Ross played most of his golf at Pine Needles the last 15 years of his life.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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