Racing, fishing, shopping, more: Off-course fun on a Pinehurst golf trip

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

PINEHURST, N.C. — So, you've come to Pinehurst, the home of American golf, and you want to do something else besides hit a small ball and chase it down, only to hit it again?

Spa at Pinehurst
The Spa at Pinehurst offers yoga, among many other services.
Spa at PinehurstShopping at PinehurstSandhills Horticultural Gardens
If you go

Sacrilege.

Well, if you must, there are other things to do on a Pinehurst golf trip besides play No. 2 and the other not-so-famous 42 area golf courses. Not much, but you could manage if you're so inclined.

Harness Racing

The Pinehurst Harness Track has been a part of Pinehurst since 1915. In fact, the village seal of Pinehurst shows a trotter, so you know horses are important here.

The harness track is the winter training ground for Standardbreds, with its three sand/clay tracks and enclosed barns. Some of them have gone on to be champions, like Gallo Blue, the richest pacer in history, Medoland Don, Brownie Blue Chip and Glory Bound.

The Pinehurst matinee is sort of graduation for all the young two-year-olds, and the spring races are something of a social event. As many as 3,000 people fill up the bleachers and tailgating lots (yes, there's tailgating in harness racing).

The track also hosts other shows, horse and non-horse alike, such as hunter/jumper shows, dressage, carriage-driving shows, classic car shows, dog shows and polocrosse shows — a team sport that is a combination of polo and lacrosse.

Fishing

Since these are the sandhills we're talking about, fishing is pretty much restricted to freshwater lakes and rivers. Aberdeen Lake holds bass and sunfish and nearby Deep River offers some good whitewater during the right season.

Heritage Lake holds bass, bream, catfish and crappie and Reservoir Park has the same. Reservoir Park is a large lake surrounded by nearly 100 acres of longleaf pine, picnic shelters, tables and hiking trails. Fishing is allowed, but not swimming.

The park is adjacent to the Whitehall Center hiking trails, and the fitness trails of Sandhills Community College

Hiking

Aside from Reservoir Park, there is the Weymouth Woods, a 4.5 mile trail near Fort Bragg in Southern Pines, one of the country's most combat-ready and active military installations, and home to the 82nd Airborne and the JFK Special Warfare School. You can hear the booms of the artillery range periodically.

It isn't really hiking, but there are two walking tours: the Aberdeen Walking Tour, a self-guided walk through the Aberdeen historical district, and a 60-minute guided walking tour of Pinehurst.

Shopping

Pinehurst village is small, quaint and has a number of boutique shops, like Pinehurst Place, a group of shops under one roof that sells gifts, decorations and clothes. The Aberdeen Historic downtown has antique shops and the Sandhills Woman's Exchange sells crafts and baked goods in a log cabin.

Pinehurst Spas

The Spa at Pinehurst is the only four-star spa in a three-state region and was recognized in 2006 by Conde Nast magazine as one of the top 50 spas in North America.

It's a 31,000-square-foot facility with 40 services, including "aquatherapy tranquility areas." Not surprisingly, there are massages that cater to golfers, starting with eucalyptus oil massage, foot massages, deep tissue, hot stone and couples massages.

Sightseeing

• The Bethesda Church and Cemetery in Aberdeen, circa 1790, has an old slave galley and you can still see bullet holes from the Civil War on the exterior. You can also find graves of pioneer settlers.

• Horseshoe State Historic Site in Sanford features a house with more bullet holes, from a skirmish between Whigs and Torries, reenacted each August.

• Malcolm Blue Farm and Museum in Aberdeen has an antebellum farm with a restored farmhouse, grist mill, barns and museum.

• Sandhills Horticultural Gardens is located at the Sandhills Community College. It has 25 acres of gardens, including a formal English garden.

• Town Creek Indian Mound is a restored site of the Muskhogean Indians of the Pee Dee area. Structures include temples, a mortuary and stockade with guard towers.

• The North Carolina State Zoo is 45 minutes away in Asheboro.

Other

Pinehurst Carriage Tours is similar to the walking tour, but you're sitting up in a horse-drawn carriage. They leave from the Carolina Hotel or the Magnolia Inn and are available day or night Tuesday through Sunday.

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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