When you mix traditional Southern hospitality with the finest in outdoor recreation, the result is Pinehurst. With a historic hotel and eight exquisite golf courses, Pinehurst has been a home away from home to rich and famous visitors for the past century, ranging from John D. Rockefeller to Bette Davis to Michael Jordan.
The main hotel, built in its first incarnation in 1896, has undergone extensive renovations in the past three years. Despite its age, the revamped interior maintains a historic atmosphere without looking old, with 200 well-appointed guest rooms, conference facilities and long corridors lined with golfing memorabilia.
The resort offers several other lodging choices, including 11 four-room villas, the 47-room Manor Inn (two blocks from the main hotel) and 130 one-, two- and three-bedroom condominium units scattered around the golf courses. Complimentary and efficient vans whisk guests around the resort. The quaint shops and nightspots of Pinehurst Village are less than a five-minute stroll from the main hotel.
Tennis, like golf, is a major draw at Pinehurst. Home to the U.S. Tennis Association's Men's Clay Court Championship, the resort offers 18 clay courts and six hard courts, several lighted for night play. Expert instruction is available, and after a couple of hard-fought sets, players will appreciate the well-stocked clubhouse.
To celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, Pinehurst has just opened its eighth golf course, the Centennial. Designed by Tom Fazio, the course does justice to the resort's rich history of great golf architecture; its other courses have been designed by Fazio, Rees Jones, Ellis Maples and Donald Ross. Course Number Two, widely considered Ross' greatest achievement, consistently ranks among the top 10 courses in the United States. It has been home to the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, the Tour Championship and the U.S. Senior Open, and it will host the 1999 U.S. Open. If your level of play is not up to the challenge of Number Two, Pinehurst also offers the Golf Advantage School.
The resort also features a 200-acre lake for boating, five swimming pools, carriage rides, biking, a fitness center and three meticulously groomed championship croquet courts.
Most of the accommodations at Pinehurst are based on a modified American plan, in which breakfast and dinner are included. For dinner, guests have their choice of the semiformal Carolina Dining Room in the main hotel or the casual Donald Ross Grill at the golf clubhouse.
The menu at the Carolina, which changes daily, focuses on "continental cuisine with a regional flair," says food and beverage director Donald Porterfield. "Since we get visitors from all over the world, we try to accommodate their palates." Chef William Joseph Greene is part of the resort's history--his father was once the executive chef. Entrée choices for the four-course dinner range from the restaurant's signature prime rib to the delicious pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, sugar snap peas, pine nuts and salmon. Like many of Greene's dishes, this one blends local ingredients with fresh fish. Desserts include traditional offerings such as pecan pie. The dining room has an extensive wine list, and for private dinners, an exclusive wine room is available.
Breakfast is where the Southern tastes really shine, with an elaborate buffet featuring regional specialties such as grits, pit-smoked ham and biscuits with sausage gravy. The spread ensures that golfers can play 36 holes without stopping for lunch.
Last September, Pinehurst introduced cigar tastings as part of its annual Labor Day wine festival; the tastings were such a big success that in addition to offering them again during this year's festival, Porterfield says a cigar dinner is planned for the first week of November. Cigars are allowed everywhere in the resort except the Carolina Room. The Ryder Cup Lounge features a humidor stocked with selections from Davidoff and Zino. Here, smokers can enjoy their cigars with Scotch, brandy or the specialty of the house, mint juleps, in a bar that has been host to every great golfer of our time.
Larry Olmsted is a Vermont-based writer.
Pinehurst Resort & Country Club
Carolina Vista Drive
Social package of three days/two nights, modified American plan, $328 per person (high season), $234 off-season (Nov. 20-March 8); golf package of three days/two nights, modified American plan, $584 per person during high season, $376 off-season