A daily report on the activities undertaken on the tour of The Sandhills of North Carolina, Pinehurst, Reynolds Plantation, The Masters & Muirfield Village
Heather and I flew Melbourne to LA, then connected into Raleigh Durham in North Carolina.
We picked up the hire car- a 12 seater Ford Transit van, and checked into our room at the nearby Hyatt Place, and slept...
Country Club of Nth Carolina
We picked up Bruce and Di in the Ford Transit van and headed for the Country Club of North Carolina (CCNC).
We arrived at CCNC late morning and took possession of the Douglas house - a generous 4 bedroom house with 4 ensuites and a huge community area. After lunch we headed out again to pick up Den Elzen’s and Steer’s from a nearby airport. Everyone was rapt with the house, sited in the middle of the golf courses, and with the range and practice facilities right outside our door. Baskets of balls were tempting us out on the range, and eventually we all succumbed. We felt blessed!
On recommendation that night we dined at Ironwood restaurant
The meal was super!
Tobacco Road GC
It took us about 40 minutes to drive to Tobacco Road GC, but it was the weather that was the main issue. It was unseasonably cold, and we played the front nine in 3 degrees before getting up to 6 degrees later in the round. We all wore a lot of layers.
The course was just starting to come out of dormancy, but the crazy design won everyone over. Tobacco Road is reasonably short, but involves a lot of blind shots, decent carries, and wild greens.
All agreed it was a lot of fun.
Tobacco Road was virtually unknown when we first played it fifteen years ago, but now rates as a top 100 course. We love it.
Before we headed back to CCNC, Louie the drone took flight and logged some hours getting footage of holes 11, 17 & 18
That evening, we were invited by the Country Club to a cocktail party in our honour. We did feel privileged to be there, and it was nice to meet the key people from the club. CCNC had decided to invite select international groups to use the facility, and only 9 tour operators in the world were invited to participate.
The Travelling Golfer was the first to get things moving - so they were pleased to welcome us.
Dinner this night was at Southern Pride, an upmarket steakhouse in Southern Pines.
CCNC- Dogwood Course
Dogwood GC is one of two courses located in the CCNC. It was nice to just rock up to the tee and play near our accommodation.
The Dogwood course has always rated as one of the very top courses in Nth Carolina, and has held many amateur tournaments. With lakes in play on 9 holes, it was a stunningly visual course that is beautifully maintained andpleasure to play.
The greens were firm and fast and tested our putting, and the course was very well bunkered.
Oh, to be a member of CCNC and have two courses of this quality to play each day!
That night we enjoyed a lovely meal in the CCNC restaurant
Pine Needles GC
In the morning Heather and I headed out on Dogwood with Louie before the field came through. Although the skies were not really blue we got some pretty decent footage of holes 3, 4, 5, 11, 15, & 18
Then we were off to Pine Needles GC, site of a number of Ladies U.S. Opens. Architect Kyle Franz has been working on the course for a few years to bring the course up to scratch for the Ladies Senior Open in 2019, and the Ladies Open in 2022.
Kyle has masterminded a number of changes at Pine Needles, attempting to bring back the old Donald Ross ‘feel”.
He has done a good job too, as it really felt like a shortened version of Pinehurst no 2 in the way the green tested our ability to hit and stay on a green, and to get the ball in the hole. The domed greens were subtle and hard to read, putting a premium on the approach shots. Only the more accurate shots would hit and stay on these greens.
As well as working on the greens, Franz has added significant acreage of waste bunkering throughout the course, tightening up the tee shot and enhancing the look of the course…
After golf we stayed on at Pine Needles for drinks and dinner. Ben Hillard, who is working as a shaper for architect Gil Hanse, met us for drinks and brought us all up to date on his exploits, inviting us out to see the work he is doing on Pinehurst no 4.
Pinehurst no 8
After checking out from CCNC we drove to Pinehurst no 8. With 8 of us in the van plus golf clubs and luggage we were certainly The Travelling Sardines
Number 8 is a Tom Fazio course, and I think it is one of the better courses in the Pinehurst complex. The course was built to celebrate Pinehurst’s first hundred years, and Fazio drew inspiration from Donald Ross’s work in designing what is also known as the centennial course. He made the greens somewhat larger than no 2, but the movement in the greens, the fall offs, and false fronts maintained the challenges for golfers of all levels. The course is routed through hillier terrain than the initial courses at Pinehurst, as well as natural wetlands, and proved a decent challenge for all.
In my view the back nine is stronger than the front, and more interesting. The ‘cape hole’ short par 4 fourteenth hole is the standout! You need to decide how much of the water to take on and commit!
When we arrived at Pinehurst Resort to check in to the Manor Inn, we found it closed and that we had been upgraded to the Holly Inn!
It worked out very well for us- The Holly Inn is better located and a pretty decent option for accommodation in the Pinehurst Resort.
Late afternoon we ventured out onto Pinehurst No.4 to meet Ben Hillard. Ben took the group around and showed us the work being done on No. 4 and why. We were all rapt to get an insiders view on the rebuild of such a famous course. Ben also introduced us to his boss, Gil Hanse, and we all had a lovely chat with Gil - one of the very top golf architects in the world today.
Dinner at the Holly Inn was in The Tavern where we had a delicious meal to finish a grand day at Pinehurst
Pinehurst no 7
Designed by Rees Jones, Pinehurst no 7 is probably my favourite course to play at the resort, although off the regular tees it is regarded as the hardest course at Pinehurst. The course plays longer than the card would suggest with a number of tee shots hitting into the slopes, and elevated greens repeating the dose for approaches.
Rees Jones uses the elevation change throughout the site well, and has created a very pretty course, as well as a challenging one. I particularly like the change up as the course moves through 6 holes in the hills to start and then 3 holes around the marshland, and then back into the hills. For me 7, 8 & 9 are a high point in the round (in low ground)
There are many good holes but the par 3 sixteenth hole ( Fingers ) is a beauty, and the closing hole- a par 5 down the valley to a green sitting on the lake edge was also memorable.
In the afternoon we took the time to wander through the Village of Pinehurst.
At night we dined at The Carolina hotel
Pinehurst No 2
Today we had an early tee time on Pinehurst no 2!
It was very cold early, but settled in to a lovely day. The course was in good shape and the greens were not running overwhelmingly quick as they sometimes can.
No 2 is famous for its crowned greens and we can verify that it is difficult to hit a green in regulation and stay on. Hitting the green is not the key issue- staying on is! The greens have some subtle movement throughout as well as the pronounced fall offs around the edges. The general strategy for the everyday golfer is to aim for the middle of the greens or come in short.
Sandy waste areas with wire grass dominate the fairways, and demand accurate tee shots. Golfers will give themselves a much better chance at hitting a green by coming in from the correct angle, and the waste areas challenge players who can take them on or choose the safer tee shot which usually ensures a more difficult approach.
Our group handled the course well, and most enjoyed the challenge and posted decent scores
At night we had a presentation ceremony. Annette den Elzen was announced "The Sandhills of North Carolina Tour Champion". Well done Annette!
Our closing dinner at The Carolina was our last night with Bruce and Di, who now head to New Orleans. For the rest of us - The Masters beckons…
The Road to Reynolds Plantation, Lake Oconee
Today we rose early to see off Di & Bruce, and then boarded our van for the road trip to Reynolds Plantation in Georgia. It was a 450 kms drive. We departed Pinehurst at 8.45am and after a number of pitstops along the way, arrived at 4pm. We checked into our 3 bedroom cottage in the picture perfect area known as The Landings. Reynolds Plantation is a huge self-contained gated community with 6 wonderful golf courses - all surrounded by azaleas, dogwoods, pine trees and lakes, and beautifully manicured.
For dinner we dined in the Landings Clubhouse and checked out the golf courses and pro shop.
Great Waters GC
Reynolds Plantation is a vast complex, and after a late breakfast at the The National Golf Course Clubhouse, we spent the morning driving around the estate checking out the beautiful houses, the marina, the various golf courses, and of course the pro shops. After lunch we played at the Great Waters Course - a Jack Nicklaus course regarded as the best in the complex and one of the best in Georgia. The course is routed through rolling terrain, framed by pine & dogwood trees, and coloured by azaleas at every turn. Rocky creeks snaked strategically across in front of greens, across and alongside fairways, and the lakes were in play on half the holes on the course.
It’s hard to think of a prettier course to play when the sun is out and the flowers in bloom.
Everyone enjoyed their day immensely, and dinner on the way home at The Tavern at The National was a nice way to finish.
This morning after breakfast we stopped in at The Kingdom - a Taylor Made club fitting facility. Head man Clay gave us a guided tour, and showed us the new twist head driver face. Apparently Jason Day was in last week bombing drives 340 yards off the range!
Later we teed off at the Oconee course designed by Rees Jones, and generally regarded as the second best course in the estate. I was a little disappointed with the front nine- I guess we had been spoiled by the variety of dramatic golf courses we had experienced in the last week or two- many were set in rolling hills, framed by pine trees, coloured by azaleas, with white splash bunkers and rocky creeks and lakes in play. The front nine at Oconee was in similar terrain framed by pine trees, but lacked the colour and flair we had become accustomed to. The downhill par 3 fifth hole, and the par 4 ninth hole along the lake were the exceptions - two lovely holes.
The back nine at Oconee was a different course. Rocky creeks framed and bisected a number of holes, the lakes came into play, and the golf was much more exciting.
Favourite holes included 12, 13, 15, 16 & 17.
Dinner that night was a local Italian restaurant.
DAY 12- The Big Day!
After rising very very early we departed at 5.15am for the drive to Augusta. We picked up the tickets at 6.30am and caught the shuttle to Augusta National, scanned our badges and headed to the golf shop to pick up our green fold up chairs.
Our plans were delayed a tad as the ropes allowing access to the course weren’t dropped until well after 7.30. As soon as they dropped, we placed our chairs behind the 18th green and all headed off to have our photo taken in front of the clubhouse. We then got caught up in the crowd watching the ceremonial opening tee shots by Jack and Gary. Then we headed off to explore the course- in brilliant sunshine....
The day could not have been better!
Heather and I walked the back nine to really get to know each of those wonderful holes. Hole 10 is an impressive long downhill par 4, but then Amen Corner looked absolutely magnificent…
Add the beauty and grandeur of 15 & 16, and the back nine at Augusta is something very special.
For the rest of the day we moved around camping ourselves first in the stand by the fifth green, then the stand by the 12th green, back to the golf shop for some of the compulsory merchandise purchases, back to the stand by the 16th green, and finally to the green chairs behind 18.
In the end we all agreed it had been a spectacular day.
The drive back to our accommodation was an effort, but it had been one of the grandest of days.
After brekkie we headed to Atlanta airport, dropped off the van and caught our flight to Columbus, Ohio. Navigating the freeways and road system around the airport was a challenge, so I was relieved to hand in the car keys and board a plane.
In Columbus we organised taxis and advanced to the famous Muirfield Village Golf Club. The club had kept us abreast of the unseasonal weather, but nevertheless the extreme cold was confronting. We stayed the night in the Jones Villa (after Bobby Jones)- the villa was enormous, each room 3 times the size we might be used to.
We did feel spoiled!
Unfortunately the course was closed so we had the run of the place as we were the only ones staying on site. Heather and I rugged up and walked the amazing back nine, checked out the proshop, and the memorial garden, and then we all headed in for dinner, where the clubhouse was rocking with members
As we headed back to the villa flurries of snow fell…
Muirfield Village GC
We woke to a world of white- snow covered everything in sight- and it looked great!
We had the clubhouse staff to ourselves for breakfast and then headed out to walk the front nine. It was a unique opportunity to see one of the worlds great courses glistening in white.
During the day we relaxed in front of the fire and watched the third day of The Masters.
In the evening, we dined in the clubhouse and said our goodbyes, and the next morning we all went our separate ways.
The Travelling Golfer