Situated five miles east of Pinehurst, the Mid Pines and Pine Needles golf courses are part of the same resort, separated by Midland Road, which divides the two 18-hole layouts. Both layouts are Donald Ross tracks that were constructed for the owning Tufts family, with the Mid Pines course opening in 1921, seven years before its sibling appeared.
Feature holes include the uphill 330-yard 4th, played to a green that drops away sharply on its right side, the 380-yard left doglegged 12th, the 391-yard right doglegged 17th and the 411-yard closing hole, where the home green is beautifully back dropped by the elegant Inn at Mid Pines hotel.
There’s plenty of authentic
Ross here, thanks largely to a sympathetic restoration carried out in 2013 by
Kyle Franz (former shaper for Tom Doak, Gil Hanse and Kyle Phillips) which
received plenty of critical acclaim, such as: “there’s no doubt Franz
delivered. Mid Pines was always a good course, but it now positively crackles
with new life.”
During the summer of 2012, I had the great fortune to serve as a USGA P.J. Boatwright intern for the Carolinas Golf Association, then located in West End. One morning, I was assigned to mark Mid Pines for an upcoming tournament. Admittedly, I had never even heard of Mid Pines throughout my three months living in Pinehurst, and the course I saw that day was altogether unmemorable as I marched along with red and yellow paint cans.
Having that experience was actually a blessing in disguise when I first played the course years later after the Kyle Franz restoration. Kyle and his team’s transformative power was showcased in such stunning fashion that I barely recognized a single hole from my first viewing. Today, Mid Pines is simply marvelous.
The historic Mid Pines Inn and cottages on Midland Road immediately take one back in time as they arrive at Mid Pines. Historical artifacts, from telephones to clocks, line the walls of the hallways and locker rooms, further building the mystique. It is my understanding that Mid Pines was one of Pinehurst’s first private clubs, built for a “strong playing membership,” and experiencing the course reveals that precision is key. Mid Pines plays wonderfully at virtually any point in the year, even in the middle of winter.
As a Ross fanatic, the Mid Pines routing is worthy of devout study. The property is exceptionally rolling and the green sites are perched in many precarious locations. Interesting ground game shots abound thanks to the often steep, undulating fairways. These features and many more gave Ross the ability to develop some fantastic holes, which in my opinion include:
• #1: While many Ross courses feature a ‘gentle handshake’ opener, this downhill par four is a somewhat ‘deceptive’ handshake. The fairway narrows, and the entry to the sloping green is pinched by nasty bunkers at the front.
• #2: The flashing bunker restoration of Kyle Franz is immediately apparent in the round at the 2nd. As a left handed player with a draw, this par three’s bunkering really fit my eye making the preferred shot type clear.
• #4: The 4th at Mid Pines is arguably the best hole on the course, or at the very least, one of the most studied. While very short in length, attempting to drive this devastatingly scary green can be treacherous, especially if a shot leaks to the right. Laying up to the canted fairway is no joke either – a shot shaped right-to-left is almost essential to maintain placement down the ideal left side.
• #8: This downhill par three is flat out scary. With a massive bunker fronting the hole, equally dangerous sand traps behind, and generally firm conditions, landing the ball on the green is no small feat. The oblong, shallow shape of the green adds to the challenge. Who would have thought a short to mid-iron tee shot to a hazardless green could make a player so nervous?
• #12: An absolute charmer, the par four 12th invites a smooth right to left shot which will tumble down the fairway if spinning correctly. The narrow, deep green provides wonderful variety day-to-day.
• #13: Ross included stout par threes on many of his golf courses, and this 230 yard beast is his star at Mid Pines. While flanked by massive waste areas, Ross provides relief with a welcoming run up option and no bunkers behind the hole, making a punch shot with a long iron, hybrid, or fairway wood an enticing play.
• #14: The 14th is perhaps Ross’ best routed hole on a course full of excellently routed holes. The tee shot is narrow to a fairway which is steeply sloped left to right. Of course, the best angle of approach is from the left side of that fairway. The green is banked into that same slope and is surrounded by four bunkers. Although the hole is short, Ross demands precision with both the tee shot and short wedge. This feels like the type of hole which was discovered and never planned, and in some ways reminds me of a mirrored version of the 14th at Old Town.
• #15: One of my favorite holes on the property, the 15th features a severely downhill tee shot. With the possibility of reaching this par five in two, many players will take a grip-and-rip approach from the tee and accidentally contend with an unexpected bounce from left to right, or one of the fairway bunkers strategically placed by Ross. After making the massive descent, the player’s diversity of skillset is demanded immediately – from a downhill lie, should you lay up, or go for the green which is now above you?
• #18: Once again, the Ross routing superiority is showcased on the final hole as the player is asked to hit a right-to-left shot from the tee while favoring a left-to-right into most pin placements on this green. If the view of the Mid Pines Inn does not inspire you here, you may wish to check your pulse.
In my study of golf architecture, I have learned that many notable raters include Mid Pines among their favorite golf courses. It is easy to see why. With virtually every shot in your bag demanded, including a wide range on individual holes, the variety at Mid Pines makes it the perfect course to hone your skills and one which could satisfy any golfer every single day.
On other forums, I have seen debates of how players might split 10 rounds at the Mid Pines/Pine Needles resort. Truthfully, my own preference has wavered over time, and quite frankly, I feel that any combination of the 10 rounds could be argued and justifiable. That said, I generally would lean towards 6-4 Pine Needles.
On the surface, Mid Pines generally would fit my taste more than Pine Needles. There are no houses, the routing has tremendous variety, and there are countless opportunities to play the ball on the ground. However, after playing both, I find the smaller scale of Mid Pines to be too restrictive in some places when conditioning is firm and fast (normally ideal for most golf courses!). This can eliminate strategy and instead just instill fear. For example:
• On the acclaimed 4th hole, the fairway is so canted from left to right that almost every tee shot ends up on the right side in firm conditions. This is also true on the 14th. On #4, clumps of trees make it virtually impossible to reach the green from the right side angle, and there are almost no options to bail out. While many find the green’s drop off on the right to be a great challenge, it almost feels like automatic out-of-bounds in dry conditions.
• On the par five 5th, trees narrow the landing areas significantly, and when conditions are fast, there is almost no room to lay up with a pond and perched green.
• This lack of option was also true on the par five 6th – when I have played in dry weather, going for two would be foolish given the somewhat shallow green complex and deep bunkers.
As you can tell, my comments here are incredibly nit-picky. I do not list them to suggest that Mid Pines is an ‘inferior’ course in any way; I offer them only to demonstrate why I very slightly prefer Pine Needles for my game. If you are making your way to the Sandhills, especially for the first time, Mid Pines and Pine Needles should BOTH be on your list of must-play designs. A day at Mid Pines is one you will not soon forget.
Mid Pines - where to start!
An epic course, which builds to a 3 hole stretch that would grace any course!
Upon arrival the 100 plus year old Lodge and Clubhouse is the first thing you notice. She stands above the property regal and majestic.
When one thinks of Pinehurst North Carolina - The Number 2 course at the Pinehurst Resort comes to mind immediately, after all it has history on its side. While #2 brings the golfers, courses like this one win the hearts of golfers from all over the globe.
A local told us early on that Mid Pines is the #1 track in the North Carolina Sandhills area, which is a big call considering the depth and quality of the courses here. I suspect trying to choose the best course is just like trying to do it at the Melbourne Sandbelt - its subjective but there are a handful of stunners. Mid Pines is a Kingston Heath level stunner.
The course has Lovely elevation changes, they are perhaps more substantial than you realise when standing on the first tee, its a tough walk, with very few level lies. They certainly added a layer of complexity I was not expecting.
The Donald Ross routing is genius, using all points of the compass to test your game. All the shots are required, from the tee there is room to shape shots, but at times one has no choice but to step up to the mark.
The greens have a nice balance of slope and false fronts, never plain but also never unfair, one suspects that this course would be a joy to play every day of the year for a member.
I loved hole 4, a short par 4 with a wicked green, a drive to the far left edge of the fairway affords you a good angle, every yard further right is a yard more difficult.
16, a downhill right to left hole demands the right ball flight, its a stunning hole visually, an epic tee shot.
17 turns the other way, the routing never lets you settle, challenging you all the way to the house.
The 18th which once again turns back right to left, the scene is set by the Massive Clubhouse, the hole feels like a stadium. What an experience, up there with anything you could hope to play.
Wonderful design. My buddy eagled number three, which you would think would ensure a top ten day. On number four disaster struck and I plunked it into a greenside bunker. I escaped 4 shots later. Two holes later, deja vu. Three holes later i am in another bunker, this one actually had sand as i dug in. Unfortunately, as with the other bunkers there was not much, if any under my ball. The good news is i was able to skull this one out, the bad news was into another bunker. My sand play was so bad i contaminated the rest of my foursome. By the 13th or 14th hole we all recognized the only way to safely escape from the greenside bunkers was with a putter!!!!
Lovely track ruined and all this for $125.
Confusing review. The reviewer describes the course as a "wonderful track" and "wonderful design" yet gives the course a "poor" rating. Maybe he was rating the quality of his play instead; he certainly described that more than the course. I've played Mid Pines an it is a 4 ball course at least.
I read it as a review of what would otherwise have been a wonderful course, but ruined by poor conditioning of the bunkers.
Fortunately, conditioning can be improved and some courses suffer from poor conditioning at times (due to the changing seasons or adverse weather events) but come back beautifully in time or with a little work. Hopefully the enduring design of the course results in it receiving higher scoring reviews in the future. Or reviewers who place less emphasis on conditioning and more on the design. But I can equally see that someone paying over USD100 for a round probably expects the conditioning to be acceptable for their standards. My personal pet hate is paying top dollar for courses in Asia and then finding the fairways overwatered and balls routinely plugging through the green.
Fantastic course in beautiful condition. The owners own this course and Pine Needles across the street and both the courses are run in a first class manner. I love the look and feel of this course. In contrast to modern designs, which seek to intimidate the golfer while actually allowing for quite a bit of room for most shots, designer Donald Ross accomplished the opposite here. Relatively benign and open appearing holes actually require very precise placement to play the hole properly. The land is gentle and rolling, and this course can be walked comfortably. The rough has been transformed to sand and scruff like Pinehurst #2 and I love both the aesthetics and playability of the rough areas. This is a great course, and although I like Pine Needles a little better I think Mid Pines is actually the better course. Both courses are amazing.
Read my full story: The Sandhills – high-class designs outside Pinehurst
A few years back I played most of Mid Pines before running into two 8 balls of afternoon beer guzzlers and skipping through to the 18th. This time around the course had underwent a lovely and thoughtful restoration by Kyle Franz. Having just spent an evening with Kyle I was curious to see the results. In no way was I disappointed. The restoration work is awesome.
The course is great fun to play and in fact in terms of pure fun I’d have to say it’s perhaps #1 in North Carolina’s Sand Hills.
There is tons of width and the course plays very firm and fast allowing for quite a few options and even realistic use of the ground game despite the warm weather grasses.
If you make it to the area, Mid Pines is a definite must play.
Thousands of visiting golfers migrate to the Pinehurst region throughout the year. In Southern Pines, NC, you’ll find the nearby sister courses of Pine Needles and Mid Pines.
While Pine Needles has a large scale feel to it, I certainly preferred the much more challenging Mid Pines with its outstanding raised greensites and strategic feel to it.
The course continually challenges accuracy off the tee, and tests that there’s truly something going on between your two ears.
I’m actually debating with myself whether I prefer to play Mid Pines over Pinehurst #2 as I just loved it without feeling battered. Sometimes it’s good to challenge the norm and think outside the box.
I’d say my favorite holes at Mid Pines were the par 3 2nd which was an excellent short par 3 with a beautiful green complex and the closing hole which was a long par 4 with a back to front sloping green set in the hillside in front of the clubhouse. A small hiccup on the back 9 but a great start to a Pinehurst visit.