The Pinehurst area is one of the most fruitful ZIP codes for American golf, and residents will be forgiven if they aim to avoid the crowds. With that in mind, the Pinewild Country Club opened its first course during 1989, and has since added a second 18 and a nine-hole par three course. The original remains the most celebrated course at the club, and one of North Carolina-based architect Gene Hamm’s most cherished designs as well.
The intent for the course has been made clear by both the yardage (nearly 7,500 yards) and a phrase borrowed from the members: “No bark, all bite.” The club hosted the LPGA’s Pinewild Women’s Championship during 1995 when Rosie Jones beat Dottie Pepper at the first sudden-death playoff hole.
The course sets the tone early, opening with its longest hole, a 625-yard slog through an alley defended by bunkers and the club’s title pines. The closing hole will be a little bit shorter, at “just” 550 yards, but where only trees existed along the opener’s fairway, this long hole also brings water into play along the left side for nearly 300 yards.
If you get bent out of shape at Pinewild, we hear there are a number of other courses in the area that you might try.
It is not easy to stand out in the Sandhills of North Carolina. With dozens of highly ranked courses in the region – including so many that are publically accessible – it is even more difficult for private clubs to establish the value proposition of their brand.
Pinewild Country Club is among the few communities in the Pinehurst area that successfully accomplished this feat, offering a consummate golf playground for its members. For beginners, the facility offers a massive driving range and practice ground. Pinewild also established its super fun, Donald Ross inspired Azalea par 27 course well before par three courses were such a mainstay at high end country clubs. For a step up in the challenge, Pinewild’s Holly Course captures the natural beauty of the ecosystem, featuring vast sandy waste areas and moderately hilly terrain.
The crown jewel of the Pinewild property is the Magnolia Championship Course. Opened in 1989, this layout is a plain and simple brute. Dialing in at 7,400+ yards from the tips, the course has challenged some of the finest amateur players from around the world annually at a variety of notable tournaments, signaling the respect of many golf associations to this esteemed design.
With broad playing corridors and flanking bunkers often placed directly in the player’s line of sight, the Magnolia presents a plethora of challenges. However, the most memorable characteristic of the round are the severe and often abrupt elevation changes. There are holes which play up and over knolls, across valleys, and in virtually every direction over the undulating topography. This trait is best exemplified on the back nine. The par three 12th hole’s green is totally blind from the tee, playing at least a club or two longer than listed. The par five 13th follows with what is likely the most dramatic plummet in the Sandhills. It is among the most riveting tee shots in all of Pinehurst.
With so many golf options in its confines, Pinewild Country Club is equally exciting for its members as it is for a passing guest. Should you ever receive an invitation to play the Magnolia Course, be sure to hit the gym and bring your A-game.