Ignore the fact that it snowed from Mt. Airy to Pinehurst on the way down…those were daylight hours. Be a bit troubled by our near-death experience from Pittsburgh to Buffalo on the way home, when three exhausted guys barely kept the beast on the road during a typical, lake-effect snow-down. The trip to Pinehurst was needed. The chance to play #2 (site of both US Opens in 2014), Dormie, Mid Pines, Pine Needles and Little River was singular.
The Sandhills are technically a one-day drive from western New York, but our start was delayed too much (thanks to this writer) and we ended the first day at a nice hotel at the confluence of Interstates 77 and 74, just north of Winston-Salem. We started seeing bits of flakes immediately the next morning, then started to worry below Interstate 40, when the flakes evolved beyond powder and dust. The snow abated as we pulled into Dormie and we teed off toward a tan first fairway. By the time we reached the 5th green, the flurry had matured into a baby blizzard and the caddie began to look at us in that special way that non-northerners have when things get dicey.
We skipped from 9 green to 14 tee, missing out on the north-east corner of the course. Urging each other onward, we passed hell’s half acre on 17 and stumbled up the final fairway. One thing we’ve learned over the course of a number of trips is balance. We’ve played 6 consecutive days of 36 holes and approached the point of immolating one another. For this excursion, we elected to begin slowly and build steam to the finish. Day two of the trip was supposed to include trips round Pine Needles and its practice course. After Dormie, in our opinion, the worst weather had passed; we were wrong. Continued snowfall closed every course in the area that Sunday save one: Little River. We bumped our Pine Needles round to Monday, eliminated the #1 course at the resort and headed to Little River to get in our swings.
I’d forgotten to mention that one perquisite of the condo we inhabited was its proximity to one of the great diners in the region: the Racetrack diner. No credit, just cash. Pull in, get lucky and find a table and eat a no-frills, southern breakfast. Yum, freaking yum. I believe we ate there all three mornings we were in town and truthfully, would eat there every morning of any stay-great, simple way to launch each day of golf.
As we closed day two at a few of the finer drinking establishments in town, we heard the tales of rounds lost on the deuce. One of the primary reasons folks travel to the Sandhills is the round at Donald J. Ross’ masterpiece, the #2 course at the resort. To imagine a round over that trace lost to snow is to imagine the golfing worst. We commiserated with them over their misfortune.
Day three brought our only 36 hole day, at Pine Needles and Mid Pines. It also brought loss, as the mother of one of our brood passed on to the next life. We played our morning round, then made plans to fly him home out of Raleigh. The pall was evident. Mid Pines ended up being a truncated round and our time at Pine Needles seemed hurried. Sadly, our departed friend missed out on Tuesday’s round over #2, the pre-eminent reason for the trip. (Note to the reader: I apologize, as this reminiscence is quickly descending into a depressed recollection. We really DID have a good time, despite the unanticipated events.)
If you’re one of the lucky few who are immune to the temperatures and weather vagaries of off- and shoulder-season golf, a visit to Pinehurst and other mid-south locales will always be a welcome respite from the northern winters. We are among that fraternity and make a number of trips during less-than-perfect times of the year.
I’d love to tell you that our final round on Tuesday took place in warm temperature, under sunny skies, across the hallowed grounds of the #2 course. Instead, we got a little rain, a little cold and a bit of wind. It was like Scotland without … everything else. Still, when the ladies and men tee it up for two weeks this June, we’ll remember the shots we played, the ones we missed and the thieving black squirrel that tried to steal food from our cart.
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