Business was roaring at North Carolina's Pinehurst Resort by the 1920s, so the founding Tufts family decided to expand its golf empire. The founders and a group of investors hired Donald Ross, creator of the original four Pinehurst courses, to design Mid Pines (1921) and Pine Needles (1927) on adjacent sites, a mile from downtown Southern Pines and four miles from the Village of Pinehurst.
While today's lush bentgrass greens are softer than the sand-clay surfaces Ross built, the charm of yore still infuses these resorts. Owned and managed today by the family of LPGA Master Professional and GOLF MAGAZINE Top 100 Teacher Peggy Kirk Bell, Pine Needles and Mid Pines offer cozy accommodations, a satisfying dinner table, friendly service and top-of-the-line golf.
Fly into Raleigh-Durham International Airport and drive 60 minutes to Southern Pines -- or fly directly into Moore County Airport and land two miles from the courses. Try to arrive in time for a late afternoon round; Mid Pines is gorgeous in the setting sun. Both courses allow you to ride or walk, and there's nothing like traversing the gentle slopes of the Carolina sandhills. Short on daylight? Play the four-hole Loop at Pine Needles, a practice area with three par 3s and a short par 4.
Make your way through a generous breakfast buffet at either Pine Needles or Mid Pines lodge. (You can't go wrong with the homemade sticky buns or made-to-order omelettes at Mid Pines.) Mosey out to the practice range and hit a few balls. Caddies are available with advance notice; high-school golfers and college students majoring in professional golf management at nearby Methodist College will carry your bag, so we're talking serious local knowledge.
An early start at Pine Needles gives you time to play 18 holes, have a quick lunch and hop across the street for an afternoon tee time at Mid Pines. At Pine Needles, you'll be walking fairways ruled by Annika Sorenstam at the 1996 U.S. Open and by Karrie Webb at the 2001 Open. At Mid Pines, you'll play a course once favored by smooth-swinging Julius Boros, the former PGA Tour star whose in-laws once managed and owned Mid Pines. Neither course is long -- Pine Needles measures 6,727 yards from the tips, Mid Pines 6,528 -- but both will test every facet of your game.
You'll find small greens with some of the shaping Ross was renowned for, though their contours are less severe than on Pinehurst No. 2. The par 3s at Mid Pines and Pine Needles are varied; forced carries are few, but on longer holes you'll have to work the ball around towering pines.
There's no need to seek alternative golf with 36 Ross-designed holes at your feet, so replay Mid Pines and Pine Needles. If you crave variety, try Rees Jones's nearby Talamore (1991) or Arnold Palmer's Carolina Club (1996). And then, of course, there's Pinehurst -- but that's a different and much longer story.
The Sunday buffet at Pine Needles is a sight for hungry eyes. If you're lucky, the menu will feature fried chicken prepared by cook Thomas Smith, who has worked here for 25 years (his brothers Richard and Raymond are cooks at Mid Pines). If you're on the run, grab a bite at Pine Needles' In the Rough Lounge or Cosgroves Lounge at Mid Pines, home of thick sandwiches and quick service.
Pick your pleasure for lodging: The Mid Pines Inn, a rustic, three-story brick building opened in 1921 (it has no elevators); or Pine Needles Lodge, a series of 11 chalet-style lodges. There are also seven villas, perfect for groups of up to 20, along the 10th fairway at Mid Pines, and Pine Needles recently unveiled its Donald Ross Lodge, which can house as many as 16 visitors and sits within chipping distance of the driving range.
The Donald Ross Package (800-747-7272; www.pineneedles-mid.pines.com) is the most inclusive option for golfers bent on a three-day trip. Fall rates are $360 per person, per night on weekends through October; rates drop sharply from November through February. Packages include accommodations at Pine Needles or Mid Pines, three meals and 36 holes per day (plus carts), unlimited range balls, bag handling and club storage. Now you're set for a Carolina weekend you won't soon forget.