50 Words or Less
The original course at “the Cradle of American Golf,” Pinehurst No. 1, has nothing but good vibes. Friendly layout allows for fun and good scores.
When you say “Pinehurst,” most people immediately think of No. 2 [full review HERE]. And while the major championship venue is undoubtedly the star of the show, no guest at Pinehurst should ignore the original course, No. 1. With some classic Donald Ross design elements dialed back to better fit the recreational golfer, No. 1 is a golf course built for enjoyment.
Pinehurst is home to some of the best practice facilities you’ll find anywhere. There’s a large range that’s a stone’s throw from a short game area with two greens and two bunkers.
Between The Cradle and the range, you’ll find a massive putting green. There are several holes for conventional putting practice, but why would you want conventional when you have Thistle Dhu? Thistle Dhu is the recently-opened 18-hole putting course. The “holes” at Thistle Dhu range from tame 15-footers to roller coasters that scream “3 putt.” If you want to know how much fun Thistle Dhu is, walk out of the clubhouse in the evening and see how many golfers are still out there, smiling and laughing.
Customer Service & Amenities
The hospitality and service I’ve received in my two trips to Pinehurst is nothing short of world class. From the staff at the Carolina hotel to the shuttle drivers to the starters, it’s all smiles, warmth, and welcome. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure you enjoy your time as much as possible.
In terms of amenities, Pinehurst is home to multiple hotels, ten eateries, and a spa, all of which are outstanding. On No. 1, you’ll find an excellent halfway house where you can fuel up to make a back nine charge.
Beauty & Scenery
Pinehurst No. 1 shares certain aesthetic elements with it’s more famous brother, but the lack of sandy waste areas gives it its own look. Each hole at No. 1 has statuesque pines outlining fairways that are almost universally wide. Tasteful bunkering gently guides your eyes through each hole, and the rolling elevation changes give the course a natural look.
Course No. 1 really hits its stride after hole #3. From #4 through #17, the holes are more woven together so you can see other fairways and greens through the trees. Each hole is generously spaced so you’ll never have to worry about playing from another fairway, but the views of little more than other golfers gives you a beautiful sense of isolation from the real world.
If you don’t walk away from No. 1 feeling good about your driving, you should consider taking up lawn bowling (another popular Pinehurst pastime). The fairways on this course are among the widest I’ve played, and the rough is extremely playable. Add in the fact that the course tips out under 6,100 yards (Par 70), and you have the recipe for lots of fun, short approach shots.
Two other things that make driving at No. 1 fun are the lack of fairway bunkers and the limited opportunities to lose a golf ball. Fairway bunkers do exist, but they’re rare. Finding one requires a poor choice of line, a badly mishit shot, or both. Similarly, there are not many places where you can lose a ball on No. 1, and that’s a good thing. Lost golf balls are fun killers, and No. 1 keeps things enjoyable with limited water and the aforementioned light rough.
The one thing that makes some of the holes play longer than the scorecard indicates is the elevation. This is not a course with dramatic ups and downs, but there are plenty of spots where a little rise in the fairway will snuff out your drive. The other side of that coin is that if you’re a big hitter, you can get a massive edge. There are spots where driving past a certain yardage will get you to a downhill that pushes your ball even closer to the green.
One of the things I kept thinking while playing No. 1 was, “This is like No. 2, but without the extreme difficulty.” That starts to come to light in the approach game and really shines through around the greens. In the fairways, you’ll find a pleasant mix of flat spots and more challenging lies, but nothing too harsh. At no point will the ball be dramatically above or below your feet.
As at No. 2, the greens at No. 1 are almost all elevated and crowned. This is done to a more modest extent at No. 1, so in most cases you won’t have to club up to compensate for the elevation, but you should still aim for the center of the green. Though No. 1 doesn’t play as fast and firm as No. 2, the ground game is still available for those that would prefer to run the ball up rather than flying it there.
Finally, I want to give special praise to the par 3s. Though this course will yield some birdies, the one-shot holes at No. 1 are not pushovers. There is some visual trickery, especially on #5, that makes the yardages hard to believe, so you must be committed to your club selection.
Greens & Surrounds
As you can see above, No. 1 proudly displays its Donald Ross heritage with its crowned greens. Though the greens aren’t as fast as No. 2 and the fringe is taller, it’s still possible to have poorly struck chips (or putts) end up worse than they started. That taller fringe is seen throughout the surrounds. Putting is a reasonable option most of the time, but the lies aren’t quite as tight for those that prefer to hit a wedge.
Around the greens, Course No. 1 uses just enough bunkers to keep you focused on your approach. This is not a penal course, and the traps are pretty easy to avoid with good planning. Should you find yourself in one, you’ll see that they’re not horribly deep, so escape is straightforward.
The putting surfaces on No. 1 are smooth with enough movement to keep things interesting. On the day I played, the pace was such that you could “take the break out” of most putts with a firm stroke or use a gentler speed and allow for more bend. You won’t find too many dramatic turns on the greens, but there aren’t many pin placements that will yield no brainer birdie putts.
#18 – Par 5 – 426 Yards
Though it plays uphill, the closing hole at No. 1 is short enough that most players will have a decent chance at birdie. It’s also a perfect encapsulation of the “Friendlier No. 2” feeling, as your final approach plays toward the clubhouse but is far enough away that there’s no pressure from the gallery.
#12 – Par 3 – 222 Yards
On the scorecard this hole is a beast, but the reality is that good decision making can render it fairly tame. There is visual intimidation in the slope of the fairway and the placement of the bunkers, but if you commit to your shots – whether you take one or two to get to the green – you can make a very satisfying par.
When you travel to Pinehurst, especially the first time, you’re going to want to test your mettle against No. 2. And while you should absolutely do that, don’t miss out on a fun round at Course No. 1. The original Pinehurst golf course has tons of charm and will have you walking off #18 feeling good about your game.