Ten reasons Pinehurst is a great American golf resort

PINEHURST, N.C. - Pinehurst Resort has lured golfers, from the game's legends to everyday amateurs, for more than a century.

Not only has it hosted the U.S. Open, Ryder Cup Matches and PGA Championship, Pinehurst has also served as the setting for numerous firsts in American golf. And with the recent debut of a golf academy and renovations of No. 4 and No. 2, it continues to aim higher.

We've come up with 10 reasons to rank Pinehurst as America's great golf mecca.

1. Pinehurst is where America's top tournaments are staged

The list of championships to visit Pinehurst is as impressive as you'll find in golf. Pinehurst No. 2, hosted the U.S. Open in 1999 and 2005. It returns in 2014, but the golf course's history as host to the United States' most storied events dates many decades.

The North and South Amateur Championship has been staged at Pinehurst every year since 1901, crowning Francis Ouimet, Frank Stranahan, Jack Nicklaus, Hal Sutton and Davis Love III among the champions. Women's winners include Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Alice Dye and Donna Andrews.

No. 2 has also hosted the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup Matches and Tour Championship, and 2014 marks the first time the USGA will host both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open at the same course in consecutive weeks.

2. To Scotland by Sandhills

"To me there's something about Pinehurst that tops even the position which it naturally occupies as the St. Andrews of American golf. And that is the people you find there, and play golf with, and exchange reminiscences with – the hosts of Pinehurst, which always make you feel happily at home." - Bobby Jones

Consider it the convergence of Southern hospitality with Scotland's golf heritage.

Pinehurst's early 20th-century golf success can be linked to its close ties with Scotland. Donald Ross grew up at Royal Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands and trained under Old Tom Morris in St. Andrews before making his way in 1900 to Pinehurst, where he built courses No. 1 through No. 4.

In 2005, sand from the Road Hole bunker at St. Andrews was placed into the greenside bunker at No. 2's 18th hole to commemorate the link between the storied grounds. Also, a St. Andrews Room was recently added to the clubhouse.

3. Keeping it in the family

James Barber built the first American mini-golf course at Pinehurst, the "Liliputian" course in 1916. Since opening its doors, the resort has provided kid- and family-friendly golf for any age - from the practice center to shorter golf courses like No. 3, which provides a good warm up for dad or a worthy test for juniors.

Each course except No. 2 offers a forward set of "family tees." Kids under 12 stay, play and eat free when visiting with a paid parent.

Competitive youngsters can enter many events through the U.S. Kids Golf program during the summer. The Parent-Child Tournament runs June 25 to 27, the weekend before the 110th North and South Amateur Championship.

4. The first driving range in America to a new golf academy

Few golf courses are built today without an on-site driving range, but it wasn't always that way. Most 19th-century-era golf clubs in the United Kingdown include little more than a small field to shag balls.

So when Pinehurst unveiled Maniac Hill in 1913, allowing golfers to work on everything from chipping to full shots without hogging the golf course, it marked the first practice facility in North America.

Today, driving ranges and teaching academies are a modern amenity, and Pinehurst's practice grounds feature a full Golf Academy. State-of-the-art facilities completed in 2006 accompany situational course-instruction on Pinehurst's eight courses.

5. Donald Ross: Architect of early American golf

The spread of golf across America in the early 20th century can be traced to one architect more than any other: Donald Ross. When Ross came to Pinehurst in 1900, the Pinehurst Outlook reported that "golf is rolling over the country like a great tidal wave and gaining power as it advances." Ross' expertise fueled much of its ensuing growth.

It's estimated that Ross lended his guidance to more than 400 golf courses, including Oakland Hills, Seminole and Pine Needles nearby Pinehurst. He plotted many others from his cottage off the third green of No. 2.

6. Almanac of Architecture

The resort and its surrounding area display a history of golf design, from a handful of some of the most notable architects in the game. It starts with Ross, who built the first four golf courses before 1920.

His successor, Ellis Maples, added No. 5. Rees Jones built No. 7 in 1986. Tom Fazio added dramatic stylings on a redesign of No. 4 and built No. 6 with uncle George Fazio. Tom Fazio finished with No. 8, commemorating the resort's centennial.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, top architects who emphasize natural and functional designs, currently oversee a restoration project at No. 2.

Head away from the resort, and you'll notice that just about every golf-course designer has coveted the Sandhills, including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Mike Strantz and many others.

And on a rainy day, dig deep at the Tufts Archives. They chronicle the history of Pinehurst, with more than 100,000 images and 300 sketches of the Ross' golf-course layouts, among other memorabilia.

7. Take a good walk

Somehow, in the 1980s, it became acceptable – practically encouraged – to build golf courses that were impossible to walk, with long distances and steep hills between holes. Golf carts were king.

As it became more difficult to find exercise in our daily lives, the walkability factor at Pinehurst remains a testament to the eight courses. Even those built and rebuilt in the modern era are classically designed for walkers of any age.

The resort's caddie program also makes it easy to play the game the way it was intended. Some of the caddies have spent most of their lives telling stories and reading greens here.

8. Before and after golf

Pinehurst opened in 1895 as a health resort, catering to patients recovering from tuberculosis who had no plans to play golf. But when owner James W. Tufts spotted hotel guests whacking white balls around the lawn in 1897, he got the hint and ordered plans to construct a nine-hole course.

Off-course activities have always been abundant at Pinehurst, from tennis to swimming, croquet and the spa added in 2002. Professional sharpshooter Annie Oakley joined the Pinehurst staff in 1916 to offer lessons, and you can still shoot sporting clays, a 35-minute drive from the resort amid 65 acres of woodlands.

9. Savoring the Sandhills

The resort covers on 2,000 acres of Carolina Sandhills, a strip of ancient sand dunes that once sat on Atlantic Ocean coastline. So preserving this beautiful environment is paramount.

Pinehurst was the first privately owned property to enter the Safe Harbor Program, which protects the habitats of endangered species. No. 8 is a Certified Audubon Sanctuary golf course. In 2006, the resort received the Presidents Award for Environmental Stewardship, the highest environmental award given by the Golf Course Superintendent's Association of America.

10. No membership needed

Pinehurst ranks as one of America's most accessible major-championship venues, where you can attempt the same shots as recent U.S. Open winners Payne Stewart and Michael Campbell, where Ben Hogan won his first professional event in 1940, and where Johnny Miller's birdie on the second playoff hole (No. 16) beat Nicklaus in the 1974 World Open.

Putt from the spot where Stewart won the 1999 Open at No. 18. Try to avoid taking an 11, as John Daly scored in the final round on the eighth hole. Or attempt to drive the 368-yard 13th hole, like 2008 U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee.

But you don't have to play No. 2 to experience Pinehurst. Stay-and-play packages are available for every budget. The Pinehurst Perfecta offers guests the best the resort has to offer. Find affordable, unlimited golf packages and off-season specials, allowing anyone eager to experience America's golfing roots the ability to discover his or her own Pinehurst.

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.

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Ten reasons Pinehurst is a great American golf resort