There is a well documented soft spot in my heart for two things: golf and historic hotels. Only a few destinations in the world can claim ownership of both, but in the sand hills of North Carolina there lies just such a phenomenon. For over a century, The Carolina has served as the landmark hotel for Pinehurst Resort, host of the 2014 US Open and dubbed by many as the "Golf Capital of the World." The only combination which could generate more excitement from yours truly would be sharing a box of Entenmann's donuts with Sir Paul McCartney.
Where Augusta has Magnolia Lane and Sea Island the Avenue of the Oaks, Pinehurst's flagship property makes her introduction at the end of Carolina Vista. She would likely point out, however, that her tree-lined entrance came long before these younger counterparts. Eventually the path opens to reveal its stately edifice, her copper dome peaking just above the top of the oaks, keeping watch over this illustrious mecca to golf.
|The path to the Pinehurst Village|
Like the town of Pinehurst as a whole, golf is clearly the heartbeat of The Carolina hotel and has been for over 100 years. The lions of the game have all passed through her front doors at one time or another, and the familiar "clink clink clink" of clubs rattling in a bag serves as background music in the lobby. In addition, the walls are adorned with enough memorabilia to fill a museum, paying tribute to the invaluable role Pinehurst has played in the history of our game.
Some might say the lobby of The Carolina is less like a hotel and more like the clubhouse of a private country club. To that I'd 100% agree, but it works. That's not to say The Carolina is a stuffy enclave for the wealthy stuck in another century, but they do a great job of understanding their audience. This is the "Golf Capital of the World" after all; trendy and modern wouldn't play well here, afternoon tea with the ladies does.
Still, The Carolina has kept pace with the times, albeit in a subtle, not so in your face way. The best example of this is the Spa at Pinehurst, where MJ managed to melt away an entire afternoon. One look at their indoor pool and I was already doubting if my day on the golf course was the better end of this bargain. Her frequent text messages during my round tossing in words like "heaven" and "bliss" simply added insult to injury.
|So close, yet so far...|
Like the lobby, there is a distinct feeling of comfort to the rooms at The Carolina, as if you've been welcomed into the guest bedroom in the home of a favorite aunt. There are no gadgets and gizmos filling every nook of the room, just traditional furnishings, an obligatory photo of Bobby Jones, and one of the most comfortable beds I've experienced in an ever growing number of recent hotel stays.
As one might expect from a century-old hotel, however, the rooms are a little undersized by today's standards. Not Manhattan or Europe small mind you, but I'd suggest making sure everyone is dressed before opening the front door. Otherwise a random passerby might get more than he expected from his trip to the ice machine.
One advantage to booking a vacation package at Pinehurst is that many include breakfast and dinner each day, a concept that has become nearly impossible to find stateside. This is both a great example of Pinehurst's old-school approach to hospitality, and the fact that the town's isolated location means nearly all of the options for dining are found at the resort. That being the case, it was nice to have the meals included in our room, as opposed to the resort taking advantage of a captive audience with exorbitantly priced restaurants, which is par for the course. Pun intended.
|My kind of lobby bar...|
There was a vibe inside the Carolina Dining Room each morning that was impossible to miss. Groups of golfers gathered around the extensive buffet, most with a sense of anticipation for the day's outing on the course. Some looked back on yesterday's round with a feeling of regret, and vowed to their brothers-in-arms that today would be different.
|The Carolina Dining Room|
It was our meal at the Four Diamond rated 1895 Grille, however, that proved to be the highlight of our dining experiences at Pinehurst. Perhaps it was the close quarters between banquettes, or maybe I just have one of those nice guy faces, but whatever the case, we soon found ourselves deep in conversation with an older couple at the table next to us. We took their suggestion and ordered the Pinehurst private label Cabernet, talked Florida and golf, and soon came to learn that the gentleman was an old acquaintance of my grandfather. A small world moment made possible through Pinehurst and the game of golf.
And yet it was this moment that truly captured the essence of Pinehurst and The Carolina. In many ways, those who check-in here are actually coming home; drawn to this tiny hamlet by the thousands to pay tribute to one of the matriarchs of the game they love. For over 100 years, The Carolina has welcomed both champions and hackers alike, creating unforgettable memories from their bucket list journey to this masterpiece of golf. There may be few places in the world where historic hotels and golf come together in one place, but at Pinehurst it just happens naturally.
Enjoy Your Stay
Special thanks to Pinehurst Resort for hosting our visit. As always, all opinions and pontifications are my own.