On the list of courses that I wanted to play while here were Talamore, Southern Pines, and Dormie Club. Pine Needles and Mid Pines were a bit too pricey since I was dropping some coin to play Dormie Club. Talamore aerated their greens recently so that was out and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to hit up Southern Pines on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The rate for Southern Pines this time of year is $80 but I had seen some times on their website for $52 in the afternoon which seemed like a deal. I tried booking it from my phone at lunch but didn’t have much luck so I called over to the course to see if they would honor the online price. The course told me that their twilight rate is $40 and to come out so the price turned out to be a nice score! I got over there about 1:30pm and was told they couldn’t get me out until 2pm as there groups going off. That didn’t matter to me as I enjoyed a small bucket of balls and worked out the kinks from the morning round. I hit the ball much better here and felt like it was a step in the right direction.
The course is a Donald Ross design and while I didn’t scan the webpage of all his courses too closely, one course jumped out at me. The course that caught my attention is Lake Wales Country Club in Florida which was my home course in college. I wasn’t doing my course reviews when I stopped playing there in 2007 but it was a really fun course to play and needed precision short irons. Southern Pines has many of the same features and plays only 6354 yards from the Blue tees. It is a par 71 so it plays a couple yards longer than that and is rated at 70.2 with a slope of 129. Something worth noting is that back nine is the par 36, but with seven par 4’s. I haven’t played too many nines where there is only one par 3 and one par 5. I saw some Black tee boxes on maybe half of the holes, but that yardage wasn’t on the card and it wasn’t signed on the holes. I guess those tees are used for tournaments and they add maybe 300 yards or so yards to the course compared to the Blues.
The layout is compact, but makes good use of the land with some double tees and a lake separating parts of the course. As is the case for most courses with holes that are close together, there were distractions from other groups and I had to watch out for golf balls from other fairways ending up in mine. Many tee boxes are close to the greens so even though the course is hilly, it could be walked (but probably not during peak hours). Many of the holes play uphill and downhill and sometimes both in the same hole. There were times when the tee shot was played over a rise in the fairway before the ball would hit on a downhill slope and run out. If the course was playing a bit firmer I could see someone hitting some monster drives if it caught the right part of the fairway on a few holes. There was quite a bit of slope in the fairways which tightened what I would call an already narrow course. What is nice is that even though the fairways are narrow, it isn’t a place where someone is going to lose too many golf balls. There are some parallel holes so a big miss will end up in another fairway if it doesn’t hit a tree and drop down into the pine straw. The greens are probably going to be one of the most talked about things for the course and for good reason. I thought their design was brilliant. The greens are smaller and there were some large mounds and bowls in them. This meant that an approach had to be very accurate for a realistic birdie putt. The good news is that if someone is on the right level, most likely the birdie putt will be pretty short. If not, then the putt is going to have a roller coaster type ride and could be tough to lag close. The greens allowed a chance to get creative too and use slopes to feed it towards the flag.
When it comes to the conditions, I’d say they were good but nothing award winning. The tees were in nice shape although some were starting to dry out. The fairways were maybe a bit long, but as summer approaches I’d say that is typical for courses in this type of climate. They weren’t like carpet, but I always had a nice enough lie to spin it if I got it solid. I thought the greens rolled well, but were a tad on the slow side. With all of the ridges in the greens though, the pace of play could suffer if the greens were lightning fast. There was some chatter from the people that I paired up with that the course aerated a week ago. I never would have guessed that they were aerated recently and am not sure that I believe it. I called the course last week to find out about any recent or upcoming maintenance and they said all was good at least until after the U.S. Open comes to town. I liked the course a lot and would recommend it on a golf trip to the area. This course is unique enough to warrant a hole by hole review and I caught it on a sunny day so I’ve got plenty of pictures.
#1 (372 yard par 4):
This is a fairly straight forward hole and it plays a bit downhill. The tee shot can be played down the right center for a kick left. It is a definite birdie changc to begin the round as a draw off the tee can get a nice kick forward.
#2 (491 yard par 5):
This is a wonderful par 5. There are some train tracks and the edge of the course property just right of the tree line so the ideal shot is probably a cut off of the tee as it doglegs the smallest bit right. The landing area cannot be seen from the fairway but there is a big down slope that the ball will hit adding another 20 or 30 yards. The 2nd or 3rd shot is back hill and since the pin was in the front, I unknowingly used the slope behind the hole to get it close. Any chip or putt from outside of that bowl could be very difficult.
#3 (198 yard par 3):
This is a pretty par 3 that plays maybe half a club downhill. The green slopes from left to right someone doesn’t have to challenge the right greenside bunker to get it close if the pin is on the right half of the green. I’d say the best miss is short of the green because anything left is going to be tough to stop because of the slope.
#4 ( 392 yard par 4):
This picture is from the Black tee markers. The tee shot doesn’t need to skirt the left side as much as it seems as there is room right to miss. The approach is up hill to a green with a big ridge that divides the front and back. I didn’t know about this ridge until I got up to the green. If the pin is short of the ridge, the slope can be used as a backstop.
#5 (542 yard par 5):
This is an interesting hole. It is another tee shot over a rise. I actually hit 3 wood off of the tee for position as I didn’t think that I could reach in two shots. What I didn’t realize is that the hole plays all downhill from the top of the hill where the ball isn’t going to land, assuming a solid one of course. Because I hit 3 wood, I didn’t make it all the way down the hill and I was on a severe downslope. If I hit a hybrid I would have been far enough back for a flatter stance to lay it up. This is a birdie hole if the layup is in play.
#6 (423 yard par 4):
I’d say this is one of the more tricky holes on the course. I’m not alone with this opinion as it is the hardest hole on the course. I could see that the fairway slopes from left to right but what I didn’t see was just how much it does. I didn’t hit a great shot as I lost it right, but it hit the right third of the fairway and ended up 30 yards right under some trees. Someone almost needs to hit a hard hook into the fairway which is going to be tough because of the trees on the right or play it down the left quarter of the fairway. I’d take a bogey here and not be upset.
#7 (168 yard par 3):
This is a tough one. The flag was back left when I played which added to the challenge. I played 25 feet right of the flag and was faced with a putt over a knob down to the hole. Short and left is the worst spot to miss it and I thought I did good by playing smart and three putted it.
#8 (375 yard par 4):
This is most likely something less than driver unless someone wants to get aggressive and take it over that bunker on the right. The tee shot should be played down the left side and allow for a kick right. I got a big bounce and had just about 100 yards into the green so it can be a birdie hole. The lake I was referring to earlier is on the right up by the green and adds some nice separation from some of the holes on the back nine which are on the other side.
#9 (185 yard par 3):
This is another pretty par 3 framed by trees in the background. The green is pretty big so the key is just to avoid the bunkers. However there is some room short and right to miss and still end up with a straight forward chip.
#10 (335 yard par 4):
Sorry, no pictures! As you can see from the last picture play slowed up big time and I ended up joining up with the folks behind me on this hole. The 10th is a short par 4 that plays back up a hill. It is just an iron off the tee for position and then the approach is played to a green that is elevated. The pin was tucked in the back and that made it tough to get to.
#11 (314 yard par 4):
This is a good, short par 4. The fairway slopes from left to right and a variety of plays can be made from the tee. I hit a 3 wood that ran out and was left with only 60 yards into the green. A long hitter could cut some of the dogleg off and try to drive the green. If someone tries to get it as close to the green as possible, there is a bunker short and right which would leave an awkward distance from the sand.
#12 (419 yard par 4):
This played back into the wind for me and needed two solidly struck shots. The fairway slopes a little from left to right, but it is open enough. There is some mounding left of the green which could kick the ball hard right or left so watch out for that.
#13 (400 yard par 4):
This has a semi-blind tee shot, but there isn’t much trouble over the hill. I missed about 30 yards right (therefore not many pictures!) and found my ball so left or right here shouldn’t spoil the round.
#14 (175 yard par 3):
I think this is a great hole. The green is long and narrow so that is the main challenge. It looks like short isn’t good, but 5 or 10 yards short of the green allowed the easiest chip to the front flag as there is a bowl in the front of the green. I hit it in the left bunker and had an almost impossible shot to get close unless it hit the flag as it was straight downhill.
#15 (481 yard par 5):
I made a mess of this one, but if the tee shot can find the fairway it is a birdie hole. That is a big “if” because the fairway is pencil thin. The 2nd or 3rd shot is played to a green that is elevated.
#16 (316 yard par 4):
This is another short par 4 with some options. The pictures doesn’t really show how much the fairway rises, but the ball is most likely be on an upslope for the approach. The aggressive play is a driver landing just short of the bunker and letting the ball feed right of it. The 2nd shot is uphill and with that lie in the fairway I found it tough to get good contact with my pitching wedge.
#17 (418 yard par 4):
The shadows were starting to get long here so it isn’t a great picture. The fairway slopes from right to left and the green slopes a bit the other way. I’d say it is one of the least interesting holes on the course, but that doesn’t mean it is horrible either.
#18 (350 yard par 4):
This is a fun finishing hole. It is a birdie chance depending on the pin location. That fairway bunker shouldn’t come into play but when I played the pin was tucked over a ridge that I couldn’t see from the fairway. Had I known that I would have gone for one more club. No matter what, it shouldn’t be too high of a score to finish up.