I’m back home after a ridiculous four day weekend of golf! I was hoping to play six rounds of golf in four days but I squeezed in seven and even had time for an eighth one if I wanted! What’s crazy about that is that the days are short and some chilly weather led to frost delays. Now I am trying to unpack, sort through all my pictures, and whittle away at these course reviews!
As I’m sure you know by now, I’m always looking for an excuse to take a road trip. Throughout the years an extended weekend has turned into a chance to throw the clubs in the trunk and get out of town. This Thanksgiving was no different, and thankfully I didn’t end up sick like last year.
I kicked around a few destinations and was actually hoping to try out some courses near Ocean City, MD if the weather was decent. However, the cool weather forced me south and I decided on a return trip to the Pinehurst area. I fell in love with the area when I was there in May so it seemed like a great time to play some more courses down there. Plus, because most of the drive is on a divided highway, I wouldn’t have to battle the holiday traffic either!
I booked an 11am tee time at Beacon Ridge which I figured would give me enough time to comfortably get to the course. The nice thing about the course is that it is located on the “West End” of town so it is a shorter drive for those headed into Pinehurst on Highway 211. I wanted to leave on Thanksgiving morning in order to avoid potential winter weather on Wednesday and the cost of an extra night at a hotel. If it was during the summer months with longer days I would have left really early in hopes of 36 holes, but I didn’t want to chance poor road conditions at 3 or 4 in the morning. Plus, I didn’t know if there was going to be a frost delay on Thanksgiving so that is how I arrived at a mid-morning tee time. Thankfully we got just a trace amount of snow in Charlottesville on Wednesday and I made it to Beacon Ridge without any trouble, although it did rain the whole way. The rain stopped once I got to Greensboro and the sun tried to make an appearance throughout the round.
My plan was to get to the course a little early and then find an open restaurant for dinner. I booked my time through Golf18network for $39 and was a bit surprised that the course didn’t have a shotgun start. I’ve played on Thanksgiving before at different places and many times it is a shotgun start to get everyone home in time for a turkey dinner. No shotgun start was needed though as I was only the third car in the parking lot when I rolled in around 10:30am. There was just a handful of golfers out, a few members and a father and son, so I had a leisurely round and was back in the parking lot at 1:45pm.
When I checked in the proshop said that the course was very wet and that it would be cart path only. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to spend my weekend sloshing around in puddled fairways. But, it got off to a good start and I had plenty of dry lies! The only spots that were damp were the low spots and I was extremely impressed with how well the course drains. The sandy soil in the area certainly helps with that! The course looks a bit ugly because of all the dormant grass but it didn’t affect play. There were surprisingly few divots in the fairways and the ball sat up nicely. The greens were smooth although the moisture in them did keep them from being fiery fast. The only parts of the course that weren’t in great shape were some spots of the fringes which were sanded and some thin lies in the rough. Neither of those would keep me from coming back or make me want to pay less to play. Overall, I was impressed with the conditions.
Beacon Ridge is a community course that has a lot character. The course is short by today’s standards as it only plays 6,414 yards from the blue tees where I played. The rating is 71.3 and the slope is 136. After playing it, I think the slope might be a little high because I had plenty of short irons into the greens which seemed to take the edge off all of the uphill approaches. So even though the course is short on the scorecard, I’d guess that it plays an extra 200 yards because many holes, especially on the front nine, play uphill. I liked the back nine better because I had an easier time figuring out what type of shot that I wanted to hit.
Gene Hamm designed the course and he is an architect that I haven’t heard much about. Apparently he’s designed plenty of courses in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Based on what I saw here at Beacon Ridge, I’d love to play some of his other places.
Beacon Ridge was plenty of fun to play and many holes allowed someone to play them in different ways. If someone is good off the tee and can move the ball both ways then a play with a driver can pay off. The course also allows someone to position the ball with less than driver which is the conservative option that I chose on many holes. Some out of bounds creeps in along property lines, but I was able to find and play five poor tee shots. The greens are small so accuracy is important, but there are plenty of spots to chip from around them. It is the type of course where someone can put up a respectable score without having every part of their game working. That’s nice because, as an amateur, I only have one aspect of the game under control on a good day.
I don’t think the 4th hole is very well designed and there are too many blind shots on the front for me to love the course, but the rest of the holes more than make up for those things. Beacon Ridge isn’t going to be a premium course to plan a golf trip around, but it is an impressive mid-tier course that should be high on any budget golfer’s list. I’d give it two thumbs up!
#1 (523 yard par 5):
The course opens with a par 5 which I always like! The hole moves to the right and through a small valley. There isn’t any hidden trouble in the bottom of the fairway but I would favor the left side off the tee. Someone might get a bounce to the right and it could be tough to cut it around those pines to the fairway on the layup. It is all carry uphill to the green fronted by bunkers, so the average golfer probably isn’t going to be able to get on the surface in two. If someone is hitting a wedge it could be tough to control the spin because the green slopes severely from back to front.
#2 (348 yard par 4):
I tried to skirt the left side of that fairway bunker on the right with a 3 wood of the tee. I missed it right and it barely carried it which left me in a perfect spot with only about 100 yards into the green. I’d check the GPS but I’d guess it is about 225 yards to carry that bunker. That is the aggressive play, but I’m not sure it is the best one because the hole moves to the right over that bunker which narrows the fairway. I think a 210 to 220 yard layup to the left of the bunker is what I would try for next time around. Someone could face a hook lie into a right flag which will make it tough to get at even with a short iron.
#3 (368 yard par 4):
I wasn’t sure how far I could hit it without running through the fairway because the landing area is blind. A 230 yard tee shot up the center of the fairway should be just fine though. Anything missing right has a chance to feed left but there is out of bounds that can come into play to the right of the cart path. The approach plays slightly downhill to a green that needs a solidly struck iron because it slopes from front to back.
#4 (542 yard par 5):
This is the hardest hole on the course and it is my least favorite. It is a long par 5 that moves to the left and has an uphill tee shot. You will notice that there is a water hazard about 230 yards off the tee that forces tee shots short or right of it. If someone (like me!) misses over by those pine trees to the right of the fairway then there is a small hazard over there too. I don’t like having to layup on a par 5, but the rest of the course is good enough that I could tolerate this hole. I’d be happy with a par putt inside 10 feet every time here.
#5 (147 yard par 3):
This par 3 is what makes me love golfing in the area! It has an open, friendly feel to it with some scenery because of the pine trees. The homes are set back and the pine straw on the ground has me thinking about watching the Masters next year. The hole itself isn’t anything too complicated. It plays just enough uphill that all of the putting surface cannot be seen from the tee. I hit it pin high left of the flag and had a putt that broke hard towards the front of the green.
#6 (389 yard par 4):
This par 4 is straightaway and plays to a fairly generous fairway. The approach is going to be semi-blind because it is uphill and the green slopes from back to front.
#7 (187 yard par 3):
I think that this is the most demanding par 3 on the course. It is long and there is plenty of slope from right to left both on the green and around it. That almost makes someone challenge the the bunkers on the right to try to get it onto the center of the green. Anything left has a chance to kick into trouble. It is one of those holes where I’d love a par.
#8 (367 yard par 4):
This hole plays a lot longer than the yardage because it is all uphill. I think it is a narrow, intimidating looking tee shot. The fairway bunker should be avoided before the approach is about a club uphill. I escaped with a bogey (when I deserved worse) because I played from the cleared out area right of the cart path.
#9 (415 yard par 4):
The front nine closes with a long, uphill par 4. The green is going to be tough to hit from the rough so it is important to find the fairway. It is another approach that plays about a club uphill.
#10 (346 yard par 4):
The back nine opens with a good chance for birdie. The 10th is a short par 4 that moves slightly to the left around a fairway bunker. The short iron approach is going to have to be accurate to get one close because the green is pretty small and guarded by a couple bunkers. If the pin is in the front of the green, like it was when I played, then that part of the green is the narrowest.
#11 (420 yard par 4):
This is the hardest hole on the back nine and it is a good test. The tee shot plays downhill to a fairway that slopes from right to left. The approach goes back uphill is played over a pond which should only come into play after a mis-hit or an out of position tee shot. The green is narrow and angles to the back left so it is going to be a tough green to hit with a long iron (from the sloping fairway).
#12 (141 yard par 3):
The green is semi-blind because it sits on top of a hill that almost looks like a small volcano. The section to the right of the bunker is skinny but there is some green over the left side of the bunker. I’d favor a miss short and left because a kick over the green or to the right could kick out of play.
#13 (344 yard par 4):
This is a brilliant par 4 and one of the best holes on the course! It should be just a layup off the tee for most to what looks like a generous fairway. However, a fairway bunker on the right and a lone tree on the left pinch the driving area. I had to try to lay it back far enough so that I could get my second shot over the tree if needed. The approach is over water and plays to a narrow green that slopes from right to left. Each shot requires a bit of thought.
#14 (295 yard par 4):
This is the shortest par 4 on the course and it offers some options. The tee shot is semi-blind but that shouldn’t bother anyone because there isn’t any hidden trouble. Depending on conditions, someone can hit a drawing driver and maybe chase it up near the green or get it into one of the greenside bunkers. The other option is a layup club off the tee to a fairway with mounds that feed shots into it. Either way it isn’t a difficult fairway to hit. A precise short iron shot can lead to a birdie.
#15 (187 yard par 3):
I think this is another fair hole. It is a long par 3 that is semi-blind because it plays up a small hill. However, those bunkers are short of the green and the hole allows for someone to run a long iron up onto the green if needed. The green slopes from back to front so being below the hole is best.
#16 (475 yard par 5):
I love a reachable par 5 and that is what we have here! A little strategy is needed off the tee because the hole doglegs right around 230 yards. There are a couple fairway bunkers and trees to the left so missing over there isn’t any good. If someone hits a tee shot out to the right it should be in play and most likely will be near the 15th tee box. So shouting “fore” might be a good idea. Make sure to take advantage of this one!
#17 (375 yard par 4):
This hole could play very tough if it plays into the wind. There are two fairway bunkers and the one on the right might be 220 yards to carry. I normally carry my driver about 230 yards so I might be forced to play out to the right which narrows the fairway and brings that tree into play. I ended up carrying the bunker and had a short iron into an elevated green that is blind from the fairway. I’d add a club on the approach.
#18 (545 yard par 5):
The closing hole is the longest hole on the course and plays uphill. The tee shot is played to a fairway with quite a bit of slope so catching the layup solid might be tough. The layup should favor the right side for the best angle into the green which is surrounded by bunkers.