The Country Club of Whispering Pines: Pines Course (Whispering Pines, NC on 11/27/14)

Because frost delays the next couple mornings were probable I decided that I’d try to squeeze in another round. Since everyone was going to be inside eating Thanksgiving dinner, I knew that the courses would be clear for a late afternoon eighteen holes. However, the biggest challenge was finding a course that was open. My options were limited, but there were a couple courses showing on Golfnow with tee times. Whispering Pines was one of them and I booked my tee time from the Golfnow application on my phone.

To be honest, I felt a little bad knowing that the staff would have to wait for me to return the cart before they could go home. But, I wasn’t turned away when I checked in and started my round at 2:30pm. It worked out great and I didn’t see any other golfers out and about (probably for good reason!). There were a couple people out walking around the outskirts of the course and I played comfortably in about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Like usual, I did some research about many courses in the area prior to my trip. Whispering Pines wasn’t high on my list to play this time around because the courses were coming out of the fall maintenance. You’ll see in the pictures that most of courses on the trip have fairways that are dormant bermudagrass, but Whispering Pines overseeds with a winter grass. I’m not positive but I’d guess that it is ryegrass which grows better in the winter. I’m not going to do this explanation justice, but when a course overseeds the conditions suffer until the ryegrass fully grows in. The fairways are longer because it is counterproductive to have the mowers out crushing the roots of the ryegrass and it typically takes a lot of water making the conditions a bit soggy. The course also aerated later in the year but Paula, who was working the proshop, was honest about the conditions when I called last week so I knew what to expect.

I was most interested in playing a new course quickly so the conditions didn’t affect my enjoyment. In fact, I don’t think they cost me but a stroke or two. I had lots of nice lies in the fairways and the sanded greens rolled pretty good. I blasted a couple putts by the cup so they weren’t excruciatingly slow or bumpy. The course appeared to drain very well with the recent rain and I got some roll from drives landing on a flat spot. I paid $20 and, for basically a dollar a hole, I didn’t have any complaints.

Even with less than perfect conditions, it turned out to be a great afternoon. The wind was down and it started to warm up as the sun poked out from behind the clouds. Plus, plenty of green grass (at least this time of year) seemed to put me in a happy mood. My pictures are going to be a little dark because of all the trees, but the rays from the setting sun helped end a nice holiday.

The Maples family has done quite a bit of design work in the Pinehurst area and Ellis Maples designed Whispering Pines. The facility has two courses, the Pines Course (where I played on Thursday) and the River Course. I actually ended up back here for another speedy round on Saturday and played the River Course so scroll forward a bit for that review. After playing both courses I’d give the edge to the Pines Course. It seems to be routed better, has more memorable holes, and it is more challenging.

The Pines Course is the longer of the two courses and plays 74.5/134/7094 from the blue tees. Needless to say, it is a big course! Normally that is too much golf course for me, but I didn’t want to play the white tees which are only 6409 yards. Based on that large yardage gap I’d say that the course is the perfect candidate for a combo set of tees!

After playing from the blue tees I’d say that the distance of the course is the biggest contributor towards the high rating. The shortest par 4 is 368 yards but it plays uphill so I ended up hitting my driver on most non par 3 holes. I needed a good driving day and for the most part, I got just that. Unfortunately, even after a nice drive I was left with some long distances into the greens. The course could even play longer than the yardage because many tee shots play up gradual rises so any drive landing into the slope doesn’t go as far as normal. Because I wasn’t playing the correct yardage for my game, strategy off the tee was missing and I think that is an important part of the game.

The course was still a fair challenge even though I played many long clubs into the greens. The course is open for the most part and there is plenty of room to spray the ball which always makes playing a longer course more enjoyable. Most holes are lined with pines so a shot traveling offline has a chance to drop down before ending up out of play. Although the fairways are narrow, there is quite a bit of room on either side of them. The greens are larger, fairly flat, and receptive to the long shots so someone can try to make a par from 30 or 40 feet on many occasions. Because of the large greens, lag putting is going to be important.

Some might consider the course a bit boring, and compared to others in the area I could understand that. While a couple holes have some elevation change and water in play, most are straightforward. I enjoyed the course and thought that it was playable and forgiving. It isn’t going to be a destination course, but it is a good value which is important to me. My strategy would be to hit up this place early on in a golf trip to knock the rust off my game, say after a long winter.

#1 (387 yard par 4):

The opening hole is the second shortest par 4 on the course and it is a good one! It plays to one of those uphill fairways that I mentioned. I mis-hit my tee shot and didn’t climb the rise in the fairway so I had a blind second. Challenging the fairway bunker on the left can leave a shorter distance into the green.

1-1 1-2

#2 (170 yard par 3):

It was tough to tell exactly what was going on with this par 3 because I have never played the course before. It plays enough uphill (maybe half a club) that someone is going to have to factor in the elevation change. The green angles to the right over the bunker so it is a longer carry to a flag on the right. A miss short and left is going to leave the easiest chip.

2-1

#3 (438 yard par 4):

This is the longest par 4 on the front nine. It is virtually flat and the fairway snakes its way up to the green. A drive down the left side of the fairway can shorten the hole. It gets a bit narrow short of the green between some bunkers and the green slopes hard from left to right. That is going to make it tough to get an approach near the flag.

3-1 3-2

#4 (414 yard par 4):

Even though this is a healthy par 4 I think it is one of the better birdie chances on the front. Again, I’d try to hug the left side of the fairway to leave a shorter approach. If someone can do that then it is likely to be a mid iron into a relatively flat green. Missing the tee shot to the right is still going to leave a clear line into the green.

4-1

#5 (591 yard par 5):

This is the longest hole on the course and it is a worthy opponent. Generally speaking, I don’t like really long par 5’s because it is a driver, 3 wood, and a mid iron. For the most part that is the case here, but if someone wants to be aggressive after a good tee shot they can have a shorter iron into the green because of some run off a downslope. Water approximately 80 yards short of the green could get some action on a misjudged layup or a mis-hit 3rd. If someone avoids the fairway bunker to the left and catches the 3rd shot solid (from a downhill lie) then a good score is possible.

5-1 5-2

#6 (422 yard par 4):

The 6th hole is similar to the 1st, only it is about 30 yards long. The tee shot plays up a hill that can be carried and a fairway bunker to the left narrows the tee shot. My ball landed at the top of the rise and got some run so I only had a mid iron into the green.

6-1 6-2

#7 (502 yard par 5):

This is the best birdie opportunity on the front! It is even a better opportunity if someone can draw the tee shot because the hole doglegs left. I couldn’t get on the green in two because I like to fade the ball, but I still had a short pitch into the green from about 50 yards. The is a small neck of fairway short and left of the green that would be a perfect place to chip from if someone can get it there in two. Some players probably can run it through the fairway (from the tee) so they might need to guard against that.

7-1 7-2

#8 (202 yard par 3):

This par 3 looks a little tougher than it plays because of the shadows. The bunkers on each side of the green stop about halfway up the green and the green gets wider towards the back. Therefore, missing it long is going to leave the most straightforward short game shots.

8-1

#9 (368 yard par 4):

This is the shortest par 4 on the course but it doesn’t play that way! The hole moves to the right around some trees and a big bunker. I’d favor the left side of the fairway and most likely that will leave an uphill lie for a semi-blind approach. If someone can hit it a long way then the fairway seems to flatten out where those shadows are in the center of the picture. It is a bit of an awkward hole but it is tolerable since it isn’t very long.

9-1 9-2

#10 (450 yard par 4):

The back nine starts out with a monster par 4. It is 450 yards and even after a good tee shot I still had 220 yards into the green because my tee shot landed into an upslope. However, if the ball was flying better then I could have maybe 40 yards less into the green. Just over that rise in the fairway is a big downslope so tee shots can chase out. From there it is an uphill approach. It is a well thought out, long hole.

10-1 10-2

#11 (583 yard par 5):

This is another long par 5 and I think that it is the signature hole on the course and probably the property. It moves hard left around water all the way to the green. The fairway is narrow and because of the angles I found it tough to pick lines playing here for the first time. I wish there were a couple bunkers to the left of the hole to help catch shots before they run into the water. The green is one of the tougher ones on the course because it has a lot of slope from right to left. I think I’d have to play this one a couple times to formulate my final opinion.

11-1 11-2

#12 (173 yard par 3):

This is my favorite par 3 on the course. The hole plays down in a quiet area of the course. Homes are off to the left, but set back from the course by the water. The water should only be in play after a mis-hit but there is a false front and some undulation on the green to contend with. It is scenic and fair to play.

12-1 12-2

#13 (399 yard par 4):

There isn’t much to this par 4 and it is a chance for a par or a birdie. The hole slides gently to the right and a wayward approach is most likely going to find one of the greenside bunkers.

13-1

#14 (457 yard par 4):

This is my least favorite hole on the course because it almost forces someone to move the ball from right to left. To do over again, I’d play it as a par 5 and try to leave myself 225 yards or so into the green. I might be able to walk away with a par on a few occasions if I did that. Someone who can hit a draw is still going to have probably a mid iron at best into the green. It is the longest par 4 on the course.

14-2

#15 (507 yard par 5):

This short par 5 is a birdie chance! It is straight away and after a nice drive someone can try to get near the green in two. Besides a couple bunkers, it is pretty open short of the green.

15-1 15-2

#16 (216 yard par 3):

This is a very tough hole and I don’t see how it is the 18th handicap! It is a long par 3 that plays uphill to a green that is guarded by bunkers. There is a very small area to the run the ball up onto the green so it is going to be a big carry. If someone has a good short game a par shouldn’t be impossible.

16-1 16-2

#17 (398 yard par 4):

The sun is at a harsh angle but a tee shot on a line just left of the sun should work out good. Someone who hits it more than 240 yards might have to fade the ball to remain in the fairway because the hole moves to the right. The green is longer than it looked from the fairway so pay attention to the pin location.

17-1 17-3

#18 (417 yard par 4):

This tee shot looks familiar! The hole looks similar to the 1st and the 6th off the tee but that is where the similarities end. The approach plays to the only bunkerless green on the course which is nice to see every now and then. There is a ridge just over the front of the green that the approach needs to carry. It is a pretty good closing hole, not overly difficult but still a challenge.

18-1

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