I typically try to play one top course if I get away for a few days to golf and this trip was no exception! I basically flipped a coin when deciding between Mid Pines or Pine Needles, which are across the street from each other. Both courses typically get ranked among the top public courses in the state so I didn’t think that I could go wrong. Hopefully it won’t be my last time to the area so I plan to get to Pine Needles on my next trip.
My tee time was at 8am and I got there a bit early to warm up. I hit a couple balls and made my way to the first tee at my scheduled time. There weren’t many people out and it looked like there was just a foursome on the first green, so I was thinking that I had a chance to make good time! The starter told me that I’d be playing with a member which was fine with me if that’s how the course wanted to set things up. I stood around for 10 or 15 minutes while the starter tried to find the person that I was supposed to play with. Finally, I ended up heading out by myself but I was grouchy that this held me up. I’m your typical American and I don’t like waiting, especially since no one was out and I faced a car ride after the round.
There is quite a bit that can be found online about Mid Pines so I’m not going to write much that hasn’t already been covered. Mid Pines is part of a resort that includes the course that I was considering, Pine Needles. I just checked out the proshop, so I cannot comment on any of the lodging or other buildings besides that they looked a bit “tired” from the outside. The course is a Donald Ross design that went through a restoration a few years ago. During the restoration plenty of natural areas were added, bunkers were added, and it got a more rustic look. I never played the course before the restoration, but from the pictures that I found, it looks quite a bit different now. A few before and after pictures can be found over at golfclubatlas.com if you are interested.
I’m going to start with the conditions in order to get the bad part of the review out of the way! The conditions, besides the greens, were a big disappointment. I realize that the overseed hasn’t come in fully yet, but the fairways were in poor shape and certainly not representative of the $85 green fee. The fairways were thin and there were plenty of divots and patchy spots which I would consider ground under repair. I thought the tees were pretty beat up as well. However, the greens were in fabulous shape. They were firm, fast, and rolled beautifully. The greens were the nicest part of the course!
Donald Ross designed courses in the early to mid 1900’s when it was difficult to move land and before the golf cart gained popularity. As probably expected then, Mid-Pines is a compact course and could be walked by someone in average shape. The tees are close to the greens so there isn’t any sort of hike involved between holes. The course makes nice use of the hilly terrain with sight lines and I had to consider some minor elevation change when picking clubs.
The good news is that because of how the course is routed, someone shouldn’t lose a lot of golf balls. It is pretty much goes fairway of the hole you are supposed to play, pine trees and native area, then fairway of an adjacent hole. In fact, if someone hits it into the trees all day long they could get some lucky bounces. A potential problem with the compact layout is that play from one group could affect another.
I played the blue tees which play 6723/71.0/126 and thought that the course was much tougher than indicated on the scorecard. Most holes were inviting off the tee, but the course tricked me into thinking that the tee shots were easier than they really were. It wasn’t too difficult to land the ball in the fairway, but it was difficult to keep the ball in the fairway because of the slope. Someone who can work the ball both ways is going to love playing here! A high, soft fade may easily hold the fairway while a draw could run out for some extra distance. Except for a couple holes, I could play my normal left to right game off the tee.
The most trouble I had was trying to get an approach to stay on the greens. If you have ever played a new course, you’ll notice that most of the time the greens are much firmer than the average course. That was the case at Mid-Pines and I think that’s because the greens were re-done with the re-design. I had some short irons release 25 feet after landing on the firm greens which made it almost impossible to control my distance. Throw in some false edges and I racked up the strokes from close range. As time goes by the greens should soften up though.
Personally, I wish that I would have saved my play at Mid-Pines for another time. I would have liked to have seen it in better condition. That doesn’t offset the fact that the course is a lot of fun to play! I don’t think it caters to any one type of player. Good drivers, iron players, or putters could all play their own game here which is something that I like to see in a course. Finally, one of the best things is that course looked stunning! The waste areas and unpolished edges had me pretty happy with the camera.
Couple pictures of the fairways:
#1 (401 yard par 4):
The opening hole is a mid-length par 4 that plays a bit downhill off the tee and uphill into the green. The tee shot is inviting, but the fairway does slope a bit from right to left. The opening at the front of the green is narrow which can make an approach from the rough more difficult.
#2 (190 yard par 3):
The green on this par 3 seems to be surrounded by a sea of sand! The green curls from left to right around the right greenside bunker so a high fade is going to be the best play.
#3 (437 yard par 4):
The 3rd is the longest par 4 on the front. The tee shot is one of the more visually intimidating ones, but the fairway is pretty wide. Obviously, don’t go to the right and note that the fairway narrows the farther that someone hits it. The approach played about half a club uphill for me.
#4 (330 yard par 4):
The 4th is the shortest par 4 on the course and looks like an easy birdie when reviewing the scorecard. The tee shot is most likely a layup club to a left to right sloping fairway. Some trees to the right of the fairway could affect approaches so make sure favor the left side. The hole played just enough uphill to mess with my mind about which club to hit.
#5 (484 yard par 5):
I could have used some help on this tee shot. Come to find out the fairway squiggles a little right and because the ball is going to land on a downslope, driver isn’t needed. If laying up, someone will have to keep it short or to the right of a pond. Someone can also carry the pond and leave pitch into the green, but there is a slope up to the green from the fairway.
#6 (537 yard par 5):
The 6th is ranked as the hardest hole on the course and I’d bet that ranking has to do with the green complex. The tee shot is open and if laying up the only thing to be avoided is a bunker/waste area to the right. There is a bunker short of the green and a steep false front which means an approach shot needs to be very precise. I faced a tricky pitch over the edge of the bunker and false front.
#7 (383 yard par 4):
The 7th is a straightforward par 4. There are waste areas on both sides of the fairway and the green is set back from most of the sand except for the front right.
#8 (179 yard par 3):
The 8th requires threading the needle again because of bunkers to the left and right. Anything mishit is going to have to get a bit lucky to bounce onto the green.
#9 (340 yard par 4):
The 9th is a dogleg right par 4 and allows someone to pick multiple lines and clubs off the tee. I laid it up and still had a short iron into an undulating green. I favored the left side of the green on my approach and it got a nice little bounce to the right towards the flag.
#10 (514 yard par 5):
The back nine opens with a potentially reachable par 5. It played as a three shot hole for me because I couldn’t carry a rise in the fairway. That left me with an uphill lie on my layup shot which I find tricky to control. There are quite a few bunkers short of the green so if someone plays short and left of the green (depending on the pin) that could leave an easy chip.
#11 (180 yard par 3):
I liked the 11th hole a lot and I think aesthetics have a lot to do with that. With all the sand it seems like it could be found in the desert Southwest! The tee is slightly elevated which offers a clearer view than I was expecting. A draw is the preferred shot shape into this green.
#12 (380 yard par 4):
The fairway narrows the farther that someone hits it which creates options off the tee. The hole moves slightly to the left and isn’t too long so I’d suggest hitting whatever club offers the best chance to find the fairway. The approach requires control because of a long, skinny green that falls off around the edges.
#13 (223 yard par 3):
The 13th is the longest par 3 on the course. I enjoy a long par 3 without a forced carry and that’s what we have here. There is some slope from right to left around the green so a shot landing in the center of the green could feed off the back left like mine did. I had plenty of room to chip across the green though.
#14 (361 yard par 4):
I like to fade the ball and the 14th doesn’t set up well for that shot. The fairways slopes from left to right and there is a severe false edge on the right side of the green. I think the false edge is a bit much as a shot that is just a little too strong can easily run 20 yards off the green. After I holed out I hit a couple practice putts and sure enough, I putted one 20 yards off the green. Be careful with the right side of the green.
#15 (542 yard par 5):
Despite being the longest par 5 on the course, the 15th could be reachable depending on the conditions. The hole plays downhill with some slope from right to left. So, if someone can land a draw down the right side then the ball could run out a lot!
#16 (440 yard par 4):
The 16th is my favorite hole on the course! It has another elevated tee with a nice view which is probably why I liked it so much. A drive challenging the left side leaves the shortest approach.
#17 (391 yard par 4):
I’m not sure that there is anything overly interesting about the 17th. The best shot off the tee is going to be from left to right. Front pins are going to be tricky because a couple greenside bunkers pinch the front of the green.
#18 (411 yard par 4):
The 18th almost requires a right to left tee shot. There is a bit of slope in the fairway from left to right which makes it even more difficult to keep even a straight shot in the short grass. The approach plays a bit uphill into a green that was larger than I expected.