by Liza Roberts
When the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open come to Pinehurst June 12-15 and June 19-22, as many as 400,000 fans are expected to converge on the quaint village known as “the cradle of American golf.”
They’ll line the fairways, cheer their favorites, and, when it’s done, they’ll take a look around. Like many Raleighites who know the terrain a bit, these fans may go to the Spa at Pinehurst; they may stay or eat at the landmark Carolina Hotel. They’ll take in Pinehurst’s shady, winding streets that make for a good, unspoiled walk.
But true locals know there’s a lot more. None knows this better than Southern Pines-based golf writer and magazine editor Jim Dodson. His many best-selling books include Final Rounds, Faithful Travelers, A Golfer’s Life, and Ben Hogan – An American Life. When he’s not writing his books, perfecting his game, or editing magazines in Greensboro and Wilmington, Dodson’s job chronicling the life and culture of the Sandhills region as editor of Pinestraw magazine keeps him plugged in right here.
From the old-school Pine Crest Inn to the authentic Northern Mexican restaurant La Poblanita in nearby Aberdeen, Dodson is a regular. He kindly agreed to share his favorites.
The Pine Crest Inn
Dodson predicts “the epicenter” of the Opens will be the Pine Crest Inn, with its covered porch, rocking chairs, and timeworn charm. Once owned by legendary course designer Donald Ross, the place has a reputation as a bit of purist heaven – even a “shrine.” It’s a “funky, old-world place,” Dodson says, particularly famous for its bar. That bar has long been the haunt of famous golfers and golf writers. Dodson says it’s worth it for a meal as well. “It’s famous for its pork chops. The waitresses are kinda bossy. It’s very reasonable, a fun place to go.”
As it has done in the past, The Pine Crest will set up a circus tent with bars in its parking lot to serve the Open crowds. “It’s the rockingest party,” Dodson says. It’s a party that’s about to explode, because this year for the first time, the Pine Crest will also close off the street in front for a 200-yard-long block party, says manager Drew Gross. He’s expecting major crowds, albeit of a civilized, golf-fan variety: “We’re printing T-shirts that say ‘I survived the Pine Crest Inn block party’.”
The Pine Crest Inn is at 50 Dogwood Road. The bar tent and block party will be open during both Opens. For more information, go to pinecrestinnpinehurst.com, or call 910-295-6121.
The Ryder Cup Lounge
Named for the 1951 Ryder Cup held at Pinehurst, this clubby, comfortable bar and restaurant in the Carolina Hotel has recently been refurbished. Dodson calls it “well worth a visit.” Its breezy veranda is made for sipping a cocktail like one of the moonshine concoctions Ryder Cup manager Patrick Murphy has created in honor of the Opens. His new Moonberry drink combines North Carolina moonshine with blueberry; his Strazzberry also features local moonshine, but with raspberry vodka. Both will be served in stemmed Mason jars as a fancy bootlegger bonus.
The Ryder Cup Lounge is in the Carolina Hotel at 80 Carolina Vista Drive. For more information, go to Pinehurst.com or call 855-235-8507.
The Villager Deli
The Villager has long been the place to pick up a quick sandwich to go, or to grab an informal lunch. “You’ll see a who’s-who of locals,” Dodson says. At press time, the Villager hadn’t decided if it would open for dinner during the 2014 Opens – but if an informal, easy evening meal is what you’re after, it’s worth a call.
The Villager Deli is at 6 Chinquapin Road. For more information, go to thevillagerdeli.com or call 910-295-1005.
Maxie’s Grill and Tap Room sports bar is “where the locals go Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights,” Dodson says. “It’s very reasonable, the food’s very good.”
“This place is going to be crazy,” says owner Maxie Gleaton, who has live music planned every night during the Opens. He wants to make sure his regulars know he’ll be there for them, too. “I’m your local ‘Cheers’, and I’m going to take care of my locals,” he says. He plans to pitch a tent outside to “control the overflow” and may sell breakfast sandwiches outside in the mornings: “I’m going to try to take it as it comes.”
Maxie’s is at 35 McIntyre Road. For more information, go to maxiespinehurst.com or call 910-420-2181.
Dodson is a fan of Dugan’s Irish pub, which also has a full restaurant and live music several nights a week. “Sergio Garcia used to bet the waitresses there,” Dodson says. An ideal Dodson evening: “A few drinks at the Pine Crest, Dugans to eat, and move along.”
Dugans Pub is at 2 Market Square. For more information, go to Duganspub.net or call 910-295-3400.
“One of the beauties and challenges of Pinehurst is that it’s so small. It’s like a little Southern Nantucket,” Dodson says. That will make it easy to navigate for the descending thousands, who will almost all be on foot. The Open will require all to park their cars in one of several nearby fields and take shuttles to the courses and to the village.
It’s a pretty place to walk around but not simple to navigate. When the village was designed at the turn of the 20th century, Dodson says the streets were purposely made curvy and without signs to keep it private. The streets have signs today, but the cloistered feeling remains. Dodson’s own favorite street for walking is Dogwood (which might have something to do with the location of his beloved Pine Crest Inn). But all are worth a stroll: “They’re all within a seven-iron shot of each other. It’s very pleasant to walk around.”
Dodson suggests folks new to town check out The Tufts Archives before setting out. This wing of the Given Memorial Library preserves the history of Pinehurst, offers self-guided walking tours, and puts on exhibits that chronicle the golf town’s evolution. The Tufts Archives is at 150 Cherokee Road. For more information, go to tuftsarchives.org or call 910-295-6022
Dodson’s a fan of Tom Stewart’s Old Sport & Gallery, which specializes in golf memorabilia, art, antiques, books, and collectibles. “You see everybody in there, tour players – everyone,” Dodson says.
Shop owner and former golf professional Stewart says he plans to stay open until midnight to accommodate the big business the Opens bring. “This is our third men’s and our fourth women’s Open, so we’re getting good at this,” he says. He has special events planned like book signings and a visit from Linda Hartough, the U.S.G.A.’s commissioned U.S. Open artist, whose limited-edition lithographs and canvas giclee paintings of the ninth hole on Pinehurst No. 2 are for sale at the shop.
The Open “brings a vibe to the village that can only happen when the whole world comes to us,” Stewart says. “Players, media, spectators, golf officials from all over the world…it will be nice to have them on my turf for a change.” He says Old Sport has “a bit of a reputation it’s fun to try to live up to.”
Old Sport & Gallery is in the Harvard Building at Market Square. For more information, go to oldsportgallery.com or call 910-295-9775.
Chris Dalrymple’s classic men’s clothing store, which does a big business in Raleigh-based Peter Millar staples, “is a great place to get a $150 dress shirt,” Dodson says with a chuckle. “And it’s next door to the Villager Deli.”
Gentleman’s Corner is at 1 Chinquapin Road. For more information, go to thegcorner.com or call 910-295-2011.
This pretty village is an easy 12-minute drive from Pinehurst. Dodson compares its charms to those of a New England commuter town, with its brick streets, train tracks running through the middle, and small, old-fashioned depot. A favorite place here is Bo’s supermarket at 750 SW Broad St. “It’s a little country grocery store – a step back to your childhood,” Dodson says.
There are also plenty of restaurants here he recommends: Chef Warren’s (“a little French”), Ashten’s (“one of the leaders of the local food movement”) Southern Prime Steakhouse (“a very high-end steakhouse”), and Beefeater’s (“down the road, a little less pricey”). Chef Warren’s: 215 NE Broad St.; chefwarrensbistro.com; 910-692-5240. Ashten’s: 140 East New Hampshire Ave.; ashtens.com; 910-246-3510. Southern Prime Steakhouse: 270 SW Broad St.; southernprimesteakhouse.net; 910-693-0123. Beefeater’s: 672 SW Broad St; beefeatersofsouthernpines.com; 910692-5550.
Dodson’s also a fan of 195, an “American fusion” restaurant a bit south of town that Dodson says has “healthy California cuisine, with a lot of Asian” influence. 195: 195 Bell Ave.; 195pinehurstdining.com; 910-692-7110.
Of course, folks play golf in Southern Pines, too. When they do, “I think the best bar in the Sandhills besides the Pine Crest is the one at Pine Needles,” Dodson says of the Southern Pines golf destination, home of three previous U.S. Women’s Opens. The course and the adjacent Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club are owned and run by charter LPGA member Peggy Kirk Bell and her family. Dodson calls Pine Needles “the Fenway Park of golf.” For more information, go to pineneedles-midpines.com or call 800-747-7272.
The town of Aberdeen, a 10-minute drive from Pinehurst, “has had a wonderful revival,” Dodson says. “Byron Nelson used to stay there when he played at the North and South.” He’s referring to the golf legend and the longest consecutive-running amateur golf championship in the country. Today, Dodson says, Aberdeen still hosts pro golfers looking for a little privacy and has “great design shops and restaurants.”
One of his regular haunts is La Poblanita. “It’s my favorite Mexican restaurant,” Dodson says. “Very good, and very reasonable.” La Poblanita: 105 W. South Street; lapoblanitamexicancafe.com; 910-944-7774.
He also recommends the shops at One Eleven Main, which specializes in gifts and home furnishings, and florist Aldena Frye, who also sells a lot of home goods. One Eleven Main: 111 West Main St; 919-944-1181. Aldena Frye: 120 West Main St,; aldenafrye.bridgecatalog.com; 910-944-1071.
To cap it off, Dodson is unequivocal in his recommendation that an out-of-town visitor take in some live music at The Rooster’s Wife, a nonprofit performing arts organization that keeps the Poplar Knight Spot packed with popular singer-songwriters. The Rooster’s Wife at the Poplar Knight Spot, 114 Knight St; theroosterswife.org; 910-944-7502.