Review: Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club

Course Name: Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club

Designer: Donald Ross (1921), Kyle Franz (2013, Renovation)

Location: Southern Pines, North Carolina

History: With Pinehurst courses mobbed by golfers flocking south, Richard Tufts enlisted Donald Ross to build Mid Pines in 1921 to help meet demand. The course was met with immediate praise and five years later Ross built its sister course, Pine Needles. Three-time major champion Julius Boros was based out of Mid Pines and the course hosted the 2002 U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur. In 2013, Kyle Franz expertly renovated Mid Pines and the resultant course has moved up the rankings since, currently holding the following accolades:

  • #41 Best Public Course in North America – Golf Magazine (2021)
  • #117 Best Classic Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
  • #93 Best Public Course in America – Golf Digest (2021)
  • #46 Best Public Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
  • #34 Best Resort Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
  • #25 Best Course in North Carolina – Golf Digest (2021)
  • #7 Best Course in North Carolina – Golf Magazine (2023)
  • #9 Best Course in North Carolina – Top100golfcourses.com (2020)
  • #3 Best Public Course in North Carolina – Golfweek (2022)

Conditions: 8/10, Mid Pines was in good shape when I played, but was a bit rougher around the edges than Pine Needles. The bunkers and fairways are solid, but the greens contain a lot of grain which made putting difficult.

Value: 7/10, For a top 100 course in a very popular area, Mid Pines offers good value with rates ranging from $95-$235 depending on the season. The winter in particular is very cheap and well-worth it if you can catch a warm day.

Scorecard:

Tee                     Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                  72           6732               71.7              130

White                72           6166               69.8              128

Green                72           5662              66.3               120

Red                     72          4903             68.4               120

Hole Descriptions: A Donald Ross design well-preserved from 1921, Mid Pines is a fascinating course that sparked quite a bit of conversation and differing opinions from my group after playing. The course has a number of strengths including an intimate and excellent routing over hilly terrain in the sandhills of Moore County. Despite the course playing only 6732 from its Blue Tees, everyone in the group thought Mid Pines played considerably more difficult than expected and this is certainly a course that would take several visits to tame given the many angles on this hilly property. As expected from a Ross course, the putting complexes at Mid Pines are wonderful and quite difficult, especially given how grainy they were when I played. The last thing that really stuck out during my round was how many world-class holes Mid Pines contains, especially amongst par fours (1, 4, 12, 16-18) which are one of the strongest sets I’ve seen. Despite all its strengths, I prefer Pine Needles, which feels more polished and cohesive. This seems like an unpopular opinion in the golf architecture community but the conditioning was better there and there were fewer weak holes. Combined, Pine Needles, Mid Pines, and newly added Southern Pines form an incredible trio of public courses that are a very viable alternative to the Pinehurst Resort.

Mid Pine’s opener is a strong 401 yard par 4 that sets the scene for your round. From an elevated teebox, this hole plays straightaway and downhill on the teeshot into a valley lined by pines. This approach runs at least a club uphill towards a back-to-front sloped green lined by multiple bunkers on either side. What a fun hole and memorable start!

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The par 4 1st
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The uphill approach at 1

Mid Pines’ par threes aren’t nearly as good as the fours but the 2nd hole is a solid one-shotter at 190 yards. While this green is on the flatter side, you must carry a hazard and bunkers on either side short to reach it. Misses long left will carom onto the 3rd teebox.

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The par 3 2nd

My playing partner who has played Mid Pines several times considers the 3rd hole the worst hole he’s ever played on a good golf course. While I won’t go that far, I can say with certainty this is among my least favorite holes on the course as a 437 yard dogleg right par 4. This hole features an awkward and strange teeshot to a fairway that turns right immediately and slopes left-to-right toward OB. You can barely see this fairway from the teebox and need at least 200 yards to clear a water hazard directly in front of the teebox. From here, you’ll be left a sidehill lie and uphill approach to another relatively flat green defended by bunkers on either side. This is just a strange hole and one that doesn’t seem to fit.

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The difficult angle you’ll face at 3
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The approach at 3

The 4th hole is also a dogleg right par 4 but is an excellent hole playing much shorter at 330 yards. Playing uphill the entire way with a left-to-right sloping fairway, this is a strategic hole that favors those who stay down the left. This is due to a tall tree just short of an angled green that will block those out down the right. This green is a very difficult target to hit, playing narrow and left-to-right defended by bunkers short and long. There are many holes where local knowledge gives an advantage at Mid Pines and the 4th is a great example.

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The 4th fairway seems wide…
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…but the left side offers a much better approach

A short par 5 at 484 yards, the 5th hole is another risk/reward design featuring a semi-blind teeshot to a tight fairway lined by trees on either side and a large right bunker at 200 yards. About 130 yards short of the green, a large (and ugly) pond juts out down the left and severely narrows the fairway, making a lay-up difficult here. Those going for this elevated green in two will have to contend with four deep bunkers surrounding a right-to-left sloping surface.

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The par 5 5th
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The 2nd shot at 5 gives the golfer options

Except for the 15th, the par fives at Mid Pines are relatively average continuing with the 537 yard 6th hole. Playing straightaway and level, this number 1 handicap features tall pines down either side and large bunkers down the right for much of the landing area. Fairway bunkering becomes more frequent as you near the hole with a left crossbunker jutting into the fairway 60 yards short of the green followed by two small bunkers on either side shortly after. This green is small and subtle defended by bunkers short and right.

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The par 5 6th
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The approach at 6

The 7th hole is a solid 383 yard uphill par 4 featuring a wide, left-to-right sloped fairway. Tall pines frame this hole beautifully and sequential bunkering beginning at 130 yards down the left forces the golfer to think on this teebox. This green is large and fast, defended by a large right bunker.

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The par 4 7th
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The approach at 7

The 8th hole is an interesting 179 yard par 3 playing slightly downhill to a small, back-to-front sloped, crowned green. Those who miss the green will likely find one of the three large bunkers defending short, left, and long.

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The par 3 8th

At 340 yards, the 9th hole is another interesting design as a severe dogleg right. With the dogleg occurring at only about 200 yards and tall pines lining both sides, the left bunker at 250 yards is a good aiming point for less than driver. From there, you’ll be left a short approach into a small, treacherous green lined by a giant bunker left and two small ones right. Be careful here to avoid a big number.

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The par 4 9th is all about accuracy
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The approach at 9

While the Back 9 is the much stronger side at Mid Pines in my opinion, the 10th hole is one of the weaker holes on the course as a 514 yard par 5. Playing straightaway but semi-blind over a plateau, this hole is tight and lined by OB right, trees left, and crossbunkers down the right at 245 yards and left at 270 yards. From here, the hole continues tight and straight with a crossbunker about 40 yards short of a well-defended green with additional bunkers short on either side and long. This green is particularly grainy and runs hard back-to-front and right-to-left despite appearing flat.

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The par 5 10th
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The approach at 10 is unfortunately lined by some ugly condos

The 11th hole is a solid 180 yard par 3 playing to a narrow, back-to-front sloped green defended by multiple bunkers on either side.

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The par 3 11th; I apologize for the late day shadows!

An excellent hole, the par 4 12th hole is a sweeping downhill dogleg left lined by stately pines and a left crossbunker at 180 yards. This approach is difficult to one of Ross’ best greens I’ve seen – a peanut-shaped narrow putting surface that plays both right-to-left and back-to-front lined by bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 12th

At 232 yards, the 13th hole is Mid Pines’ longest par 3 and is a real beast of a hole. This putting surface is firm and slopes right-to-left lined by sandy wastebunkers on either side. Pars are hard to come by here.

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The 13th is my favorite one-shotter at Mid Pines

A somewhat forgotten hole amongst the great holes on the back side, the 361 yard 14th is a pretty good hole in its own right playing uphill to a severely left-to-right sloping fairway. This small green features a similar slope and is defended by deep bunkers on its four corners.

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The par 4 14th

The 542 yard 15th is Mid Pines’ longest hole and the start of a world-class finish. A majestic par 5 playing along the edge of the property, this hole features a generous right-to-left sloping fairway featuring a speed slot and bunker down the right at 270 yards. In theory reachable in two, this approach plays back uphill towards a large, back-to-front sloped green defended by large wastebunkers short on either side.

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The par 5 15th

My personal favorite hole at Mid Pines, the par 4 16th is a wonderful 440 yard dogleg left playing downhill from an elevated teebox. This teeshot is quite attractive and must carry at least 180 yards to reach a tree-lined fairway that turns left at about 280 yards with a large left bunker. This approach is more level to a tricky green that slopes back left-to-front right and is guarded by bunkers short on either side. Par is a strong score on this excellent hole.

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The gorgeous par 4 16th
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The approach at 16

Although not quite as good as the previous dogleg, the 391 yard par 4 17th hole is another strong dogleg, this time turning right at about 170 yards. The preferred play is definitely a high fade here with bunkers down the right at 150, 180, and 230 yards and a large bunker down the left beginning at 255 yards. This approach plays uphill to another great back left-to-front right sloped putting surface lined by bunkers short on either side.

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The par 4 17th
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The approach at 17

The closer at Mid Pines is one of the best anywhere as a 411 yard downhill, dogleg left par 4. This teeshot is again very fun playing quite downhill to a tight fairway. While only partially visible from the tee, the classic Inn at Mid Pines is in full view on this gorgeous approach towards a back-to-front sloped green defended by a large wastebunker left.

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The famous 18th at Mid Pines
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What a memorable and classy approach

General Comments: You can’t talk about Mid Pines the course without talking about the Inn at Mid Pines, which sits stately overlooking the course. While beautiful on the outside, the insides feel like they haven’t been renovated since 1921. For serious golfers just looking for a place to sleep, this might be fine but don’t expect fancy amenities here. There’s a large practice green near the clubhouse while the range is rarely used and behind the 4th green.

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A look at the practice green and 18th hole from the patio

Verdict: One of several classic Ross designs near Pinehurst, Mid Pines is a historic gem full of strategy and excellent individual holes. While I prefer Pine Needles, many consider Mid Pines the second best course in the area and it is certainly well-worth a play.


2 thoughts on “Review: Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club

  1. The issue with #3 is that the tee shot penalizes a fade, the very shot it calls for. The fairway only accepts straight shots and anything right is a 50/50 ball in an un-manicured swampy hazard. The green is the only saving grace of the hole – especially how the back rolls into the 4th tee.

    Great review! 12-16 is a truly special stretch.

    Like

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