Pinehurst Number Two. It's hard to run into a golfer that doesn't have it on their bucket list. What many dreamers may not have is the $400+ green fee to play one round of golf. Let's say for sake of argument that the stars aligned and you had a weekend to yourself and about $400 in your wallet. That raises an interesting question...
Would you rather?
A) Play one round at No. 2 and sleep in your car for two nights
B) Play 100 holes on a bunch of different courses - including two Top 100 tracks and stay two nights in a hotel instead of your car and still have money for gas to get home?
If you chose option A, you may click the little 'X' in your browser and have a great time. We'd love to hear your story about it actually. However, if you chose Option B, or maybe you are a wee bit skeptical that it can be done for under $375, read on.
PLEASE NOTE: This trip occurred in 2018. Dormie club has since gone private, COVID happened, golf boomed, inflation soared & high-end courses have start charging more as a result. While the prices may be different now, the spirit of this story still rings true!
Normally, I'd like building my own package, finding my own place to stay, cooking our own meals, etc. That's part of the fun of a buddies trip! Well, there are buddies trips (where you have a great time and also play golf) and there are golf trips (where you play as long as the sun is above the horizon). This was the latter without question.
That said, we went the pre-packaged route through Tobacco Road Golf & Travel. We took an entry-level, seasonal (summer) deal that got our itinerary started (and importantly one you can sell to your non-golfing spouse). It also included the hotel, so while it wasn't the Waldorf, we knew we'd spend only a few hours sleeping there so who really cared? Not us.
$269 - 3 rounds (Tobacco Road, Dormie Club, CC of Whispering Pines) and 2 nights (Best Western)
You can also look up the normal greens fees for Tobacco Road and Dormie Club. This package was the steal of the century. Of course its cheap because its a seasonal deal and about 100 degrees every day, but I'm pretty sure you play the same course. We caught a break too (not the rain part Friday night and Saturday morning) as a cold front rolled in and kept things below 85 after Friday's scorcher.
If you're going to an area like this, it's great to have an agent who knows the course maintenance schedule. Our rep at TRGT (thank you Kelly!) was outstanding. Without her, we'd probably have been playing on punched greens and ground under repair in a few places. Local knowledge helps, folks - and not just on the course!
She also set our tee times for us and locked them in two months in advance. We set it up with 36 Saturday (Dormie/CCWP) and 18 Sunday (Tobacco Road) so we could add a round on the day we arrived. After searching around, we decided to call Kelly back and see if she had any suggestions for our time and budget restraints. She came through again...
$45 - Southern Pines Golf Club - a 1906 Donald Ross design
If you're keeping score at home, we're up to 4 rounds/2 nights for $314 and 72 holes. We've got a regulation tournament scheduled to be played, but over the span of 48 hours instead of 4 full days. That got the wheels spinning on the idea of trying to get to 100 holes...
What else can we play? Enter the Short Course!
The rebirth of the short course (or birth I guess - I can't ever remember them being all that popular before) is about the coolest thing ever for a couple of guys trying to play 1000 courses in their lifetimes. It's also great for the growth of the game. You can breeze through nine holes on a par three course in less than an hour, you can bring your kids, you don't have the pressure of people hitting into you because you're taking too long to putt out. It's relaxed, it's fun and these things should be everywhere!
The latest and greatest short course is found at Pinehurst Resort. Gil Hanse was brought in to design 'The Cradle' - aptly named of course since Pinehurst is known as 'The Cradle of American Golf'. Best of all, it's open to the public. Book it!
$50 - The Cradle Short Course at Pinehurst Resort
Whoa, $50 for a nine hole par three course? Hold on, it's worth it, trust us. First, your $50 is good for play all day long. You can play a loop or two, go have lunch/dinner/drinks, then go back out. Second, it's a party! There is music playing everywhere. They hid speakers in trees, fake boulders and at the bar. Yes, there's a portable bar on the course! It really is golf's greatest party. It is the antithesis of what you think a stuffy resort would offer. Just play it! You can thank us later. Call the resort the day before you want to play and they'll set you up. They open at 8:00am eastern, so be on the horn or call early to leave a message for a return call (which they'll do right at 8:00) and get the time you want!
That brings us up to 81 holes and $364. We've got $11 to spare and 19 holes to add to get to 100. I know what you're saying... Vegas would have long odds against us too.
While The Cradle gets all the pub in the press, there are two other short tracks in/around town you need to know about. Each of the three we're highlighting are as different as they are cool as hell. If The Cradle was built for the party, then the Bottlebrush Course at Longleaf Golf & Family Club was built for the future golfer in mind. During a renovation back in 2016, Longleaf had a few acres (3.5 to be exact) of flat, unusable landlocked grass between a couple of holes. Bill Bergin turned that tract of land into six holes of golf for just about anyone. Best of all, it only costs a buck a hole to play a loop. That's right, $6 for six holes.
We had it on the radar, but didn't know when we'd play it. We did a drive by Friday night after we got rained off The Cradle and saw that the pro shop closed by 6-6:30. We decided to head back Saturday between rounds and the raindrops we were supposed to incur that morning. More on this in a minute...
One shorty we could book ahead of time to play was the last short course on our list, El Camino at Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford. We were going to be up there anyway on Sunday and wouldn't you know it, right about the time we booked our package, Tobacco Road starts publicizing a new alternative routing for the front nine. You could say it was the newest or oldest of the collection of short courses depending on your perspective of when this course actually began playing rounds.
Regardless, we received an email offer to add the previously hidden loop for free - which we gladly activated! Since the tee sheet wasn't very full that morning and we were playing as a twosome, we decided to play an alternate shot format from the El Camino tees while we played our regular round. It didn't slow us down one bit, and since we had a threesome in front of us, it helped us stay in rhythm a little better. We even started with a birdie, dreaming of a course record. Yeah right.
$0 - El Camino at Tobacco Road
Ah, you're starting to do the math now... We're still at $364 and now we're at 90 holes. Which brings us back to Bottlebrush.
After our wet Saturday morning round at CC of Whispering Pines (a pleasant surprise BTW), we decided to go grab some lunch back at Longleaf. We had scoped out the clubhouse the night before and it appeared there was a nice little pub room in there. There was (Great lunch, service and people - go with the fish & chips). The additional hope was that the rain would let up enough to allow us to spin a loop on the short course before our PM round at Dormie. It didn't.
Since we knew they'd be closed long before we could finish and make it back, we stopped and asked the pro shop if we could prepay the $6 per guy and come back after they closed. Dan, the head pro, graciously gave us the nod and a signature on a scorecard to come back. Come back we did and now I want a Bottlebrush in our town! It was so much fun, we looped it twice in about 30 minutes, right before a kids night golf outing was getting ready begin.
Kudos to Longleaf and the US Kids Golf Foundation for creating such an inclusive property.
$6 - Bottlebrush at Longleaf (played twice)
So there you have it. We spent $370 on golf and lodging, played 102 holes over seven courses - including two top 100 you can play - in just over 48 hours. And as promised, you've got $30 in your gas tank with which to go home.
The whole reason for the trip was to celebrate a couple of major milestones on our journey. The Cradle was strategically selected to be the Golf Crusade's 400th course played! On the individual side, Dormie Club was BMAC's 200th course played.
So, now we ask you...
As a reminder, you can find all the courses we've played on a map or in a state-by-state list on the Map & Tracker tab at the top of the page. We'll feature each of the places we played on this trip in a future post, but as you can see from some of the highlights above, it was an outstanding weekend.
Until then, keep playing and we hope to see you soon on a course near you!
BMAC & Dooner