Three of the top five golf courses determined to be the best in the state are located here in Moore County, as ranked in 2021 by the North Carolina Golf Panel.
Pinehurst No. 2 has once again secured the top spot and the Dogwood Course at The Country Club of North Carolina rose from fifth to third place. CCNC’s Dogwood and its sister course, Cardinal (16th), will host the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur this summer. Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines held its place in the top five as the state’s fourth best golf course.
The N.C. Golf Panel was founded in 1995 and is recognized as the most authoritative statewide source of golf course rankings in a state that arguably has some of the nation’s best courses. The 135-member panel is composed of golf media, club professionals and general managers from many outstanding courses, accomplished amateur players and college golf coaches and others who play an active role in promoting golf in North Carolina.
Phil Werz, CEO of the Pinehurst Southern Pines Aberdeen Convention & VIsitors Bureau, is a member of the N.C. Golf Panel. He said 2020 was a very different year to conduct the annual rankings because of statewide restrictions related to COVID-19.
“Fortunately, for our tourism economy in Moore County, golf remained open throughout the pandemic. We are so blessed with world-class golf in the Pinehurst area and with the USGA announcement last fall to move a second headquarters here and create an anchor site for future U.S. Open championships, it merely enhanced that this destination is arguably the finest in the country to visit and experience the game for all ages,” Werz said.
Among the 2021 rankings of the Top 100 Courses in North Carolina, a total of 15 are located in the Pinehurst Area. Those rankings include: Pinehurst No. 2 (#1); CCNC (Dogwood, #3); Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club (#4); Pinehurst No. 4 (#8); Pinehurst No. 8 (#14); CCNC (Cardinal, #16); Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club (#18); Forest Creek (South, #27); Pinehurst No. 9 (#30); Dormie Club (#33); Forest Creek (North, #34); Mid South Club (#40); Pinehurst No. 7 (#47); Pinewild (Magnolia, #59) and Talamore Resort (The New Course #80).
The panel also ranked the Top 50 Courses You Can Play and the Pinehurst area once again dominated the list with 15 locations, or 30 percent of the clubs, including the top six and eight of the top 11. The top six include Pinehurst No. 2, Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Pinehurst No. 4, Pinehurst No.8, Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club and Pinehurst No. 9. Mid South Club was ninth and Pinehurst No. 7 eleventh. Other golf clubs among the Top 50 include The New Course at Talamore (#25), Southern Pines Golf Club (#36), Pinehurst No. 6 (#38), Legacy Golf Links (#39), Tobacco Road (#40), Longleaf Golf and Family Club (#41) and Hyland Golf Club (#50).
“Every serious golfer has a trip to the Pinehurst Area on their bucket list,” said Kevin Brafford, executive director of the N.C. Golf Panel. “One of the many blessings of living in North Carolina is that you can so easily become a repeat visitor.”
The Pinehurst area was also well-represented in a pair of subcategories ranking the ten best Fairest Courses to Play and Most Strategic Courses. According to the N.C. Golf Panel, Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club is the fairest course to play, followed by Pinehurst No. 2 and the Dogwood Course at The Country Club of North Carolina. Pinehurst No. 8 is included as eighth on that list. The Fairest Courses to Play list considers courses regardless of overall difficulty on the premise that it rewards good shots and penalizes poor ones in a manner that is reasonable.
For Most Strategic Courses, Pinehurst No. 2 and Tobacco Road Golf Club are tops in North Carolina as determined by the panel. Pinehurst No. 4 and Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club rated sixth and eighth, respectively. This category’s top 10 was determined based on how each course requires thoughtful planning and precise execution of shots from tee to green.
Pinehurst area golf courses have often been on the national and global stage as well when it comes to major championships. In 2019, Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club hosted the U.S. Senior Women’s Open while Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 hosted the U.S. Amateur. In 2021, The Country Club of North Carolina will host the U.S. Junior Amateur. In 2022, the U.S. Women’s Open returns to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club. And the U.S. Open will be back at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2024, marking the fourth such major championship to be played at the historic club over the course of 25 years (1999, 2005, 2014 and 2024), the most to be played over the course of a quarter century than any other location in the country. Last fall, the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced additional U.S. Open championships for Pinehurst No. 2 in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.