I attended the Wednesday practice round of the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst yesterday. The resort is only an hour or so south of Raleigh, and an easy trip down U.S. 1 and I’ve been there many, many times over the years due to the great advantage of having parents who retired there. If you enjoy golf, Pinehurst is definitely the place to be in North Carolina this week and next.
Pinehurst is a pretty town situated in the Sandhills region (named for its sandy soil). It’s inhabited primarily by retirees, younger families from Ft. Bragg, and tourists. It’s usually fairly quiet save for these occasions when the big tournaments come to visit. The U.S. Open was held there in 1999, and again in 2005. This year, the Men’s Open will be followed immediately by the Women’s Open, and the town has been prepping for the events for about a year. There are eight golf courses in all at Pinehurst and when the Open comes to town, which is played on N0. 2, parts of the other courses are utilized as driving ranges and landing zones for a multitude of hospitality tents, portable bathrooms, concession stands, and the like. That transformation, in addition to the restructuring of the rough on No. 2, has taken some time. Interestingly, members of Pinehurst do not get free tickets to the event, and they suffer the inconvenience of losing access to all of their courses, something that drives my dad crazy. But it’s not every day you get to experience a major golf tournament in your back yard so we just tell him to relax and enjoy it.
This year, I got my tickets last minute through Stub Hub at a deeply discounted price of about $22 each, picked up the tickets at the Days Inn on route 1 in Southern Pines around 11 a.m., and headed on over to my parents house. Dad dropped us off by the entrance near course #3 and headed off to park the car, and off we went to try to catch a glimpse of a golfer or two.
Here are a few things to know about the event if you’re planning to attend over the next four days, or next week when the women play:
- Search around online if you don’t already have tickets. As I noted, I got my tix on Stub Hub and pick up was very easy. If you wait until the day of the event, you’re liable to get them pretty cheap. There are also plenty of people selling on the side of the road, if you’re willing to risk it. I just checked ticket prices for tomorrow – Stub Hub has 168 tickets left, selling for just under $80 each. The price will likely go much lower as the day progresses.
- Kids under 12 are free, but they will be given a youth ticket at the entrance.
- Cell phones are not allowed – USGA rules. Don’t think about trying to sneak one in – they have scanners at the entrance. No water bottles or outside food are allowed either. You can leave your phone at the entrance to the tournament if you want, or better yet, just leave it at home and utilize one of the free telephones located throughout the venue if you need to call someone. Bottled water is available for sale for $2.50.
- Wear comfortable shoes – you’ll be walking a lot!
- Wear sunscreen. It was all kinds of hot and humid when I went – North Carolina in June – and the sun is strong! I missed some spots and got a nice burn. You can go in some tents to cool off. Others are restricted.
- Go early, take a break mid-day, then come back for the afternoon. The Village of Pinehurst is a short walk from the course and well worth checking out – there are some cute shops and nice restaurants. Also take the time to walk through the historic Pinehurst Hotel with it’s wide sweeping porches and golf displays inside.
We wandered around until about 3:30. We saw Bubba Watson coming out of the clubhouse and putting on the practice greens, but missed him tee off on the tenth hold as we were hanging around the 1st. We saw a number of other well-known pros, but were a bit hindered by the heat and children who were not as impressed with the event as we were. All-in-all, it’s a fun event. The actual tournament days will be more subdued – spectators must maintain some decorum and quiet while competition is going on – but it can be exciting, especially on the final day. My husband and I were fortunate to see Payne Stewart and Phil Mickelson battling it out on the 18th green in 1999, a truly memorable event!
Categories: Places to See in NC