Pinehurst Resort: A Family Vacation Itinerary
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
R: ‘No game is so rooted in history. And no place is so solidly built on memories as Pinehurst. The North Carolina pines whisper the legends of Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus and Palmer. And the fairways of Pinehurst No. 2 offer a walk unlike any other. Create your own history at Pinehurst, a place as timeless as the game itself.’ ~ Pinehurst.com
Being a fan of golf, I had known about Pinehurst for as long as I could remember. I knew it had nine golf courses. I knew it was somewhere in North Carolina. I knew I had to play the prestigious course No. 2 at some point in my life. And I knew the story of the 1999 US Open when Payne Stewart took down Phil Mickelson. Stewart drained a long putt on the last hole to prevail by a single shot. The statue of his famous victory pose can be seen behind the 18th green. It is one of the best US Opens I’ve ever seen. It’s a story I’ve already tried telling to my four-year old daughters.
Our story of Pinehurst is much different than Payne Stewart’s but uniquely special just the same.
S: Since the chaos of the holidays wasn’t enough excitement and because we’d all been home under the same roof for 8-days (or perhaps because we’re part crazy!), we decided to embark on a fam getaway in the days following Christmas. After all, I did have the next five days off so why not take advantage of it. Originally, we had planned to hit up the Emerald City, but as the days drew closer, and got progressively more hectic, we decided that a more laid back, less hustle and bustle vaca was needed. For those of you who have been to the Maine coast, we were seeking 'The Samoset of North Carolina' and luckily for Ryan, we’re amidst a golf-lovers paradise. One hour and twenty minutes away, one of America’s oldest and most historic golf resorts awaits: the Village of Pinehurst was the next destination the Graves would explore.
R: I knew we had made the right decision the second we pulled into the grounds of Pinehurst Resort. The sun was shining on the property showing the beauty of the North Carolina pines, the manicured grass, and all the people wondering around. A feeling came over me that only a golf resort could produce. Lost in awe of what I was seeing, I drove to the clubhouse instead of the hotel. We all looked around and were amazed at what we were seeing: an enormous green that was actually for lawn bowling and not golf. A stunning croquet court. There were people littered on both, enjoying the best of what Pinehurst has to offer. There were other people getting ready to golf, families with strollers maneuvering around the way we later would, and couples of all ages, holding hands and soaking in the fun family atmosphere. All five of us were eager to join in on the festivities.
Just before noon on this Saturday we pulled up to the majestic, century old, Carolina Hotel. Built in 1901 it takes you back in time to an era defined by grandiosity and elegance. Christmas was still on full display as colorfully decorated trees flooded the large, open lobby. There was even a life-sized game of 'Candyland' that instantly caught the girls attention as we approached the front desk. With no line, we were able to immediately check-in (a plus!) and the consistently helpful Pinehurst staff were kind enough to upgrade us to a small two bedroom suite. Sweet is right!
12:30 PM - Lunch at the Country Club
S: After 3 trips from the hotel room to the van and back, we successfully unloaded all of our luggage (3 suitcases, 2 book bags, 1 diaper bag, a tote, a purse, and a cooler to be exact! Traveling with kids is a lot of baggage, literally!), we restocked the stroller for the day and were off. It was 73 and sunny, and we had the whole day ahead of us to explore this golf wonderland.
Our first stop would be 'The Deuce,' a popular lunch spot that overlooked the 18th green. The atmosphere was bustling from the chatter of golfers and families alike. The service was prompt, food well-above average for country club dining, and the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming to our rambunctious entourage.
And now that we were recharged from a satisfying lunch, it was time explore the grounds. I had just received a BRAND NEW camera for Christmas and could not wait to try it out! Within seconds of exiting the restaurant, I was lining kids up to grab our first images of the pristine green.
2:00 PM - Putting green shenanigans
R: This 'pristine green' was Pinehurst No. 2’s 18th. The same green where Payne Stewart made history all those years ago. My first thought was oh my God. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I thought of Payne Stewart, Phil Mickleson, and all that transpired during the '99 Open. I imagined the fairways lined up with thousands of fans.
I studied the green and pictured the spot where Payne hit the putt. Then my second thought hit me: oh my God! My kids are running and dancing all over the green.
Before I could gently tell them to get the hell off the putting surface (as golfers were walking up the fairway), a gentleman with a Pinehurst name tag stopped to chat. Fully expecting him to tell me to get my kids off the green, he instead surprised me by saying what a beautiful family I had. I smiled and thanked him. He then offered to take our picture alongside the famous statue of Payne Stewart. Of course we agreed (anything to get the girls off the green), and he snapped a photo of the five of us.
S: Sadly, there’s no image to display of said photo op as the older gentleman’s technology skills were not quite up to par. And by par, I mean having all five of us in the pic. But hey, it was an extremely nice gesture! I for one am a brat when it comes to resorts and the overall customer experience and this was just one example of Pinehurst's 5-star service. Everyone was smiling, chatty with our crazy clan, and more than happy to go out of their way to make our time that much more special.
R: Speaking of 'special' that’s exactly what happened next. I had also heard of The Cradle, Pinehurst’s par- 3 course dubbed by the Golf Channel as 'The Most Fun 10-acres in all of Golf.' Though I really wanted to play it (and have the girls, Steph, and Rory tag along), I knew there’d be another opportunity to do so. Spending $60 for the girls to get sick of walking after two holes and Rory losing his mind (not being able to run freely like a wild man) didn’t seem like a wise decision. So we settled at Thistle Dhu, an 18-hole putting course located in front of the main clubhouse by the Putter Boy statue. Free to all resort guests and open to any level golfer (thank you!) the girls and I gave it a shot.
If you like miniature golf, this is a must. Every hole is difficult and unique. There are posts at every 'tee box' that label the hole and even provide a place to for you hold your beverage! I grabbed a scorecard and we went to work.
I’m not sure you’ll ever see a late December day more beautiful than this one. The green was packed full of others doing the same and although it was entertaining and 'special,' the girls only lasted six holes. But that was enough for me. Being able to play a portion of the game I love with my children was incredibly rewarding. After some laughs, high-fives, and constant instruction, we retired back to Stephanie and Rory. As I walked off the green, I looked back and promised myself that I’d get another crack at it. Then I smiled, knowing that all three of my kids will eventually be old enough to partake in the sport that has brought me so much joy. Golf can be a family game and I certainly have a lot to look forward to, but it was time to put my love for the game aside and continue exploring Pinehurst with my wife and children.
3:30 PM - Afternoon strolls + ice skating
S: From there, we strolled back to the hotel. It was probably a half a mile, so Ry pushed the girls in the stroller and I desperately tried to get Rory to nap in the carrier. I guess I forget each time I attempt this feat that Rory is now a full-fledged, arm-flailing, temperamental toddler who despises anything and EVERYTHING that involves being restrained. Commence, 10-minutes of being swatted in the face from close range by this animal. Eventually out of breath and exhausted, he surrendered. A carrier nap for Rory and I could also now enjoy the fam walk as we continued on our adventure. The sounds of a tennis game, the gorgeous landscaping, the Carolina pines lining the sidewalks, and the charming homes along the way made the stroll quite pleasing.
The next stop: the ice skating rink and fireplaces for s’mores and hot cocoa. Since relocating from Maine I detest the sight or notion of anything that resembles winter, BUT an ice skating rink in the middle of a lush green backed by beautifully manicured trees? With the final hours of the radiant sun shining down on us? I could get down with that. (Side note: for a PE credit in college I took 'figure skating for fitness' so secretly I couldn’t wait to go unleash my inner Nancy Kerrigan.)
Turns out the 'ice rink' wasn’t really ice. (To be honest, I’m not sure what the hell it was.) Regardless, the kids laced up their skates and hit the ice for their first skating experience. To no surprise, Rory joined the fun and took a spin on his sneakers. Pop tunes were playing over the speakers and then it even started 'snowing!' Artificial flakes were pumped from an air gun of sorts and all the kids went wild. It had been a stellar day and as the sun began to set we made our way back to the hotel for dinner.
5:00 PM - Dinner @ Ryder Cup Lounge
R: It had been a wonderful afternoon but I think most of us were ready to sit down. We chose The Ryder Cup Lounge for dinner because it was conveniently located in our hotel. (Ryder Cup Lounge also had a nice to ring to it.) We sat at a large, round table right in front of one of the many big screen TV’s. Clemson and Notre Dame were playing in the College Football Playoff and I was excited to tune in.
Rory had other ideas. As Steph has mentioned numerous times, the kid doesn’t like to sit still. He had been pestering Steph all day so I decided it was time for some father/son time. While the girls were busy coloring and Steph scrolled through photos of the day, Rory and I spent twenty glorious minutes admiring the golf memorabilia that lined the walls. Pictures and artifacts of golf history were scattered throughout the restaurant and halls of the hotel. When Rory got bored of that, I set him down so he could practice his walking and also try to tear down ornaments from the many Christmas trees. It was father/son bonding at it’s finest.
730 PM : “Hot tubbing”
We survived dinner and retired back to the hotel room. By then it was time for Rory to call it a day but the girls and I had one more stop to make. We changed into our swimsuits and headed for the outdoor hot tub.
The girls would later say that the hot tub was their favorite part of the trip. This was music to my ears considering hot tubs have always been special to the Graves family.
It was always mine and all four of my brothers favorite activity on family vacations. We soaked in the tub while the jets massaged our backs. We reflected on our day, played some sort of tag game the girls invented, and just enjoyed each other’s company. It was the perfect ending to a truly amazing family day.
My ending came an hour later. Once the girls were fast asleep, I headed to something I had noticed much earlier. Next to the skating rink, outdoor pool, and hot tub was a small putting green that was lit up at night. I grabbed my putter and worked on my game for an hour or so. In between strokes, I’d stop and admired what I was looking at. Could there be a better place for me on a family vacation? During that warm, December night as I putted under the stars, I didn’t think so. As I walked back to the hotel room to retire for the night, I couldn’t of been more pleased with our fun-filled family day.