Dave Tutelman -- February 23, 2004
Now for something a little more narrative...
- 4 days: Thursday through Sunday.
- 108 holes on three different courses. (Two Donald Ross and a Jack
- $54 in greens fees. (For me, at least.)
- Temperatures for the afternoon round? 60-70°F until the sun
- Strokes? Too many...
- ... well, not really; I enjoyed almost every one of them.
- Growls from Terry:? Not counted, but estimated at 998. (I'll
share the estimating methodology with anyone interested. Suffice it to
say at this point that he growled at about 3/4 of his own shots and
half of those of his partners. Tough man to satisfy. He growled on my
behalf at quite a few of my own shots that I was certainly not inclined
to growl about.)
- Three-putts? Classified information. Four-putts? Top secret.
- Total feet from the hole from Terry's full-swing wedges over the
first three rounds? Seemed like about 20 feet for 30 shots. Total.
- Skins actually won in three-man 18-hole skins game on Friday? 11.
(Folks, that's a lot for 18
holes of skins. Says that we were probably playing very inconsistently.
To back that up, one of my skins was with a double-bogey.)
- Three trips between Raleigh-Durham airport and Pinehurst. (Well,
two actually, but who's counting.)
- Three breakfasts at two different Mac's Breakfast Anytime. (Well,
one of the breakfasts was at lunchtime. But it was from the breakfast menu -- the
only menu they have.)
- Hours spent on airplanes? 3.
- Hours spent in airports? 5. (What's wrong with this
Terry Easton picked me up at the Raleigh-Durham airport Thursday
morning, with just a bit of missed communications: I was waiting for
him at the baggage claim area, and he was waiting for me in the
street outside baggage claim. Problem solved after a couple of minutes,
when I called his cell phone. He had been chased by the traffic police,
and was just coming around again outside the terminal. I picked up my
suitcase and clubs, and staggered out the door to meet Cadillac Man. We
drove down to Southern Pines and dropped my stuff at the hotel. (Terry
had checked in the day before.)
Drove to Pinehurst from there. We were way early for our 1:30 tee
time, so we stopped for lunch at Mac's in Southern Pines. (We had
discovered it last year. We remembered it as being better than it
was, but it was still the best bet in the area for breakfast.) At
Mac's, Terry realized he didn't have his wallet. Frantic scurrying
around to search all his pockets and every crevice of the car. Not
we took stock of where he might have left it. After eliminating the
room, he was left with the airport -- where he had stepped out of the
car to help me put my stuff in it. So he phoned the airport
lost-and-found. The traffic cop that had been harrassing Terry found
the wallet as soon as Terry left; the wallet was at the airport police
station, and he could pick it up any time.
Then we went to Pine Needles lodge to cash in our rain checks. Well,
they were really "snow checks". Last winter, Terry and I bought a three
day "Golf Lovers Package" at Pine Needles, and all rounds got snowed
course never opened while we were there, and we got to know the
Pinehurst library, shops, and restaurants all too well. This year, the
weather was every bit as good as it had been bad last year.
The Pine Needles pro shop sent us out to the range and said they'd call
us when the tee was
ready. While we were hitting balls, our friend John Brewster walked up
to say hello. I know John from Bell Labs and Monmouth Boat Club from
maybe the 1970s. He retired a few years ago to a house off the
Pinehurst #6 course, and we visited him and his wife Pat last year. I
had email John that we would be in town, but didn't know whether he had
seen the message. Anyway, he was our third for the round.
We had a wonderful time playing Pine Needles. As Brent has already
said, it's a great course, one of Donald Ross' best designs. Tough, but
very playable at any skill level. My skill level was very low for most
of this vacation, but I was still losing fewer balls than I was
finding, and only picked up once all weekend. More important, it was a
fun experience, not a hang-on-for-dear life as I felt at Longaberger or
Iron Valley. At the other end of the skill scale, this course
has seen two US Women's Opens in the past decade, and the feeling at
both was that the course was a real challenge.
The opening hole is a par-5, and during the time we could be seen from
clubhouse we looked like pros. Our
drives were all in the right side of the fairway on the rightward
left of the sand trap. Our second shots were tightly
grouped at the 100-yard marker -- perfect layups. After that, it
started to fall apart; our long winter's lack of play (or even
practice) tended to show. One sparkling exception was Terry's approach
his hickory-shafted high wedges. They are Callaways, a sand wedge and a
lob wedge. From inside about 80 yards, Terry can throw the ball way up
in the air, and have it land dead near the hole. It was absolutely
amazing to watch him execute this shot the first three rounds. After
that, he proved mortal and missed a few of them. And, except for
Sunday, his putting was
really good. When he stuck those wedge shots, he
finished the up-and-down.
The last hole at Pine Needles is a beauty. It's a long, downhill par-4
that bends left the whole way. In the evening, it plays into the
setting sun. Lots of mounding and bunkers around a deceptive green
(hey, it is a Donald Ross
course). What a way to finish a day of golf -- and we did twice,
Thursday and Saturday.
After our round, we drove back to the airport to pick up the wallet. We
had supper on the way back, at Gypsy's Shiny Diner in Cary. I guess
this would be a good time to recount the food experiences:
But back to the golf! (After all, we wouldn't have traveled all those
miles for restaurants.) Friday we had the first tee time at Mid-Pines.
Good thing, too. The second group out -- in carts -- was a lot slower.
No, carts do not speed up
play, as some
money-grubbing courses would have you believe. But Mid-Pines and Pine
Needles is not among them. They charge a flat rate for the golf. You
can ride, carry, or pull. They'll even supply a pull-cart for you. On
Thursday, Pine Needles ran out of pull carts before they ran out of
riding carts. They had to send across the road to Mid-Pines for one,
they delivered it to us on the second tee; a ranger drove out with it.
- First and foremost has to be John and Pat Brewster's grill. For
two years in a row, this was the gustatorial high point of the trip.
The visit and the company really made the evening, but the food was --
like last year -- marvelous.
- Theo's Taverna, a Greek restaurant in Pinehurse Village, was as
good as we remembered from last year.
- Cafe Vesuvio, an Italian restaurant in Sanford, which produced
good food in a very short time when we were in a hurry.
- Gypsy's Shiny Diner in Cary. I remember the chili as being good
from last year. The grilled chicken salad was good this year. They
serve an interesting chocolate-peanut-butter milkshake that is very
good -- but $5 for a milkshake?!
- I already mentioned Mac's Breakfast Anytime. It's now
a chain of six reastuarants in the area. We sampled two during our
the best place in the area to go for breakfast.
- The breakfast buffet at the Comfort Inn was distinctly
uninspired. Usually I like breakfast buffets; can't say I cared much
for this one.
But I digress! Terry and I finished in four hours flat, or maybe a bit
less. I finally put together a few good shots in a row, especially on
the short (450-yard) par-5 fifth hole. There is a lake starting 140
yards from the green and continuing to about 50 yards in front. My new
driver (a Vector head and SK Fiber shaft) almost put the ball in the
lake; I was hitting my second shot from 155, for a 295-yard drive.
(Downhill helped; strong headwind hurt.) And the starter told us the
course was soft and playing long. I put a 7-iron in the back bunker
(that's driver/seven-iron on a par-5), and almost got the up-and-down;
the birdie putt lipped out. That hole was definitely one of the
high points of the trip for me.
As we approached the 18th green, Brent Hutto walked out to the fairway
to greet us. He had driven up from Columbia that morning, and would
play with us for the rest of the weekend. We had a fun round in the
afternoon, finishing in about four hours again.
Mid-Pines is a fairly compact course (certainly compared to the other
two courses we played). There are lots of places where several holes
come together, and plenty of parallel holes separated by a few pines.
On the other courses (Pine Needles and Legacy), on most holes you
think you're on the only hole in the world. Other differences
from Pine Needles is the length of various types of holes. At
Mid-Pines, the par-fives are all pretty short, but the par-fours and
many par-threes make up for it. Of course, the common denominator is
the touch of Donald Ross around the greens. A couple of reminiscences
For Saturday, we had scheduled two rounds at Pine Needles. We were
paired with a fourth, a guy from Indiana named Joe. Good golfer, and he
fit right in with our mood and tempo. Also, unlike almost everybody
else out there Saturday, Joe was walking. We didn't feel like it was
slow, but it took us a little over four and a half hours. We weren't
pushing anybody, but nobody was pushing us either. There was a group of
cart-golfers right behind us on the first hole, and we left them a
couple of holes behind over the course of the round.
- I can't count the number of times that one or another of us had a
putt robbed by the ghost of Donald Ross. A putt would track to the
hole, then start to break away from it a few feet away -- and miss by
- I feel like I spent most of the weekend in sand traps. Got lots
of practice on long bunker shots, short-sided bunker shots, bunker
shots out of pits so deep you can't see the surface of the green (I
almost holed one on Saturday, and had no idea until I emerged from the
bunker and Brent and Terry told me), fairway bunker shots, ad nauseaum.
One of the high points of the round was Brent's drive on #18. Terry,
Joe, and I all hit pretty good drives in the fairway. But Brent's was
dead center of the fairway, and 20-30 yards past us.
Looking at our time for the morning round, we didn't expect to finish
18 in the afternoon. But we did, and with about 20-30 minutes to spare
before it got really dark. We bounced through that round in under four
hours, as almost the only people on the course. Joe didn't wait for us
to get organized; he just took off as a single after the first round,
so he was out there, finishing maybe four holes ahead of us. I know
there was a group of cart-golfers about three holes behind us, but they
gave up long before we finished. So we pretty much had the whole course
We played a skins game. Terry said, "Let's make it interesting; how
about ten thousand a skin?" No takers, so he added, "Argentinian pesos,
of course." Maybe Terry knew that was still astronomical, but we
proceeded as if it were pennies. We ended almost all even anyway, with
Terry and I with 4 skins each and Brent with 3.
On Sunday, we played The Legacy in Aberdeen south of Pinehurst. John
Brewster had mentioned it as a better course than Talamore, which had
been our Plan A. It's a design by Jackie Nicklaus; afterwards, Terry
said it really was "Nicklaus Lite".
- Terry got his skins in a bunch. He had a burst of three
consecutive skins in the middle of the round.
- Brent came on late, skinning the last two holes to nearly catch
- I kind of spread things out, and even won a skin with a
double-bogey on a hard hole (#15) that we made look a lot harder than
it really is.
You've already heard Brent's description. I'm not quite as negative
about the day as Brent, for several reasons. First of all, I just got
away from a cold, snowy New Jerseay (and yes, it did snow here today
again). I think almost any goat track in the weather we had would have
elicited a positive
response from me. But Legacy is also a pretty and a very playable
have no complaints on that score.
But it is an ordinary course, as Brent mentioned, not as novel
and challenging as Pine Needles. And, worst of all, it was really
designed for carts, not for walking. A few hints:
The round lasted about five and a half hours. No, it wasn't because we
were walking. It was the usual Sunday crowd at an "upscale public
access" course. There was a shotgun start about an hour before we
started. (That usually spells "scramble"... which in turn usually
spells five and a half hours anyway.) The skill level of the golfers
was certainly questionable. For instance, the second hole is a par-3
from a considerably elevated tee, with a lake to the right; the hole is
165 yards, and the first 80 of that is over marshland. The group in
front of us was playing from the blues. The best shot they had was far
enough right to bounce into the lake. Their other shots didn't carry
- I can only think of one green-to-tee walk that was less than 100
- All those long walks were on paved cartpath, which eventually
gets painful in
softspikes. Nicklaus left little walkable turf alongside the
- I asked for a pull-cart at the sign-in desk, and they said they
didn't have any. So I carried. Terry and Brent drove to Pinehurst, and
they had their three-wheelers with them.
- The starter was surprised (shocked, I tell you, shocked) that the
desk had sold us tickets to walk the course. Frankly, I don't remember
making it perfectly clear at the desk that we were walking; my
requesting a pull cart should have been enough, but in
retrospect.... Anyway, we just said, "Yes, they said we could
I played my best -- or at least my most consistent -- golf of the
weekend on Sunday. I scratched out an even bogey round of 90. Got a
birdie during that time, and limited my "dreaded others" much better
than earlier in the weekend. A few memorable holes:
After the round, we ran a few errands, stopped for an Italian supper in
Sanford, then back to the airport. I took off for NJ, and Terry turned
the car toward Ohio.
- The ninth (actually the 18th; we played the back nine first) is a
worthy and interesting challenge: a long par-4 up a hill and down the
other side, with a pinched landing area at the top of the hill. The
last 100 yards is a lake (currently dried up; their dam is broken or
something). Terry and I decided to go for the green on our second
shots, and fell just short. Brent played the hole smart, laid up, and
made an easy 5 -- which would have gotten the skin if we were playing
- The eleventh is a fairly long par-5, that looks very open and
trouble-free. But when you take a second look, there is no rough --
waste areas down both sides of the fairway. Yes, the fairway is
generous, but don't miss it. I did, and was left with a 100-yard
"fairway bunker" shot with sand all the way to the green.
- The seventeenth is a short over-the-hill par-4. You have to tee
off with a shorter club; a driver will leave you in a giant waste area
where the fairway runs out. The green is shallow, and you'll have a
full PW into it from where the fairway ends. Terry and I both hit nice
approach shots there.
- On the back nine, I finally managed a couple of
Terry-like high wedges. Had exactly 100 yards to the hole, and my sand
wedge is my 100-yard club. The ball landed about a foot from the pin,
and rolled by to leave me just a three-foot putt. (Yes, I made it.)
Then a few holes later, I was in the rough just 15 yards off the
green. I had short-sided myself to a pin only three paces on. A runner
was out of the question; the rough was deep and grabby, and the green
elevated a foot or two. I opened up my lob wedge quite a lot and took a
full swing. The ball went almost straight up, landed "like a sack of
potatoes", and sort of loafed up to the pin. Just missed the hole, and
stopped a foot beyond it.
The best thing about the weekend? Hard to say. The prime candidates are:
- The weather. It was short-sleeve weather the whole weekend,
except after the sun disappeared.
- The two fine Donald Ross courses.
- The company -- enjoyed it, Brent, Terry, John and Pat!