Classic Courses: Mid Pines Golf Course

Donald Ross’s compact gem celebrates 100 years precisely as the architect built it

Mid Pines
8th hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

Amidst the abundance of beautifully constructed courses in the Sandhills of North Carolina rests a club that has stood the test of time without bowing to the pressures of the modern game.

Opened in 1921, Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club—five miles east of Pinehurst proper in Southern Pines—is best characterized by the stately 118-room, Georgian-style inn overlooking the property, from which the historic essence of early American golf oozes and stays throughout your round. Across Midland Road—known as the “Fifth Avenue of Golf” for the number of enchanting courses that line it—resides its better-known sister, Pine Needles, which opened six years later and in 2022 will be the first four-time host of the U.S. Women’s Open.

Bold but not overbearing, Mid Pines tops out at a comfortable 6,723 yards. Donald Ross designed it to be an undaunting, enjoyable walk that would encourage friendly competition for members and guests—and ease the abundance of traffic on the then-four Ross courses at the Pinehurst Resort.

The course has a renewed vigor thanks to a beautifully minimalistic restoration completed in 2013 by a 31-year-old Kyle Franz, who handled much of the labor on Pinehurst No. 2’s bunker and wire grass updates during its 2010 facelift led by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. He employed the same techniques on this, his first solo renovation project.

Mid Pines
2nd hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

Franz gave Mid Pines the famed “Tufts Archives treatment,” which is to say he found and used archival aerial photography to aid in touching up the groundwork Ross laid so many years ago. No dirt or sand was added, but the existing landscape was tinkered with—taking out all rough while digging expanded waste areas dotted with wire grass and removing some 400 trees to refresh the look and feel of the original design.

Praising the “pure Donald Ross” greens at Mid Pines, Franz called them some of the best in the world. However, the surfaces had shrunk over time and he restored them to their original shape and size while also upgrading the grass to MiniVerde Bermuda.

“The slightly crowned greens make for such fascinating recovery play, there are so many dips and hollows and interesting shots around the edges. What is really fascinating is you have to learn when and when not to miss a hole on a certain location—and it can change on each hole day to day,” he said.

Holes blend seamlessly into the landscape, folding back and weaving among each other to remind of shots already attempted and give glimpses of what lies ahead. There are moments that will prompt a flare for the dramatic, like the stretch from holes 4–6, which starts with a tempting 330-yard par four that deceives long hitters who don’t hit it straight and is followed by back-to-back par fives.

Mid Pines
18th hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

After a trademark-Ross long par three at the 13th, the course’s crescendo builds: a semi-blind uphill approach at the 14th; a reachable par-five 15th; sweeping doglegs left then right at 16 and 17.

The journey up the finishing hole—backdropped by the charming red-brick and white-sided inn—fills one with joie de vivre, which is sure to last as you recount your tour through yesteryear on the embracing clubhouse terrace.