When I think of a romantic weekend escape, I think of a boutique inn, secluded beach hideaways or upscale hotels in age-old European cities. I don’t think to myself: You know what would be romantic? A golf resort! But on a weekend adventure to Pinehurst, North Carolina, I discovered guy-friendly resorts are also places where couples can shoot for par for romance.
North Carolina Legend
Pinehurst has been a favorite resort for men with a passion for golf since the turn-of-the-20th-century. In 1895, Bostonian James Tufts (namesake of Tufts University) purchased 5,500 acres of North Carolina wasteland to develop into a beautiful retreat to focus on health. He asked his friend, famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Boston’s Emerald Necklace Greenway and New York’s Central Park, to create a New England home-away-from-home in the Deep South.
As a winter retreat, Pinehurst was developed with meandering streets just right for getting lost upon, as well as New England-styled cottages surrounded by acres of trees and flowers. It wasn’t until 1898, however, that the first of the resort’s many golf courses was built, in response to the numerous guests who were taking up a “new game” from Scotland.
Over the last 100+ years, Pinehurt’s golf courses have become synonymous with championship golf. But its relaxed Southern charm has also appealed to the rich and famous looking for a quiet retreat, including the Rockefellers, Bing Crosby, Michael Jordan and Opray Winfrey. On a historic note, even Amelia Earhart once landed her plane on the resort’s private airstrip. Pinehurst’s first inn, The Holly, features nearly 100 rooms and suites decorated in a Queen Anne Revival fashion with floral motif carvings and heart-of-pine floors. Meanwhile, the resort’s grand hotel, The Carolina, which opened its doors in 1901 with more than 200 rooms and suites, welcomes guests with a tree-lined driveway. The Carolina was quickly nicknamed the “Queen of the South” and the “White House of Golf.” The resort’s third and final hotel, The Manor, followed in 1923, featuring nearly 50 more rooms and a more casual style.
Considering this impressive history, and the fact the resort was named a national historic landmark in 1996, I was determined to find romance at Pinehurst. I’ll admit, I was skeptical — as were the many men I met during our stay. Guests and resort staff alike kept asking with a chuckle why we chose to visit Pinehurst for a little romance.
Our weekend began with a very late check-in. Arriving at night, we didn’t get to see the grandeur of Pinehurst right away, but our room at The Holly — chosen over The Carolina because it would be more intimate — was oversized with a king bed loaded with down pillows, a renovated bathroom right out of a Pottery Barn catalog and rocking chairs reminding us to slow down.
Saturday was reserved for my activities. We started with room service delivering breakfast in bed before heading over to the croquet lawns. This wasn’t a pickup game in the backyard over Labor Day weekend. Pinehurst actually has manicured croquet lawns and hosts international competitions.
After winning two games, we left Pinehurst to visit the nearby town of Southern Pines, which was hosting an annual Spring Fest. This small-town festival was right out of an old-fashioned movie: arts and crafts booths set up along the town’s Main Street railroad tracks and smiling folks serving down-home barbecue on red-and-white gingham tablecloths. I found a handmade straw hat for a $10 steal, and decided it was a necessary purchase to help me fit in with the Southern ladies strolling about.
After the mini shopping spree, we headed back to Pinehurst for the part of the trip I looked forward to the most: an afternoon in the resort’s 31,000-square-foot spa. We settled in on the verandah and had lunch delivered to us via room service in a picnic basket. We sipped lemonade while surrounded by azaleas. (You can pretty much have lunch delivered to you anywhere on the resort.)
Inside, we changed into ultra-soft cotton robes and met poolside to relax before our masseuses collected us for our individual treatments. Of the 40 treatments offered by The Spa at Pinehurst, ranging from massage to hydrotherapy to body treatments, we opted out of a couple’s massage for some private massages and facials.
Completely relaxed and rejuvenated, we took a stroll through the Village of Pinehurst for a little more shopping. This was the most disappointing part of our visit, as there were only a few boutiques and not really much in the way of shopping. So, we opted for another dose of romance and enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage ride through the residential areas of Pinehurst before an intimate dinner by candlelight at The Holly’s 1895 Room.
Sunday couldn’t start early enough for the “his day” portion of the weekend. We were scheduled for a golf lesson a short round of golf. We needed energy first, so we headed to The Carolina Dining Room for breakfast, and it was one of the largest and best buffets we’ve ever enjoyed. The grand dining area reminded me of old-fashioned resort dining rooms that I’ve often heard my grandparents wax nostalgic about.
Afterwards, we were off to the Learning Center at the Pinehurst member’s club for our golf lesson. While I couldn’t care less about my swing or the sport, my partner was thrilled to receive lessons from a golf pro at Pinehurst, evident by the radiant smile on his face the entire lesson. Before we could hit the greens, rain descended and put an end to our golf day: no golf was played while we stayed at Pinehurst. Such a bummer!
Still, it was a pleasant surprise to find a weekend with something we both loved. And, we have a list of golf resorts on our to-do list for future getaways.
Pinehurst Resort, Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina, www.pinehurst.com
Resorts on His List
Pebble Beach Resort, Pebble Beach, California
Ranked the No. 1 golf resort in the U.S. with courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean, choose to stay at the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Inn at Spanish Bay or Casa Palmero, and then enjoy the 22,000-square-foot, full-service spa. www.pebblebeach.com
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains is the stately Greenbrier with multiple championship courses, a relaxing spa, and accommodations ranging from estate guesthouses to guest rooms and suites. www.greenbrier.com
Manele Bay Hotel, Lana’i, Hawaii
Manicured links of Hawaiian Cliffs, check out the hotel’s “Challenge” course before winding down with a visit to the spa. www.manelebayhotel.com
Sea Island, Georgia
This intimate southern island resort has quiet the resume as one of the best courses in the country. Stay at The Cloister, the Lodge, Cabin Bluff or one of the island’s private cottages. www.seaisland.com