The Pinehurst area of North Carolina has long been renowned for its bountiful offering of championship golf. But other factors such as a temperate four-season climate, wide variety of interesting activities, cutting-edge restaurants and a comfortable place to rest at the end of the day have combined to make the Sandhills a true, year-round destination.
By Brad King
If we know one thing about Canadians, there is a good possibility they will be travelling south around January and February. Last winter, parts of Canada experienced minus-35 degree weather. Not to mention gasoline prices; After they hit the U.S. boarder, Canadians are typically paying about 40 percent less at the pumps than they were in Canada.
If there’s another thing about which we can be reasonably confident, the Canadians will be packing their golf clubs. Canada has one of the highest per capita golfing demographic in the world — one out of five Canucks play the game — and golfers tend to inhabit the higher demographic that can afford to travel.
Widely hailed as “The Home of American Golf,” Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen N.C., have become an immensely attractive Canadian stopping point for these reasons and others.
Start with more than 40 championship courses — from classic Donald Ross designs to other architects like Nicklaus, Palmer, Stranz, Fazio, Maples and more — in close proximity around the fertile Sandhills region of the Tar Heel State.
In 2014, Pinehurst No. 2 was the site of historic back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open Championships, won by Martin Kaymer and Michelle Wie, and the United States Golf Association (USGA) recently tapped No. 2 as the site of the 2024 U.S. Open Championship.
Prior to the 2024 U.S. Open, Pinehurst will host the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship, adding to the list of prestigious championships that have been contested in the area. “Pinehurst has elevated itself to one of the great and historic places in golf in this country,” said USGA President Thomas O’Toole Jr. “Some say it’s our St. Andrews. It is certainly something special.”
Next, consider the area’s wide variety of lodging options — including the world-renowned Pinehurst resort, as well as national chain hotels and motels, bed & breakfast’s, and condominiums and private home rentals. Then there’s the temperate Sandhills climate, allowing golf to be enjoyed 12 months a year, while another deciding factor for Canadians is that Pinehurst is closer to reach than places such as Myrtle Beach.
Of course, if there is one other thing we know about our Canadian friends coming south for the winter, they like to eat and drink — yet another reason why its bourgeoning culinary reputation has made the Sandhills particularly attractive of late, offering dining options ranging from the best fish and chips in the Southeast to premium steaks, wine selections, craft beer and more.
Indeed, all the latest foodie crazes are represented around the Pinehurst region.
For those who love their beer — and Canadians definitely love their beer — The Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen was opened in 2010 by Mike Ratkowski, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, and Brian Evitts, who served in the Navy. Jeremy Reynolds, an Air Force C-130 pilot at Pope Army Airfield, has also joined the company.
Meanwhile, Micah Niebauer, John Brumer and Jason Ginos started the Southern Pines Brewing Company in 2013 after each served about 10 years in the Army. Although they are friendly competitors, given their similar military influences, The Railhouse and Southern Pines Brewing Co. are constantly working on ways they can collaborate together.
“Both breweries were started by young veterans retiring from the military and looking to start their businesses in the Sandhills,” said Claire Berggren, director of marketing for the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen-area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“(The breweries are) a tribute to the Pinehurst area’s connection to Fort Bragg and the military,” Berggren said. “Their owner’s have taken all the traveling they did — Germany and places like that, trying beers around the world — and they are bringing the flavors and nuances back home. It’s been great for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
Also gaining popularity among beer lovers are “growlers,” which have been around for more than a century having started out as small buckets filled with draft beer, carried by “growler boys.” Today, growlers also help promote recycling. According to the New York Times, growlers will be responsible for over 1 billion less bottles and cans going into landfills.
Southern Pines Growler Company is Moore County’s first dedicated, single purpose growler fill station. Boasting a selection of 30 specialty craft beers on tap at all times, the store emphasizes the best craft beers from North Carolina’s own breweries along with a mix of highly rated national and international beers — a dedicated place where fresh craft beer is sold in a distinctive package, at a competitive price and in an environmentally friendly way.
Then there is the Sly Fox, a restaurant in Southern Pines that pays homage to the “gastropub” — a term combining “pub” and “gastronomy” that was coined in London in 1991 and concentrates on quality food influenced by gastronomically significant regions of Europe, notably France and the Mediterranean. The concept reinvigorated both pub culture and British dining.
The Sly Fox Pub’s opening signifies a new beginning in Chef/Owner Mark Elliott’s career as he realizes his long time dream of capitalizing on the success of his opus, Elliott’s on Linden in Pinehurst. Originally from England, Elliott and his staff have worked tirelessly to faithfully create the perfect public house for the masses in the Sandhills and beyond.
“Many of the local, independently owned restaurants use local sourcing for their products,” said Berggren. “This is very popular for ‘foodies.’”
Complementing the variety of golfing, dining and lodging options, each Sandhills town has its own unique vibe for shopping, as well: Cameron is a town full of antique shops; Southern Pines is known for boutiques and many food options; and for pottery lovers, there are more than 100 potters located in Seagrove.
The four seasons, a wide variety of outstanding golf, interesting activities, great food, and a comfortable place to rest at the end of the day — all combine to make the Sandhills region of North Carolina a true, year-round destination.
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