Some Canadians were saying last season that they find buzzing from the snow banks of the Dominion to the sunlands of Florida too abrupt a change. They favor stopping, like a diver in a pressure chamber, in the mid-South, a sort of halfway house in the Carolinas decorated with hounds, horses and golf holes.
Pinehurst and Southern Pines, two favorite places for those seeking to avoid the winter bends, begin to function after the northern spas have nailed up the last shutter and before the Florida and southwest rookeries have taken off theirs.
Located athwart the trough worn by auto travelers shuttling between the northeast and Florida, Pinehurst and Southern Pines nestle in the Carolina Sandhills, a strange topographical enclave once said to have been the bottom of the ocean floor. The odd sandy soil dries quickly, heats rapidly under the Carolina sun, cools quickly with the sunset and nurtures long-leaf pine trees—all of which makes Pinehurst and Southern Pines a fine tweedy place to be on the beach. The day's highs of October average 75°, of November 64°, providing a tonic for both man and beast. Both come to enjoy it.
The difference between them, they like to say down here, is that Southern Pines is horses and golf, Pinehurst is golf and horses. There is more to it than that. Southern Pines is one long informal street lined by magnolia trees and the tracks of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Pinehurst is a large, formal, selective resort begun by James Tufts, a Boston soda fountain manufacturer, and laid out by the Olmsteds, who among other arbors designed Central Park and the grounds of the Capitol. Southern Pines has five generals, three golf courses, Miss Eleonora R. Sears (who arrives from Beacon Hill in her private railroad car) and Adlai Stevenson's sister. Pinehurst has nine generals, one of whom is George Marshall, four golf courses, five hotels and John Marquand.
Besides people, some 500 horses winter in the Sandhills each year. Southern Pines trains steeplechasers, and on mornings, beginning in November, visitors can watch the vaulters taking the jumps. The season culminates in The Steeplechase, a 10-event competition in March held on the farm of Mickey Walsh, one of the country's leading steeplechase trainers. From Southern Pines the jumpers are off to Camden, S.C. for the Gold Cup, then on to Virginia, and so up to Belmont, Monmouth and Saratoga.
Pinehurst specializes in harness racers. In the early fall the trotters come down from the northeast, stay limber on the three training tracks until spring. New colts up from Kentucky start from scratch in the fall, ship out in April as fledgling trotters.
But golf is the big news. With its four courses and its corps of 300 to 400 caddies, some of whom have been shagging balls there for 40 years, Pinehurst is logging 500 rounds a day in November. By spring 700 golfers a day are teeing off, some of them as early as 7:30 in the morning.
Such an inopportune deterrent as nightfall is no real problem, since Southern Pines' Hillendale course offers a nine-hole layout (longest hole: 130 yards) completely floodlit. And when it rains players can still whack the balls over the sodden sand hills, driving from the protection of an all-weather shelter.
To house its golfers and its horsy set Southern Pines has three hotels and five motor courts. Its newest motel, to be ready for the approaching season, will have not only a swimming pool but a putting green and practice traps. The Pine Needles Club (operated by Peggy Kirk Bell, 1950 Eastern Amateur Champion, and her husband) offers rooms and meals to men only at $16.50 a day, a tariff which includes the greens fee. Less athletic types install themselves at the Hollywood, which wasn't named after Hedda Hopperville but after the woods, which are full of holly. It is a white clapboard building with magnolia trees on the lawn and girt with a porch where the residents rock between the tinkles of the dinner bell, which calls them to a typical New England (and typical mid-South) Cuisine—liver for breakfast, blueberry muffins and such. Since no liquor is served over the bar in the Sandhills, dinner stands the best chance of showing up boiled.
A five-mile highway divided by an island of pines and a carpet of brown-needle broadloom separates Southern Pines and Pinehurst. Roughly midway between them, cuddled in a grove of tall pines, is the Mid-Pines Club, a pleasant enough inn of white board and red brick, banked with evergreen shrubs. In the back of the house dawdlers can lounge on the terrace, surrounded—in season of course—by azaleas, camellias and the dogwood huddling under the pines, and watch the golfers start and finish. The lovely course breaks away in soft green rolls immediately under the bedroom windows. Julius Boros is pro.
In Pinehurst, The Carolina, big, yellow and white and crowned with a red cupola, opens September 30. There is a riding ring on the lawn, dancing in the ballroom every night, and on the American plan it gets anywhere from $13 to $32 for a single with bath, depending upon the location, the size and the season. The Carolina management has it all figured out that you could probably stay around the place playing golf for six months on less than life would cost at home. They break it down like this.
Small and homey is the 90-room Holly Inn, which has no music or entertainment but a gentle air, red brick walks, azalea bushes and holly trees planted by the original Mrs. Tufts. Rates here run from $9 to $18 single. Three other smaller hotels not owned by the Pinehurst combine are also on the premises. Besides these arrangements there are a number of cottages available for seasonal rental strung out along the golf courses and tucked under the pines. A two-bedroom layout can be had for about $250 a month, but they expect you to take it for the season, which is three to five months.
Seaboard Air Line Railroad puffs, as I say, into the middle of southern Pines, making the run from New York overnight. By air you can fly to Raleigh, 70 miles away, and hire a car. Or Piedmont, a feeder airline, comes in from Charlotte from October to May, landing its DC-3s at Southern Pines. On a turf runway, naturally.
"I'll watch out for cops. You keep your eyes peeled for radar equipment."
board and room, 2 people, Nov. 1-April 30
tips to hotel employees
season dues for 2, Pinehurst Country Club
golf balls and caddies for 300 rounds of golf