Pinehurst Weekend Planner

With the U.S. Open kicking off on Thursday in Pinehurst, we asked Kea Capel, editor of the just-launched TSG: Pinehurst, to walk us through a quick trip to her city. Here’s her guide to enjoying Pinehurst like an insider:

The Village of Pinehurst and its equestrian neighbor, Southern Pines, were both founded on the notion that man prospered intellectually, socially and physically when offered the proper tools: golf, a good horse, a better dog and a full social calendar. At this exact moment, the entire region is buffing and fluffing the tools of its trade in anticipation of historic back-to-back Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open Golf Championships. The famed Pinehurst No. 2 course, which will be played by the world’s best golfers beginning June 12, has been restored to its original Donald Ross design. In nearby Southern Pines and Aberdeen, shaded cafe tables are lining the street, window boxes are overflowing with color, bands are booked, local specialties prepared, and party invitations have been delivered.

These locals excel at having good old fashioned fun. Think Nick and Nora Charles, martinis straight up, elegant, casual, intellectual, good humored and crazy in love with their land. The surrounding pine forests, among the 10 most endangered ecosystems on the planet, whisper like an ocean with early summer breezes keeping temperatures from the mid-60s at night to the mid-80s during the day. Drawn to the sporting life, from golf to shooting to fox hunting, and to the celebrations that follow, locals here raise the bar on event-appropriate dressing. They turn out. Herein I give you my best tips on looking the part and enjoying the life “in the ‘Pines.”

DAY 1, 4:00 p.m.: Strolling the Village of Pinehurst takes you by original cottages built by the Tufts family beginning in 1895 for their wealthy friends stopping through Pinehurst for the social season. The narrow lanes of the Village are tree-covered and perfectly preserved, with traditional sand and brick paths originally designed by Federick Law Olmstead. The Carolina Hotel, part of the Pinehurst Resort, is southern comfort in the most traditional sense. Deep porches are lined with white Kennedy rockers, overlooking a lush lawn shaded by towering magnolia trees. Best to catch your breath here with a frosty mint julep while you take in the historic photos and archives showcased in the lobby of the hotel.

5:30 p.m.: Heading east from the hotel through the main shopping district of the Village of Pinehurst, you’ll fall in step behind the locals as they end their work week at the Pine Crest Inn.  It is simply not a golf weekend without a stop for cocktails at this historic inn. It begins on the porch with a strong gin and tonic and continues inside late into the night. Tradition dictates those left standing in the lobby putt, chip or drive golf balls into the open fireplace.

7:30 p.m.: Local food is a passion in these parts, with cheese, produce and meats sourced from nearby farms and prepared by chefs who hail from all over the world. The area has attracted young cooks for years thanks to a vibrant Culinary Arts program, turning out talent committed to building their future here. A quick drive down tree-lined Midland Road to Southern Pines will put you at the doorstep of several terrific restaurants. Ashten’s award-winning cuisine features one of my favorites, the Cheerwine-brined pork chop over a green chili and bacon mash.

9:30 p.m.: The country’s best bluegrass, jazz and back porch music can be heard every week at The Rooster’s Wife in Aberdeen, a 10-minute jaunt south from Southern Pines. Founded by Janet Kenworthy to celebrate the performing arts and renew local interest in live music, The Rooster’s Wife is a laid back, happy and inspiring place to nurture your newfound southern soul. The Rail House Brewery, a gold medal-winning local brew pub, supplies the beer, so tip back in that chair, loosen your belt and tap your toes. You are among friends.

DAY 2, 9:00 a.m.: Lace up your walking shoes, grab a strong coffee and drive east through Sandhills Hunt Country to see for yourself why the elite of the horse world call this home.  The Walthour-Moss Foundation preserves 4,000 acres of spectacular longleaf pine ecosystem surrounding our local horse farms. The Foundation is open every day from sunrise to sunset and is crisscrossed with trails for walking, horseback riding or carriage tours.  On the way back in to town, walk in the footsteps of Zelda Fitzgerald at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, home of The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, and once the country estate of the Boyd family. The home was the preferred destination of literary greats like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald, and is considered the birthplace of Southern Pines style: celebration, culture, the sporting life and preservation of our land. The oldest longleaf pine in the world is within the estate’s grounds, where trails lead you through formal gardens, open meadows and dense forest.

12:00 p.m.: Eating on the porch is as popular as pimento cheese in these parts, and at The Villager Deli, it’s as neighborly as a warm smile. Smack in the middle of Pinehurst, The Villager builds each sandwich and salad to order, with southern specialties that keep it a favorite of locals. Terrific shopping can be had right next door at Magnolia 61. Original art, exclusive linens, and high end luxury brands are all featured in a lovely and casual setting.

3:00 p.m.: The Spa at Pinehurst, tucked beneath the magnolia trees in the center of town, has world class facilities and treatments, so I happily drift in to their caring arms for a few hours of bliss. They had me at “scalp massage,” and the Pinehurst Facial makes me just plain giddy. Wrapped in their oversized terry robe, I’d strongly recommend a slow re-entry by the pool (nap time).

6:30 p.m.: Chef Mark Elliott has led the local food movement in Pinehurst at his eponymous Elliotts on Linden. Try a chilled rosé from the wine bar and stroll through his herb garden out back. Attached to the restaurant is Elliott’s Provision Company, a favorite source for heritage meats, local cheeses and specialties. There is also a kitchen shop and art gallery. The dining room atmosphere is rustic yet elegant and perfectly comfortable, and the Chicken Porchetta is swoon-inducing, as is the local Rack of Lamb.

9:30 p.m.: Social165 glows with big city sophistication. Its ladylike atmosphere is alive with swanky jazz and dressy people. Let the gracious owner, Dawn Phillips, pour you a signature nightcap and tuck back into a banquet for the after-hours view of Pinehurst and its people.

DAY 3, 10:00 a.m.: Broad Street in Southern Pines is lined with boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants. One of the state’s best independent book stores, The Country Bookshop, is the cultural center of town, where you’ll see regulars stopping in for a quick visit with owner Kimberly Daniels. The Sunrise Theater, one block up, headlines art-house films, local theater productions, plus The Metropolitan Opera’s seasonal lineup via live simulcast. At a table outside of Betsy’s Crepes, savor one her popular brunch dishes and watch the parade of people and pets as they go for a late morning stroll in this most dog-friendly of towns.

In Pinehurst, preppy looks prevail in brightly colored shifts and tunics over tailored shorts or linen slacks. Golf and tennis attire is common and acceptable most anywhere during daylight hours. Strappy heels, flirty cocktail dresses and sport coats for men make up the dresscode at night. Locals shop the boutiques in town, like Monkee’s or Eloise (both have pop-ups in The Village of Pinehurst this summer) for designer exclusives, while men can count on resort classics at Gentlemen’s Corner, where color and pattern mix in unexpected ways.

{Sourced from TSG NC’s boutiques: Tunic from TSG: Pinehurst’s Eloise | Shorts from TSG: Wilmington’s Monkee’s of Wilmington | Sandals from TSG: Pinehurst’s Monkee’s of the Pines | Dress from TSG: Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill’s Vermillion | Bag from TSG: Charlotte’s Coral | Heels from TSG: Raleigh, Durham, & Chapell Hill’s Monkee’s of Raleigh}