Mid South Club -- The King's Crown Jewel in Pinehurst

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Kevin Gaydosh

PINEHURST, NC – When you’re Arnold Palmer – and your nickname is “The King” – it would only be natural for folks to talk about a crown jewel.

Since Palmer is known for his golf course designs as well as his fabulous playing career (and let’s not even talk about his celebrity), there’s going to be speculation about which of his multitude of creations is his “best.”

The 180-yard, par three 3rd hole is rated the easiest at Mid South. Take advantage of it.

For John McDougald (Director of Golf at Talamore/Mid South), there’s no doubt in his mind: Mid South Club is the King’s masterpiece: “I don’t think there’s any question, especially for people who know a little bit about golf – when they get done here, they know they’ve truly played one of Palmer’s treasures.”

“In my opinion, it’s the best golf course that the Palmer group ever did. There’s no gimmick, it’s true to the tradition of the area, and it’s a great addition to have Palmer’s name on a great golf course,” McDougald added.

Such certainty is always refreshing, and thankfully, Mid South makes a pretty good case to back up McDougald’s boast. Construction on the golf course began in 1988, and (after the property exchanged hands) it opened in 1993, as Pinehurst Plantation. From that point on, the Club went through several more ownerships until 2004, when Talamore Golf Partners acquired the layout and built the amenities, including the beautiful clubhouse.

You can lay-up on the approach shot to the par four 16th hole, but you cannot bail out.

The name was changed to Mid South in 2002, by the property’s previous owner. According to McDougald, ‘Mid South’ has its own connotations. “The Sandhills area used the name ‘Mid South’ to promote the region, starting in the fifties. It wasn’t quite the deep south, and for those vacationers who weren’t going all the way to Florida, it was kind of a mid-point.”

“It stayed that way for a number of years until sometime in the 70’s. ‘Mid South’ then started to disappear as a name that represents the region, but there are still some license plates around that say ‘Welcome to the Mid South’ – it refers to the CVB promoting the area,” McDougald added.

I first saw the course in 2000, when it was still ‘Pinehurst Plantation,’ and had always wondered why the name was changed. McDougald explained that it had to do with a legal dispute over the name ‘Pinehurst,’ and now, only courses associated with the famous resort are allowed to use the town’s name in their monikers.

Trees and bunkers frame the tee shot landing area on the par five 4th hole.

Even without the term, you can’t help but think of ‘Pinehurst’ as you make a trip around the Mid South Club. And true to its membership in the early nineties genre of golf courses, everything at Mid South is BIG, including the pines that are so closely associated with this region of the country.

That ‘big’ theme is found in just about all playing aspects – big greens, big fairways, big bunkers, big lakes – and in some areas, big rocks (like those fronting the ninth and eighteenth greens). Arnold Palmer (and his design partner, the late Ed Seay, who spent an extensive amount of time onsite) always seeks to make a visual impression on the players, and Mid South is certainly no exception.

Once again, the “jewel” shines brightly.

The par three 17th hole looks benign enough from the tee, but the tricky green spares no one.

The course is also woven into a residential area, though the ‘big’ setbacks give the layout a lot of breathing room. I can scarcely think of a community golf setting that feels more isolated than Mid South. No wonder the members like it so well (Mid South is a private club, though guests of the resort can play it).

Despite the more than ample ‘big’ playing areas, the course is far from a pushover in the scoring sense, however. “The most difficult aspect of playing Mid South is probably the tee shot,” McDougald expounded. “It is truly a big golf course, so it’s asking a lot in terms of locating the golf ball off the tee. It’s not just a bang it and go find it golf course. Mid South actually asks you to put on your thinking cap. And you definitely don’t want your first swing of the day to be on the first tee.”

Unfortunately for us, our first swing was on the first tee (there are excellent warm-up and practice facilities there, so it’s nobody’s fault but our own). You’ll quickly discover that McDougald is right – you’ll want to pick your spot and hit it on each hole. Otherwise, trouble will find you. You could get caught up in the extremely wide corridors and forget that the hazards are there for a reason.

The small target on the approach shot of the par four 5th hole makes it rate the toughest on the front nine.

A good example of the need for strategy is the par four second hole, a dogleg right with an inviting lake to that side and plenty of room to the center and left. The water shouldn’t even come into play, but McDougald says people get way too caught up in trying to cut the dogleg (which used to be protected by more trees until a tornado blew through), and half the people leave golf balls in the lake.

We left some of ours are in there, too. Play the safe shot – to the wide section – and you’ll save a ball’s life. But even then, there’s sand waiting on either side of the fairway if you get greedy.

And don’t make the task harder than it has to be by stretching out to the full yardage (7003 yards) from the tips – move a set of tees forward from where you think you can play. “The course is big but it really isn’t overwhelming,” McDougald said. “We have several sets of tees, and the play-it-forward mentality is always here. We tell people to move forward to a comfortable set of tees – and when you get too many under par, back up.”

Ring this bell when the fairway is clear on the par four 8th hole -- just another nice personal touch at Mid South.

“It always works, because nobody ever backs up.”

For those not heeding McDougald’s advice, Mid South can be a real struggle, particularly on the holes with carries into the green (aka, the water holes). Palmer loves risk-reward holes with water (pick any of his designs, and you’ll always find some greens where you’ll need to fly the wet stuff). These shots are never insurmountable unless you don’t get enough distance off your drive to put you in good shape for the approach shot.

The par three sixth hole is indicative of how Palmer uses water to intimidate and entice you at the same time. It’s not long – only 164-yards from the back tees – but even from the forward tees (104-yards), it’s all carry. “You either make it or you don’t,” McDougald described. “For the ladies, it’s not an extremely long carry, but it’s still an impact hole. You know you have to get the ball airborne, you know you have to fly it to the green. And that’s why people remember the hole so well.”

This bunker does not come into play on the par four 14th hole, but it points you in the right direction.

Some would call it a “signature” hole, and there are several at Mid South that would qualify for the term. But according to Brandon Johnson (of Arnold Palmer Course Design), there’s never any attempt on behalf of the ‘King’ to isolate one hole in such a way.

“Our goal with each project is to design 18 golf holes that are aesthetically beautiful while strategically challenging and fun to play. In the end, we hope each player will make their own determination on what is their favorite or ‘Signature’ hole.”

Other holes you’ll likely remember include the par five ninth, a beautiful risk-reward gem that defines the term. The tee shot is to a more-than-generous fairway that suggests you hug the left side. Most people will probably lay-up on the second shot – but for those giving it a go, it’s a fairway wood over water to a green fronted by rocks. You’ll also be shooting right in front of the clubhouse deck, so your attempt will either be met with appreciative applause – or sympathetic silence.

Palmer mixed a wealth of elements to create the beautiful par three 6th hole.

Another unique feature of the ninth hole is its enormous green, which it shares with the par four eighteenth hole. It’s visually stunning, and Mid South’s most memorable panoramic view.

On the back nine, the long par four twelfth hole is one you won’t forget – for its looks as well as its difficulty. “It’s pure Pinehurst golf – pine trees down both sides, a great tee shot and a long iron, that’s how you’re going to play the hole. It is Pinehurst at its simplest, yet it’s Pinehurst that you remember. Tall pine trees, a lot of grass between the tee and the green. You just go play. You could put that hole on any great golf course in the area, and it wouldn’t be out of place,” McDougald said.

The devilish par three seventeenth hole will also reach out and grab you. Again, McDougald tells why: “You’re just about to finish, and you think the end is near, and then we throw an impossible par three at you. It’s an uphill shot with no bailout areas and a very severe green – so even when you feel fortunate that you’ve hit the green, the battle’s not over.”

The long par four 12th hole is vintage Pinehurst, with pine trees on both sides and a lot of ground between you and the flagstick.

“There’s no way to win that hole – you just want to get by it and survive. Depending on the time of year, it’s how you play it – it’s not a hole you have to think your way through.”

The lack of thought necessary on the seventeenth is the exception rather than the rule at Mid South – keep that in mind.

But as a total golf experience, there are few better than Mid South – in Pinehurst, or anywhere else. As McDougald said earlier, it encompasses the spirit of the area while presenting a very player-friendly layout.

Impress everyone watching from the clubhouse above by making a birdie on the par five 9th hole.

No doubt, a good candidate to be ‘the’ jewel in Arnold Palmer’s golf design crown.

Where We Stayed – The Lodges at Mid South

Golf isn’t the only thing at Mid South, as the good folks there offer accommodations that have all the comforts of home – and a darn nice home at that.

Coming home on the par four 18th hole. Pure serenity. Pure Pinehurst.

John McDougald explains the thinking behind the Lodges at Mid South – which were just about the complete package when it comes to taking golf “on the road.”

“Talamore Golf partners… when we came to the area in the early 90’s, one thing we didn’t want to do was impact our neighbors. We didn’t want to try and challenge what Pinehurst does, because they do it extremely well. We didn’t want to do what Pine Needles does – they do a wonderful job.

“We wanted to have our own niche. And we found our niche to be condos as opposed to hotel rooms. We found our niche to be, people staying with us, cooking their own food or going to dinner, making it more of a longer term, more permanent, kind of a ‘stay.’

The view from the deck of the Mid South Lodges is as beautiful as the inside.

“It’s a wonderful thing, and some of our greatest growth of late has been long-term stays. As we get into the fall, it’s Canadians and people in the northeast who aren’t able to retire for whatever reason and are taking the opportunity to come down for month at a time, and enjoy the area and have accommodations that are comfortable to the point where you can live in them without concern.”

Without concern is an understatement. The condos are extremely well appointed with Jacuzzi tubs, full kitchens (with stainless steel appliances, no less), more-than-generous living areas and tiled floors.

You won’t want to go home. As if the golf wasn’t great enough, the Lodges at Mid South will make you love the Pinehurst area even more.

For more information on the Lodges at Mid South, consult the website: http://www.talamoregolfresort.com/


Mid South Club
Midland Road
Southern Pines, NC

Golf Packages: (800) 552-6292
Pro Shop: (910) 695-3193

Course Designer: Arnold Palmer (Ed Seay)
Director of Golf: John McDougald


Gold                7003    140/73.9
Blue                 6607    131/71.5
White              6200    125/69.7          141/76.4 (W)
Green              5655    117/67.5          136/72.8 (W)
Red                 4773    117/68.6


Mid South is a private club, though guests of the Talamore Golf Resort can play it.

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