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St. Andrews vs. Pinehurst: How America's 'home of golf' stacks up

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Sundial Boy and Swilcan Bridge
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Pinehurst and St. Andrews are forever linked. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)

The link between St. Andrews Links and Pinehurst Resort is strong, beginning with Donald Ross, who came to Pinehurst in 1900 after studying under Old Tom Morris in St. Andrews and stayed until his death in 1948.

And in 2005, sand was ceremoniously placed from the Road Hole bunker into the 18th greenside bunker on Pinehurst No. 2.

The two are both among the game's most coveted destinations for the majors they host, and their pure golf atmosphere is impossible to duplicate.

It's a friendly rivalry, of course, but it's time for a showdown: Scotland's "Home of Golf" vs. the United States' most worthy contender.

Keep 'em up ...

Pinehurst vs. St. Andrews Tale of the tape

Pinehurst Resort golf courses: 8
St. Andrews Links Trust golf courses: 7

Golf courses in the Carolina Sandhills: 43 (estimated)
Golf courses in the Kingdom of Fife: 45 (estimated)

Open Championships hosted at St. Andrews: 25 (including 2010)
U.S. Opens hosted at Pinehurst No. 2: 2 (and the 1936 PGA Championship)

First golf course in St. Andrews: 15th century
First golf course in Pinehurst: 1897

Latest golf course added to Pinehurst: Pinehurst No. 4 (redesign), 2000
Latest Links Trust golf course added in St. Andrews: Castle Course, 2008

How to play Pinehurst No. 2: Daily, non-resort, guest rack rate of $410, resort golf packages or be the guest of a member.
How to play the Old Course: Old Course ballot, walk-on, limited guaranteed packages, guest of a member. Rate: 125 pounds.

Putter Boy vs. Swilcan Bridge

The adorable Putter Boy stems from the Sundial Boy, built in 1912, that still remains next to the practice green and the "Golf Lad" caricature.

The stone Swilcan Bridge dates back centuries and was used to heard sheep over the Swilcan burn, now hundreds get their pictures taken atop it each day - even Jack Nicklaus couldn't resist on at his last Open Championship.

Putter Boy would make a good Bobblehead doll for the office, but getting your photo standing atop the Swilcan Bridge tops most golfers' bucket lists.

Edge: St. Andrews

Golf in the Kingdom of Fife vs. the Carolina Sandhills

Pinehurst's eight courses represent just a small slice of the golf courses in the Carolina Sandhills region.

Tobacco Road Golf Club and Pine Needles Resort are the most popular off-resort plays, as well as Little River Golf Club and Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club.

Fife boasts a wealth of its own courses outside of St. Andrews both heathland and links, from new courses to some of the world's oldest clubs such as Crail Golfing Society, Scotscraig Golf Club and Leven Links Golf Club.

Respectively, they both make for some of the richest pockets of golf in their respective locales.

Edge: Too close to call

Becoming a member

St. Andrews full-time residents receive a famously good deal for their golf membership: just 170 pounds a year for unlimited play on the seven Links Trust golf courses, including regular tee time availability on the St. Andrews Old Course. Local real estate has surged, and it's tough to buy within town limits. So if you're serious about getting the local golf perk, you may be better off renting a room in a flat in town. But you have to prove you live there permanently.

To become a member at Pinehurst, you first need to own property in the village, which even includes condos around $100,000. Initiation to the club is $40,000 (unless you're buying property from someone who was a member, in which case the transfer initiation is just $12,000). Full golf membership is $354 per month and entitles you to full playing privileges on all courses (though Pinehurst No. 8 is limited).

Admit it, you've already googled "St. Andrews flat rental."

Edge: St. Andrews

The Pinehurst 8 versus the St. Andrews 7

Six of the seven Links Trust courses are in town. The Old Course and Castle Course are the two most unique of the bunch, with the Castle built on constructed dunes on bluffs overlooking the sea, while the Old Course's greens are the most unique and large in the world.

Pinehurst's eight courses have the edge in variety. No. 2 has America's most fascinating greens, while No. 4, 6, 7 and 8 are all light years different from one another.

Even classics No. 1 and 3, while short, pose their timeless challenges. Pinehurst's roster goes deeper.

Edge: Pinehurst

New additions

St. Andrews added the Castle Course in 2007, the first course in practically a century. Pinehurst has added to its stable a brand new Pinehurst No. 4 in 2000, a complete rebuild by Tom Fazio, as well as Pinehurst No. 8 in 1996, a 450-acre, all-natural masterpiece by Fazio.

St. Andrews gets the edge but not because of the Links Trust, courses such as Kingsbarns, Duke's Golf Course and the Fairmont Kittocks and Torrance put them over the top.

Edge: St. Andrews

Pinehurst Village vs. St. Andrews pub crawl

Pinehurst village is a small village filled with a few shops and pubs where you can grab a pint or stop into a golf shop. Chances are you'll see a Pinehurst pro or someone from the resort off-duty hanging with friends. And stay for a week, and you'll recognize a lot of faces.

But the St. Andrews scene is larger and can get a little rowdier, thanks to the university influence and loads of pubs. After your round on the Old Course, stop into the Jigger Inn next to the 17th fairway, or smoke a cigar on the patio. If you're still standing at night, head into town, and mingle with a mix of golfers at the Dunvegan Inn, or head to North and Market Streets, which have a larger University vibe.

At least the beer is cheaper in Pinehurst.

Edge: St. Andrews

Sunday traditions

Every Sunday on Pinehurst No. 2, the 18th hole location is placed exactly where Payne Stewart made his putt in the 1999 U.S. Open.

The Old Course is closed for golf on Sundays as it has been for centuries, though feel free to have a picnic in the Road Hole Bunker if you so choose.

We admire the traditions of St. Andrews, but this is a golfers' Web site, and we'll opt for the course that lets people play golf on Sundays and re-enact one of golf's most famous putts.

Edge: Pinehurst

More photos

Jack Nicklaus - Swilcan BridgeBagpiper at Pinehurst No. 2

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • St Andrews vs Pinehurst

    Bob Barmore wrote on: May 13, 2011

    One correction, you can buy an "unbuildable" lot and join the club. Probably cost you about $30,000 (or less) total to be come a member of Pinehurst.


  • St Andrews Pinehurst

    gary slatter wrote on: Apr 15, 2010

    good article comparing the two resort towns, however it is an impossible task, like comparing Phil Mickleson's gurus.


  • St Andrews vs Pinehurst

    Mike Moore wrote on: Apr 7, 2010

    I have stayed and played both--Pinehurst is a great place and probably the best in the USA.
    There is however nothing that compares to St Andrews---Standing on the first tee I could barley take the club back and it was incredible. The history and the other courses like Kingsbarns were all great. I live in Pennsylvania and will for sure go to Pinehurst as much as I can but St Andrews is the Home of Golf.


  • Pinehurst vs St Andrews

    John Fyke wrote on: Apr 6, 2010

    I've played and stayed at both, and I love Pinehurst, but there is nothing that can compare to St. Andrews. When you finish the 16th hole and tee off for the road hole (17)and turn to see the view back at 18 and beyond with the North Sea behind it you will understand. Also you will choke up when you pause to have your picture made on Jack's bridge. I smiled the whole day even though my golf game was frowning. Cheers.


  • St. Andrews vs. Pinehurst

    Brooke wrote on: Apr 6, 2010

    You can't be serious about comparing St. Andrews with Pinehurst. The Home of Golf outclasses Pinehurst in every category. Pinehurst only makes the top 5 US golf destinations for sentimental reasons. Otherwise it would be a golfing footnote.


      • RE: St. Andrews vs. Pinehurst

        Gregg wrote on: Jul 25, 2013

        St. Andrews my be the birthplace but its a friggin cow pasture! Just cause the game was invented there doesn't mean it is still anything. I'm sorry but if you have a course where you can't tell fairway from rough, is always brown and can putt from 30 yds off the green the 15th century can keep it! No. 2 is twice the course end of story!


      • RE: St. Andrews vs. Pinehurst

        George Simmons wrote on: Jul 7, 2010

        I love the bagpiping at Pinehurst in the evenings by the Ryder Cup- reminds me of the Old Course.


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