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|Locals consider Mid South Club the best of three Arnold Palmer designed golf courses in the Southern Pines area. (Courtesy of talamoregolfresort.com)|
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. - Much like the man, an Arnold Palmer golf course typically carries an aura about it. Maybe not on the surface, but look closer and you'll usually find the stamp of his personality spread across the property.
Mid South Club reflects Palmer in his prime. As a player and architect.
Long before Tiger Woods, prior to Jack Nicklaus, Palmer was the King of the long ball, the original power player who revolutionized the game. At Mid South, he flexes his muscles, hitches up his trousers and lets it rip with a design that matches the style he loved best.
Numerous dogleg lefts evoke memories of the hard, powerful hook Palmer played. The entire course is framed by the natural terrain of this Sandhills area. Hills and slopes and banks define fairways and greens. Ditto for water hazards and bunkers defining virtually every tee ball and approach shot.
Part of the Talamore Golf Resort, Mid South occupies a storied stretch of Midland Road (Highway 2) with golf courses by Donald Ross (Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club) and Nicklaus (National Golf Club). As if those neighbors weren't enough, continue down the road to Pinehurst Resort's eight layouts.
Locals consider Mid South Club the best of three Arnold Palmer designs in the area and one of the top layouts overall, and it's hard to argue. It's right up there as one of his best creations in the Southeast.
It opened to rave reviews in 1993 and established a pedigree by twice hosting qualifiers for the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur (both came here in 1996 and '98).
"Mid South really is one of Palmer's best designs," says Greg Austin, a longtime area resident and president of Pinehurst-based AME Golf. "It's everything you want. Holes that move left to right, right to left, elevation change, scenic landscapes ... It's difficult, but everybody can play it."
In classic Palmer style, he combines risk and reward at every tee box. The farther back you go, the tougher the angles in shaping your tee shot. Most of the back tees at Mid South are tucked back in the woods and force you to work the ball in every direction.
In other words, make sure you pick the right yardage and tee box for your game.
It's a straightforward challenge from Palmer on the front nine. No visual tricks; every detail is right in front of you. More so than the back nine, there are lakes and ponds on nearly every hole. It's like playing pool - you have to consider all the angles.
At No. 2, a dogleg right along a lake creates a crescent-shaped hole off an elevated tee, a theme Palmer uses in tune with the natural terrain of the Mid South property.
The sixth hole ranks as the best par 3. From an elevated tee, it's a 178-yard carry over a lake and large rocks fronting a green that sits back against a stand of large pine trees.
An example of Palmer's stout dogleg lefts awaits at the par-5 ninth. It plays longer than it looks at 528 yards. The hole turns on your second shot, heading downhill to a couple large bunkers fronting a water hazard that surrounds a peninsula green. No matter what distance you lay up to, it's an awkward stance and daunting shot over water.
For the most part, the back side doesn't offer such dramatic elevation changes. The course mellows to a more natural, tree- lined look, albeit tighter and with more subtle doglegs than the front. Instead of water, large waste bunkers are the only real hazards.
That's until you reach the par-5 15th, a sloping dogleg left that takes you gradually downhill. At the layup area, the hole drops down in a series of three plateaus to a green set against a lake. You'll need to hit a hard, screaming Palmer hook to have any chance to reach this green in two.
Mid South sets up for a macho finish. At No. 16, water guards the right side and tests your accuracy on both shots to a green framed by water and over a marsh with a hill shaping the hole on the left.
At No. 18, Palmer ends with another tight, crescent-shaped dogleg right. A lake sits on the right, and the fairway is framed by a pine tree next to the water. The fairway slopes left to right, with the green jutting out in a pseudo-peninsula look.
From start to finish, Palmer's personality and style resonates at Mid South.
For help in planning a golf vacation to North Carolina, visit ResortsGolfAndSpas.com or call 800-767-3574.
January 8, 2009
Veteran golf writer Tom Spousta keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. He has covered golf and other sports for USA Today and The New York Times. Tom lives on a Donald Ross-designed golf course in Sarasota, Fla.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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