Trip to North Carolina

Pinehurst: The Cradle of American Golf Rocks with an Upcoming Double Header and a Facelift

Proving the adage that everything old is new again, Pinehurst’s Number Two course re-opened in April 2011 after an extensive restoration by the acclaimed golf design team of Crenshaw and Coors. No other course in America (or the world, with the exception of St. Andrews in Scotland) has such a fabled history.

Pinehurst No. 2, the centerpiece of Pinehurst Resort (tel: 800-487-4653; www.pinehurst.com), has served as the site of more single golf championships than any course in America. In 2014, Number Two will make history again, becoming the first to serve as host to the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open Championships in consecutive weeks. (U.S. Open June 12 to 15; the U.S. Women's Open June 19 to 22.)

Opened in 1907, Number Two was designed by Donald Ross, who called it “the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed.” His fairest test is best known for its crowned, undulating greens, which are some of the most complex and widely hailed in the world.

Now a bit about Pinehurst and why it’s dubbed the home of American golf…

In 1895 James Tufts, a rich Yankee, who made his fortune in soda fountains, goes to Southern Pines, North Carolina, to open a health resort. Next thing he knows the neighbouring dairy farmer is complaining that a number of the guests are whacking balls with sticks in his pasture and upsetting the cows.

Tufts senses that this golf fad might have potential so he builds a primitive nine-hole course. In 1900 Scots-born golf pro Donald Ross comes to town. He redesigns the Pinehurst Number 1 course, stays for 48 years, and the rest, as they say, is history. Pinehurst Resort now boasts eight courses, three hotels (the Carolina, Holly Inn and The Manor) a spa and a village straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. With its neat picket fences, pristine white frame and red brick buildings, the New England-style town is a reminder of gentler bygone times. You’ll not find a McDonald’s or a Wendy’s here.


The Mystique of No. 2

Walk the fabled fairways on No. 2 and you’ll be following in the footsteps of such legends as Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen and Arnold Palmer. Donald Ross’s design philosophy is fully apparent. No tricks, no surprises, minimal water, generous fairways and bunkering that shows you the route. You don’t need to be a long driver but you better be able to pitch, chip and putt. Speaking of which…you won’t likely forget Ross’s signature crown greens, sculpted like inverted saucers so that a less than perfect hit will roll off the edges into all sorts of dips and swales.

Golf journalist Lee Pace, who wrote a coffee table tome, The Spirit of Pinehurst, described No. 2 as “one of the finest collections of grass, trees, slopes, angles, mystery, history and sass this side of the Firth of Forth.”

Over time, as owners, expectations, and golf technology changed, that distinctive look became harder to recognize. But now, thanks to those Tufts Archives pictures and the impressive restoration work of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, Pinehurst No. 2 once again resembles the rough, rustic supercourse that has been luring tourists to the Sandhills for more than a century.

It simply needed someone who was willing to scrape away the surface.

“This course was always here, it was just in a different form,’’ Crenshaw said. “We tried our best to uncover it.’’

A daunting mission. Tampering with Ross’s masterpieces is a bit like retouching the Mona Lisa.

Given all the history and reverence associated with Number Two, it was a bold move for the management to decide to change it. But Ross believed in providing golfers with strategic choices, and Pinehurst No. 2 was intended to epitomize that philosophy. In February 2010, Pinehurst contracted with the design firm of Coore & Crenshaw, Inc., to restore the natural and strategic characteristics that were the essence of Ross’ original design. The project, completed in March 2011, included the removal of about 35 acres of turf and the reintroduction of hardpan, natural bunker edges and native wire grasses. Fairways have been widened and roll firmer. All rough has been eliminated so now there are two lengths of turf—greens and everything else. Several bunkers have been restored, eliminated or reshaped based on aerial images of the course from the 1940s.

The result? A look at the extensive aerial photos in the Tuftsxxx archives reveals that the new Number Two looks more like the 1936xxx version as per Ross’s original vision. The biggest “change” is the widespread installation of waste areas bordering fairways, a return to the nature of the Sandhills region. Native wiregrass has also been re-introduced in place of what was once plush rough. Now instead of just letting your tee shot rip somewhere out there on the fairway, there are clear target lines.

Beyond the third green you can catch a glimpse of Ross’ house, named Dornoch Cottage in memory of his hometown in the Scottish Highlands. I can just imagine the maestro sitting on his verandah, single malt in hand, chuckling at the antics required to sink a putt on his mischievous greens and toasting the brilliant work of Coore & Crenshaw.
Whether you’re playing the traditional Ross links, or the newer designs of Tom Fazio (No. 6 and No. 8, the Centennial Course), Ellis Maples (No. 5) or Rees Jones (No. 7), each of Pinehurst’s courses is unique. But there’s no need for gimmicks. Golf here is pure and unadulterated with pine-lined fairways and greens groomed to perfection. If there were a Hall of Fame for golf resorts, Pinehurst would be one of the original inductees.

I think Tom Watson captured the spirit of the place when he remarked, “Pinehurst reminds me of a quote I read not long ago. ‘Golf is not a matter of life and death to these people. It’s more important than that.’”

 

Sidebar:
Dormie Club: Newest Walk on the Sandhills Block


While they were in the neighbourhood, the Crenshaw & Coore team designed the Dormie Club (tel:910-947-3240; www.dormieclub.com), the first new track in the Pinehurst area to open since 1996. Located just 4.5 miles north of Pinehurst Village, Dormie Club is a classic, rugged course designed for walking over its 300 rolling acres of land with 100-foot elevation changes, two natural lakes, and hardwood and pine forests. And here’s a breath of fresh air—there are no real estate developments in the plans. Originally it was to be a private club, but due to the weak U.S. economy, it’s currently open to the public.

The term “dormie” is a golf expression that means a player has reached an insurmountable match-play lead. The player cannot lose. Yet, dormie was a popular word in the Scottish language before golf was ever invented. Back then, Scots used it when they neared the end of their lives. They would say: “I'm dormie,” meaning they had reached a point in their lives when everything had become calm and tranquil, and they were content to live out their days in peace and comfort.

Fall green fees: U.S. $150 plus $70 for walking caddie or $50 for cart and forecaddie.

It was this original meaning of the word that inspired the naming of the Dormie Club — the first new golf course opened in the Pinehurst area since 1996. Rather than call it the Dormie Golf Club, the developers intend to create an overall dormie atmosphere for members and their guests that will include not only world-class golf, but also a complete lifestyle of serenity, health and wellness. Dormie Club is meant to be a place where those who inhabit the property have reached a point of tranquility and peace in their lives, and want their surroundings to reflect the same.
Wrote LINKS Magazine: “Fittingly, the course is based upon the timeless design principles espoused by Donald Ross, who lived in Pinehurst. The transplanted Scot believed a course should be designed with width, which provides several options for players. Much of modern course architecture has been missing this key strategic element, but the throwback Dormie Club has restored this Golden Age philosophy of wide corridors and multiple angles to the green.”

 

Golf 101

In order to prepare myself for the Pinehurst challenge, I enrolled in the resort’s Golf Academy run by Eric Alpenfels, named “one of American’s 50 Greatest Teachers” by Golf Digest.

Traipsing down the hallowed halls of the main pro shop early the next morning was like walking through a living museum. Glass cases house gleaming trophies, winning scorecards and memorabilia. The walls are hung with Kodak moments in golf—Payne Stewart proudly hoisting his U.S. Open trophy, sepia prints of old-time swingers sporting ties and plus fours. Pinehurst is the closest thing to St. Andrews the United States has in terms of the history and passion of the game.

At the crack of dawn, my fellow golf students and I gathered on bleachers at the Maniac Hill driving range. We were a diverse group but all with lofty ambitions about lowering our scores. After the thirteen of us had been videotaped, we start slugging balls. Like a team of surgeons, three teaching pros huddled behind us, clipboards in hand, diagnosing our swings. Once each wannabe “Tiger” was diagnosed and a practice drill prescribed, we whacked balls by the bucketful until lunch. In the afternoons three students and one pro took on one of Pinehurst’s courses. By dusk we were drinking Mint Juleps on the verandah of the Donald Ross Grill and trading Advil and anecdotes.

Golf school guests stay at The Carolina, a magnificent structure with copper cupola, stately columns and white rocking chairs on the verandah looking across an emerald expanse of lawn. I joined fellow students Winston and his son Dustin for breakfast the last morning in the grand Carolina Dining Room. A tuxedoed gent was playing “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’” on the grand piano as we helped ourselves to the bountiful buffet. We pledged that after the final video and review, we’d play the famous Pinehurst No. 2.


The Mystique of No. 2

Built by Ross in 1907 and described by him as “the fairest test of golf I have ever designed,” the course has been rated one of the world’s greatest. Walk these fairways and you’ll be following in the footsteps of such legends as Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen and Arnold Palmer. Donald Ross’s design philosophy is fully apparent on No. 2. No tricks, no surprises, minimal water, generous fairways and bunkering that shows you the route. You don’t need to be a long driver but you better be able to pitch, chip and putt. Speaking of which…you won’t likely forget Ross’s signature crown greens, sculpted like inverted saucers so that a less than perfect hit will roll off the edges into all sorts of dips and swales.
Golf journalist Lee Pace, who wrote a coffee table tome, The Spirit of Pinehurst, described No. 2 as “one of the finest collections of grass, trees, slopes, angles, mystery, history and sass this side of the Firth of Forth.”

Beyond the third green you can catch a glimpse of Ross’ house, named Dornoch Cottage in memory of his hometown in the Scottish Highlands. I can just imagine the maestro sitting on his verandah, single malt in hand, chuckling at the antics required to sink a putt on his mischievous greens.
 Whether you’re playing the traditional Ross links, or the newer designs of Tom Fazio (No. 6 and No. 8, the Centennial Course), Ellis Maples (No. 5) or Rees Jones (No. 7), each of Pinehurst’s courses is unique. But there’s no need for gimmicks. Golf here is pure and unadulterated with pine-lined fairways and greens groomed to perfection. If there were a Hall of Fame for golf resorts, Pinehurst would be one of the original inductees.

I think Tom Watson captured the spirit of the place when he remarked, “Pinehurst reminds me of a quote I read not long ago. ‘Golf is not a matter of life and death to these people. It’s more important than that.’

Ross believed in providing golfers with strategic choices, and Pinehurst No. 2 was intended to epitomize that philosophy. In February 2010, Pinehurst contracted with the design firm of Coore & Crenshaw, Inc., to restore the natural and strategic characteristics that were the essence of Ross’ original design. The project, completed in March 2011, included the removal of about 35 acres of turf and the reintroduction of hardpan, natural bunker edges and native wire grasses.
 Further details of the restoration include:

  • Increased fairway widths: Fairways have been widened to offer more strategic options in playing holes from tee to green.

  • Removal of rough: Approximately 35 acres of grassy areas that were formerly “rough” have been stripped and restored to natural areas featuring sand, wire grass, pine straw and a variety of native grasses. All rough has been eliminated from the course leaving just two lengths of grass: greens and everything else.

  • Turf maintenance: Wall-to-wall irrigation has been replaced with the center water lines that have been in place for more than 60 years. These irrigation lines will define the shapes of fairways, and grass outside of the fairways will become distressed turf.

  • Firmer, faster fairways: Firmer and wider fairways will produce more roll off the tee, which will benefit shots that remain in the fairway while penalizing shots that continue to bounce into sand, distressed areas, pine straw and native grasses.

  • Bunker modifications: Several bunkers have been restored, eliminated or reshaped based on aerial images of the course from the 1940s.

Bottom line is that the biggest new golf course opening of 2011 is not a new golf course at all – it is one of the oldest in the US.

 

Opened april 2011

Proving the adage that everything old is new again, HYPERLINK "http://www.pinehurst.com/"Pinehurst Number Two has roared onto the Must-Play list of any passionate golfer and is now nothing less than the best inland public course in North America.

No American course, and in the entire world only the old Course at St. Andrews, has seen so much history on its fairways and greens. It is the only venue in any country that has hosted two different Majors (The PGA Championship and two US Opens, with several more to come) and the Ryder Cup. It has hosted every important US amateur event, the long running and once very high profile North & South Championship, even the extremely prominent TOUR Championship, now a fixture at Atlanta’s Eastlake. It has easily hosted the most important Championship tournaments at every single level, from juniors to women to amateurs, of any course in the nation. Number Two will once again make history in 2014, when it will become the only course to host the US Open and Women’s US Open in the same year (on back to back weeks no less).

Given all the history and tradition that surrounds Number Two, it was a bold move for the owners of the resort to undertake such a sweeping renovation, or restoration, depending on your perspective. As radically different as Number Two looks now, the work is mostly historically accurate, a stylized return to the layout Ross worked much of his life on. The real changes happened through erosion after his death, and what seems shocking to those who have played it for decades actually looks more like the 1936 version than it has in the past half century. The Tufts Pinehurst archives are among the most extensive and best kept in all of golf history, and an endless litany of aerial and other photos from the past century-plus were employed to reproduce historically precise versions of many of the holes and features.The biggest “change” is the widespread installation of waste areas bordering fairways, a return to the nature of the Sandhills region. Native wiregrass has also been re-introduced in place of what was once plush rough. The results of these changes are twofold: they make it more important to hit the fairways and they frame almost every tee shot. What was once a bang-it-out-there feel has been replaced with clear lines of play off the tee, mental targets that put much more emphasis – and much more fun – on the tee shot. It’s gorgeous. Go see for yourself. If you love golf you have to.

Over time, as owners, expectations, and golf technology changed, that distinctive look became harder to recognize. But now, thanks to those Tufts Archives pictures and the impressive restoration work of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, Pinehurst No. 2 once again resembles the rough, rustic supercourse that has been luring tourists to the Sandhills for more than a century.
It simply needed someone who was willing to scrape away the surface.

“This course was always here, it was just in a different form,’’ Crenshaw said. “We tried our best to uncover it.’’
A daunting mission. Tampering with Ross’s masterpieces is a bit like retouching the Mona Lisa.

The term “dormie” is most familiar as a golf expression that means a player has reached an insurmountable match-play lead. The player cannot lose. Yet, dormie was a popular word in the Scottish language before golf was ever invented. Back then, Scots used it when they neared the end of their lives. They would say: “I'm dormie,” meaning they had reached a point in their lives when everything had become calm and tranquil, and they were content to live out their days in peace and comfort.


It was this original meaning of the word that inspired the naming of the Dormie Club — the first new golf course opened in the Pinehurst area since 1996. Rather than call it the Dormie Golf Club, the developers intend to create an overall dormie atmosphere for members and their guests that will include not only world-class golf, but also a complete lifestyle of serenity, health and wellness. Dormie Club is meant to be a place where those who inhabit the property have reached a point of tranquility and peace in their lives, and want their surroundings to reflect the same.
 
The most important component of the golf element at the Dormie Club is complete, as the renowned golf course architectural team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has given the historic Pinehurst area a stunning new golf masterpiece. Adding to the historic nature of its opening, Dormie is being unveiled at the same time as Coore & Crenshaw are wrapping up their restoration of the Pinehurst Resort’s storied No. 2 course, which in 2014 will make history once again when it plays host to the Men’s and Women’s United States Open Championships in back-to-back weeks.
 
At Dormie, Crenshaw and Coore have designed a walking golf course just 4.5 miles north of the Village of Pinehurst on more than 300 rolling acres of land with 100-foot elevation changes, two natural lakes, and hardwood and pine forests, with no housing or roadways ever within this rather large golf course property.
 
Wrote LINKS Magazine: “Fittingly, the course is based upon the timeless design principles espoused by Donald Ross, who lived in Pinehurst. The transplanted Scot believed a course should be designed with width, which provides several options for players. Much of modern course architecture has been missing this key strategic element, but the throwback Dormie Club has restored this Golden Age philosophy of wide corridors and multiple angles to the green.”

By Anita Draycott

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