The rise, fall and return – Pinehurst's pageantry Pt.2

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M. James Ward reviews the next chapter in the development of America's golf mecca with the staging of the 124th US Open this week.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Pinehurst's pageantry Pt.1

 

The Renaissance

The dark side came to an end when Diamondhead opted to sell the property in 1984 to Club Corp of America. The stewardship of Club Corp Chairman Robert H. Dedman, Sr., put the brakes on the slide. Beginning the slow but steady ascent back to an authenticity vaporized by Diamondhead.

Dedman seized the opportunity in rejuvenating the Pinehurst brand. One of the most impactful events came when the United States Golf Association (USGA) chose Pinehurst to host the US Open in 1999. Amazingly, in all the years Pinehurst was owned by the Tufts family and given Richard was USGA President from 1956-57, the highest USGA Championship played there was the 1962 US Amateur.

No. 2 - The 1st hole
No. 2 - The 1st hole (USGA/Fred Vuich)

Six years later in 2005 a second US Open was hosted at Pinehurst, but the move that propelled the property like a rocket on a launch pad came four years later in 2009 when the architectural tandem of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were hired by Dedman to return the core elements of the famed No.2 Course back to the philosophy of Ross and among the upper echelon of courses in the United States.

The talented design duo reintroduced the famed wire grass along the edges of the fairways. Additionally, 700 sprinkler heads were removed - providing for an engaging look between the prepared and unprepared grounds.

Pinehurst has ten regulation courses at the resort. No.10 opened this past April and is the handiwork of architects Tom Doak and his associate Angela Moser. The layout incorporates a connection to the sand hills region and features a range of holes with varying twists and turns.

No. 10 | Pinehurst Resort

The firmness of the turf was promoted -- providing an authentic connection for golfers to incorporate both an aerial and ground game during the round. Prior to the involvement of Coore and Crenshaw, No.2 was using upwards of 40 to 50 million gallons of water per year. That number has since dropped to 12 million -- demonstrating how sustainable and challenging golf can be aligned together.

The momentum continued in 2017 when architect Gil Hanse was hired to provide a 9-hole layout aptly named, The Cradle - symbolizing Pinehurst's ground zero role for golf's development in the United States.

The Cradle
The Cradle (Courtesy of Pinehurst Resort)

The short course is located in front of the massive Pinehurst clubhouse and the 789-yard par-27 course is a stellar addition. The course provides an ideal setting for all ages and a meaningful golf connection -- albeit on a smaller scale and at a faster pace of play.

Hanse also provided a much-needed updating of Pinehurst No.4 in 2018-- a layout originally created by Ross and later updated by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Tom Fazio respectively. The intrinsic elements of No.4 provide for a much closer alignment to the spirit of the Sandhills region.

In tandem with The Cradle -- Hanse updated the massive practice green. Named Thistle Dhu (this will do) and stretching 80 yards in front of the clubhouse covering almost 2 acres it evokes St. Andrew's famed Himalayan putting green. How big? It takes 2½ hours to mow on a riding triplex mower.

ThistleDhu and Clubhouse
ThistleDhu & Clubhouse (Courtesy of Pinehurst Resort)

The Future Ahead

External moves are also in place putting in motion a long-term vision. The World Golf Hall of Fame has returned to its original location in Pinehurst after wasted years in Florida. The move works in tandem with the USGA opening a Golf House Complex which will provide a year-around connection.

In addition to this year's US Open four additional championships are already scheduled for 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047 with Pinehurst serving as the initial "anchor" in going forward.

The event in '29 will feature a repeat of the Men's and Women's Opens played in consecutive weeks -- similar to what was done in '14. Amazingly, no American facility will have hosted more US Opens than Pinehurst between the period of 1999 and 2047 -- a total of eight championships.

The most memorable aspect at Pinehurst is when you step out the rear of the massive clubhouse. The smell of golf whiffs through the pines -- the buzz of golfers engrossed in their games self-evident.

124th US Open at Pinehurst No.2

 

Off to one side you see players sharpening their skills at the uniquely named practice area -- "Maniac Hill." Tommy Armour, one of golf's premier players in the pre- World War II dubbed the acreage, "... to golf what Kitty Hawk is to flying."

The range of golf choices is akin to a diner menu with no end in offerings. Undoubtedly, many who come will want to sample the flagship No.2 Course.

The layout presents an array of nuanced dimensions. Some may wonder why the reputation is so revered. The character of No.2 comes from repeated plays which only then showcase the rich level of details linked to the highest level of golf dexterity.

The 3rd hole of Pinehurst Resort & C.C. No. 2
No. 2 - The 3rd hole (USGA/Fred Vuich)

There is something magical when one plays No.2 with a caddie walking step-by-step during the round. You savor the moment -- relishing the unrelenting high bar for superior shotmaking. The inverted saucer shape greens repel all but the finest of plays but still permit the higher handicap golfer to get around the course while still using one's original ball.

As you complete the round you see off the side of the 18th green four statues honoring the men who each played pivotal roles with the facility's success. Donald Ross, Richard S. Tufts, Robert Dedman, Sr. and the joyous fist pump putt celebration of Payne Stewart when capturing the 1999 US Open.

The connection to the past is clearly celebrated but the facility is hardly standing still in a range of other notable ways.

The "Village in the Forest" personifies the genuine human spirit that James Walker Tufts envisioned. Peace. Passion. Pride. Three singular words yet beautifully intersecting with one another reinforced on a daily basis.

Just over 16,000 people call Pinehurst home now but the close-knit community feel is still alive and well. The golf dimension honors the past but even more so looks forward to a promising future.

There have been noticeable bumps on the road but through the resolute leadership of Robert H. Dedman, Jr. -- the pathway at Pinehurst is more than just a promise -- but a steadfast commitment to honor core principles and bring them to life each and every day.

Authenticity is often boasted about by a range of facilities but the connection far too often is more hype than true substance. Conviviality resonates front and center at Pinehurst. Golf drives the agenda and the totality of the spirit fostered by its founder James Walker Tufts remains firmly in place.

The 2024 US Open adds yet another chapter.

The Pinehurst story is indeed peerless in American golf.

The 12th hole of Pinehurst Resort & C.C. No. 2
No. 2 - The 12th hole (USGA/Fred Vuich)
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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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