June 15, 2009

Some Pinehurst History

The St. Andrews Links Trust describes Pinehurst #2 better than any one else ever could: "“of all the golf centers in the world, there is perhaps only one that comes close to sharing the ideas and aspirations of St. Andrews – “Pinehurst.”

(pictured: Pinehurst's original course, with square sand greens.)

Golf, a sport of growing popularity in the United States at the time of Pinehurst’s founding, was introduced to the resort not by its owner, but by its guests. People staying at James Walker Tufts’ new North Carolina resort liked to practice their games when the golf was in its American infancy. Their experiments went relatively unnoticed amid the 5,500-acre landscape of the new resort until 1898, when Tufts received an angry complaint from a resort dairyman. Apparently, the Pinehurst guests were hitting little, white balls into his pasture and frightening his cows. Rather than rein in his paying guests, Tufts built them a place for their game – the first golf course. From that moment, the winter resort known as Pinehurst was forever changed.

Pinehurst’s first golf course, a nine-hole, primitive set of links, is laid out by Dr. D. LeRoy Culver, an amateur designer, in 1898. The original clubhouse had dressing rooms for both men and women, which was somewhat unusual at the time. It reflected the interest that women of the time had in golf, but it also underlined the long-standing Pinehurst philosophy of treating all of its guests equally. This is a tradition that is never stated at Pinehurst but is always carried out with quiet efficiency.

The turning of the century in 1900 proved to be a watershed year for the resort, and for golf for over a century: Harry Vardon played an exhibition match on the resort’s now 18-hole course,
which cemented Pinehurt’s reputation among a growing number of American golf enthusiasts. At the time, Vardon was the equivilent of a Tiger Woods. The same year, Scottish-born golf pro Donald Ross came to Pinehurstfor what trned into a 48-year stay until his death.

In 1907, Donald Ross completed the design and construction of Pinehurst No. 2, a course which was designed from the beginning as a “championship course.” It was immediately heralded by professionals and lovers of the game as a masterpiece, and that assessment has withstood the test of time.

Ross would later go on to design the following courses in the Pinehurst area:

Ross also designed Pinehurst No. 4, and built the first nine holes before the money woes of The Depression stopped the project. Through the years, #4 developed a checkered past of closing, reopening and multiple redesign by four different architects before Tom Fazio set an entirely new course on the same routing in 1999. Of the newer Pinehurst courses, #4 is often listed as a favorite by resort guests but is sometimes considered a lost gem by Donald Ross afficianados.

Today, "Pinehurst" encompasses much more than the sprawling eight-course resort. Midland Road, which bisects Pinehurst Village on its way to nearby Southern Pines, NC. Along its relatively short length, one will find Longleaf CC, Mid-South CC, Mid-Pines CC, the National Golf Club, Talamore GC, and of course, Pine Needles and Pinehurst #2....among others. These courses feature designers such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ellis Maples, Tom Fazio and of course, Donald Ross.

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