September 16, 2018 By: Larry Olmsted — The famed Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina is the by far the largest, most historic and by many measures simply the best golf resort in the United States, and among the world’s top “pilgrimage” spots for golf fans. With the sole exception of Scotland’s St. Andrews, the birthplace of the sport, no place on earth rivals the rich golfing history of Pinehurst.
In a nutshell, it was the nation’s first golf resort (1897), and is by far the largest, with nine full 18-hole courses, a 9-hole short course and an 18-hoe putting course. The centerpiece Number Two is the only public course on earth that has hosted two different Majors (PGA Championship and US Open) and the Ryder Cup. It has also held more than 50 other PGA Tour events including the high-profile TOUR Championship plus top tournaments from the PGA of America (PGA Club Professionals Championship) and USGA, including the US Amateur, US Women’s Amateur, and US Senior Open. It is the only venue that has hosted the US Open and US Women’s Open in the same year. It was the longtime home of Donald Ross, widely regarded as one of history’s all-time greatest golf course architects, who lived alongside the fairways he routed. Other acclaimed designers whose courses’ can be found at the resort include Tom Fazio, Rees Jones and Jack Nicklaus, and there is no famous player from the last century-plus, from Bobby Jones to Tiger Woods, and every star in between, who has not teed it up here, all good reasons why the resort has so many nicknames, including The Cradle of American Golf, The Home of Golf in America, and America’s St. Andrews.
But 2018 brings more big news at a resort that has spent the past few years really upping its game. In 2011, world-famous architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore used original documents and photos to do an extensive and historically accurate restoration of Number Two, which is now more like Ross originally design it than it had been for half a century. Number Two had always been in the nation’s Top 10 but now it is at its best, and both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest rank it Number Five (after the re-opening I wrote in detail here about the new and dramatically improved Number Two). In 2012, Number Nine reopened after a renovation by its original architect, Jack Nicklaus. Last year the resort added the 18-hole Thistle Dhu putting course, modeled on the famous Himalayas Course in St. Andrews, as well as a brand-new short course by the hottest architect of the moment, Gil Hanse, who famously won the bid to do the Olympic Course in Rio. Called the Cradle, in honor of the resort’s most enduring nickname, The Cradle of American Golf, it is a nine-hole short course that plays big and will be a great addition to a round on any of the courses here for the folks who feel 36 is too much – or not enough.
Next week, Pinehurst unveils its next big step in a resort masterplan meant to restore its classic sandhills golf experience, unique to this geologically special region of the Carolinas. Hanse just finished an extensive re-design of Number Four, brining in the famous waste areas and feel associated the region and making one of the resort’s overlooked courses a new shining star very similar in feel to Number Two. The Gil Hanse version of a course originally designed by Ross and redone by three other famed architects in the century since, Robert Trent Jones, Rees Jones, and Tom Fazio is now better than it has ever been. As of September 20, 2018 Number Four will become the newest must-play in the country. The USGA was so impressed just with the early work that they named it co-host with Number Two of the 2019 U.S. Amateur, the third time this prestigious event will be played at Pinehurst.
The opening of Number Four would be big news for any golf resort in the world in any given year, but Pinehurst is doubling down on the upgrades by converting its historic steam plant, which powered the Village for decades from its inception in 1895, into a new brewery and restaurant. The beautiful brick landmark has sat vacant in recent years, and was restored with the same painstaking attention to detail given the golf course projects. This fall it will be reborn as the Pinehurst Brewing Company. Just as the resort seeks out he world’s best designers for its courses, they recruited brewer Eric Mitchell from Heist Brewery in Charlotte, where he won the World Beer Cup and consistently got his IPA, Citraquench’l, ranked among the nation’s Top 10. The new facility will have a fair-weather beer garden, and new smokehouse for BBQ fans.
I’ve been going to Pinehurst for more than 30 years, and love the place, but there has literally never been a better time to visit this truly world class resort.