THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON PINEHURST
By Jim Grosjean, Senior Staff Writer and Travel Editor, Golf Talk America Corporation
Much has been written about golf in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and why not? It’s a golfers haven; a village seemingly destined to become “The Home of American Golf.” Its quaint tree-lined streets named after golf courses and golf course architects take you back to a simpler and happier time in our history. The village was conceived as a replica of a New England town by its landowner, James Walker Tufts around 1895. Originally intended as a health resort, 38 cottages and boarding houses were built of which 32 exist to this day. Tufts also had the foresight to hire Donald Ross to design the early golf courses and eventually become golf professional. Much of the golf activity in Pinehurst takes place at the famed Pinehurst Resort, home of eight excellent courses. The Donald Ross designed number 2 course will host the U.S Open for men and women on consecutive weeks in 2014 making Pinehurst Golf’s Mecca next June.
On a quick overnighter in April, I was able to take a look at some of the other excellent golf facilities available in the Pinehurst area. The Talamore Golf Resort offers two completely different tracks designed by Rees Jones and Arnold Palmer. The Rees Jones designed Talamore Golf Club was opened for play in 1991 to much acclaim, including a top five new American course designation by Golf Digest. I found the challenge and the “fun” factor to complement each other very well. Jones himself specified that he wanted the golfer to have to think his way around the course. Because of the sloping nature of the fairways, choosing the right club off the tee is of paramount importance. The greens hold very well, and many are elevated, so position of your approach will pretty much predict your score.
A unique feature at the Talamore Golf Club is the availability of llama caddies. During cooler months, the llamas are able to carry your clubs, but don’t expect them to read your putts for you. (Hoof marks are unwelcome by the greens superintendant.) Whether you use a two or four-legged caddie or ride a golf cart, you’ll enjoy your experience at Talamore Golf Club.
Located just across the street from the Talamore Golf Club is its sister course, the Arnold Palmer designed Mid South Club. Mid South is a private club with playing privileges reserved for Talamore Resort guests. Pinehurst Magazine has rated Mid South as the #1 private course in the Sandhills region. While the majority of Mr. Palmer’s designs are player friendly, I found this one to be quite a challenge; concurring with those calling Mid South one of his best courses. Water comes seriously into play on five of the opening nine holes and twice more on the back nine. When water isn’t present, there are eleven acres of bunkers to grab your attention. Avoiding the water and the bunkers is a feat in itself, but the challenge doesn’t end there. Tree-lined doglegs, rolling fairways, and sloping greens make for an exciting round of golf.
For overnight guests, the Talamore Resort offers the Golf Villas at Talamore and the Lodges at Mid South. Each unit has multiple bedrooms, a full kitchen, two baths, washer/dryer all in a lovely setting overlooking or near the golf courses. Packages are available that can include golf at most of the courses in the Pinehurst area. For more information call (800) 552-6292 or go online at www.TalamoreGolfResort.com.
One of the most celebrated new courses in the Pinehurst area is the Dormie Club, designed by the acclaimed duo of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Although originally conceived as a private club, Dormie is now open to the public and you can also book a round there as part of a Talamore Resort golf package. Known as a “bucket list” type of golf course, Dormie has received accolades such as #30 America’s Best Public Courses from Golf Digest and #2 Best Course You Can Play from Golfweek. Dormie is not a finely manicured grass nursery, it’s more rough hewn from nature. There are no sand traps per se here, instead there are sand bunkers that are all considered waste areas. These waste areas can take form as obstacles that cross the middle of fairways, or take the place of rough alongside fairways, or guard the greensides like traditional sand traps. They often contain vegetation that can wreak havoc on your score. Landing areas appear ample, but they often narrow at inopportune times, so it is important to choose your distances wisely. The short par four 15th hole is a great risk/reward hole that incorporates all of those features. You must drive over a diagonal waste area to a fairway lined with bunkers and more waste areas. The choice is to play to the right and risk not clearing the hazard, or play it more safe and risk hitting through the fairway into more trouble. The greens are receptive yet fast, and the undulations can be tricky to read. For the truest test of your game, I recommend playing Dormie when the foliage is at its peak, between May and October. If you can score well in these months, you are truly a player. Go to www.dormieclub.com for more information about this great course.
I was also honored to visit the private, prestigious Forest Creek Golf Club, a beautiful residential community featuring two Tom Fazio courses. The property consists of over 1250 acres of majestic pines that predate the tasteful development that was begun in 1996 with the opening of the South Course. Fazio came back and completed the North Course in 2005. Both courses have won many impressive awards, with the North Course slightly ahead in terms of accolades. The courses are uniquely different for being on the same piece of land; Fazio was lucky indeed to have the entire property at his disposal. As he put it, “All I had to do was cut down some trees and throw out some grass seed and the rest was here.” While certainly an understatement, both courses fit the lay of the land in a way that is perfectly natural to its surroundings. The South Course is described as more of a parkland course, while the North Course is more rugged; tree-lined and filled with Pine Valley-like waste areas. Even the sand here is indigenous to the area, making the bunkers seem more natural. This is golf at its finest; a trip into a serene cathedral where the sounds of songbirds mingle with the “thwack” of a well-struck drive.
The vision of the C. Louis Meyer family was realized by grandson, Terry Brown. He has overseen the development of a first-rate golf facility and a residential community that is always on the top 50 Best Residential Golf Communities list. The entire development pays homage to the past. Many of the common buildings on the property are replicas of buildings that were once integral parts of the working farm. Even the men’s locker room is ranked as the #13 best locker room by Golf Digest. It has its own separate building designed to look like a horse stable with “stalls” housing the lockers. Browse around and you’ll find the lockers of Michael Jordan and Roy Williams, just to name-drop some of the celebrity members. At one end of the building there is a very homey sitting area with a bar that makes unwinding after a round very pleasant, indeed. The pro shop is housed in a quaint log cabin, keeping the theme of paying tribute to the past, while always looking towards the future. Although not open to the public, Forest Creek is still developing its real estate, so for those looking to relocate to the Pinehurst area, check out their website at www.forestcreekgolfclub.com.