U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
New Course at Pinehurst Short on Distance, Long on Enjoyment
May 31, 2017 | VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C.
By Bill Fields
On approximately 10 acres beyond the historic south veranda of the sprawling clubhouse at historic Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, two holes are being turned into nine.
The land formerly occupied by the first holes of Course Nos. 3 and 5 has been a busy construction zone during the 3rd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship on Course No. 2. Work began in early May on the resort’s short course, being built by Hanse Golf Design and scheduled to open Oct. 1.
Orange excavators, yellow bulldozers and white flags on green sites stood out on the sandy landscape that, when work is completed, will contain holes ranging from 65 to 117 yards.
“We’ve been talking about the possibility of a short course, a par-3 course, at Pinehurst for maybe a decade or so,” Pinehurst Resort & Country Club president Tom Pashley said. “The challenge for us was always the location.”
Pinehurst officials had considered building a short layout away from its core – where five of its nine courses begin and end – but the relocation of the two par 4s allowed the par-3 design to be adjacent to the resort clubhouse. (The greens of the former holes will be the putting surfaces of the short course’s fifth and sixth holes.)
“It’s about showing our repeat guests something new when they come here and having an amenity for our membership that’s new and different,” said Pashley. “It’s a way to try to find a way to get more people playing more golf. I think it’s going to appeal to a wide demographic.”
As part of the project, the popular Thistle Dhu putting course, modeled after the Himalayas putting green at St. Andrews, Scotland, and opened in 2012, will be enlarged and repositioned. “We want it closer to the clubhouse to have that connectivity,” said Bob Farren, director of golf course & ground management, who has worked at Pinehurst since 1982.
Even during the early stage of construction, it’s possible to envison the finished short course. The green on the 65-yard third hole is a large Punchbowl surrounded by bunkers. Jim Wagner, vice president, and design partner of Gil Hanse was in an excavator Tuesday afternoon working on the ninth hole where a steep slope on the right will feed shots toward the green.
“It’s on the Redan principle, where you play away from the hole to get it close to the hole,” Wagner said. “The thought is to play the ball off that wing of soil and let it funnel to the back. Architect George Thomas said one of the fun aspects of golf is watching a ball move across the green, wondering where it’s going to end up, that anticipation. We’re trying to create that here.”
“This is about the fun of the game of golf,” said Robert Dedman Jr., owner and CEO of Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. “And it’s part and parcel to the restoration of our core [mission] – what we’ve done and are continuing to do.”
As with Pinehurst Course No. 2 – where 40 acres of turf was transformed into sandy native areas by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in their 2010-11 restoration – a recent restoration of Course No. 3 by Kyle Franz and an upcoming redesign of Course No. 4 by Gil Hanse, the short course will have a natural look.
“Only about five acres of the short course will be grassed,” said Farren. “The rest will be a big sandscape with native wire grass. We’ve really looked back to our past to determine our future.”
Added Dedman: “There’s a unique character at Pinehurst because of the landscape [architect] Donald Ross found when he arrived in 1900. Back then, he may have been a minimalist by necessity, but we’re making a choice to present our historic courses in a natural state similar to that era.”
The walking-only short course will be something that can be played in an hour or so with a couple of clubs. “We think three clubs, maybe four at most,” Farren said. “Buddies might say, you can only take your putter and one other club – pick your poison.”
Hanse, who designed The Olympic Golf Course for the 2016 Rio Games and is reknowned for his restoration work at places such as The Los Angeles Country Club (site of the 2017 Walker Cup Match and 2023 U.S. Open), and Winged Foot Golf Club (site of 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and 2020 U.S. Open), hopes the short course will be gathering spot for a variety of golfers.
“If we can bring that presentation of great Carolina Sandhills golf to the front door of the clubhouse,” said Hanse, “and see kids out there or buddies out there or beginners embracing the game in a fun environment, that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.