By John Brasier
If you want a play a course that’s hosted a major United States Golf Association tournament, the best place to go is Pinehurst.
It’s probably no coincidence that the USGA is building its second headquarters adjacent to Pinehurst Resort. And the USGA’s arrival with memorabilia, testing facilities and more is only one of the region’s exciting changes for golfers.
Maybe it’s time for the Sandhills region to alter its slogan “The American Home of Golf” to include “And the Most Frequent Home of USGA Championships.” And what better time than now, with Pinehurst No. 2 preparing to host its fourth U.S. Open next year on June 13-16?
Triad Golf took a recent trip to Pinehurst to check out progress on the USGA additions and other recent or ongoing projects and news, including Country Club of North Carolina’s Dogwood Course, which will play host to the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2030 and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2037.
We also had our first look at Southern Pines Golf Club, the former Southern Pines Elks Club course that reopened in 2022, and were stunned by the quality of the renovations to the Donald Ross layout by Kyle Franz.
Updates include the reopening of Woodlake Country Club’s Ellis Maples layout after renovations by Greensboro’s Kris Spence, and Tom Doak’s Pinehurst No. 10 design on the site of the former Pit Golf Links.
While Pinehurst No. 2 grabs the most attention as a regular U.S. Open site and host of the Women’s Open, the U.S. Amateur and the PGA Tour Championship, several other area courses – public and private – have played host to USGA events and are on the USGA calendar to host more.
Three are on the USGA’s future schedule. And at least a few other area courses are worthy of USGA – or PGA of America, PGA Tour and LPGA Tour — consideration. Dormie Club and Forest Creek come to mind quickly.
Pine Needles Resort stands out as a regular host of the U.S. Women Open, beginning with Annika Sorenstam’s victory in 1996 and continuing in 2001, 2007 and 2022.
Golfers already know about famous Pinehurst No. 2 and it’s USGA legacy, spurred by Payne Stewart’s 1999 U.S. Open victory, followed by U.S. Opens in 2005 and 2014 and next year’s Open, hopefully with of the game’s top stars reunited in the field. Going back a little further, No. 2 hosted the 1936 PGA Championship and the 1951 Ryder Cup Matches.
In 2014, the USGA staged its Women’s and Men’s championships back-to-back at No. 2 in 2014 and will again in 2029.
The USGA has already green-lighted No. 2 for additional Opens in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047, ensuring the Donald Ross design will stay in the spotlight for another two-plus decades.
Let’s not forget the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur, both played at No. 2.
CCNC DOGWOOD TO HOST SENIOR, WOMEN’S AMATEUR
Dogwood is due for the worldwide exposure in 2030. Designed by Ellis Maples – a longtime Ross protégé – and Willard Byrd, it opened in 1963. Dogwood has played host to three previous USGA events – the 1980 U.S. Amateur won by Hal Sutton, the 2010 Girls’ Junior Amateur and the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur.
While Dogwood’s large undulating greens may exhibit similar characteristics to Ross’ No. 2 greens, the course has more hills and a variety of doglegs and water hazards that come into play. The par-72 layout, which was included in Golf Digest’s top 100 U.S. courses for more than three decades, stretches to 7,301 yards from the back markers with five other sets (the third set or regular member tees are 6,440 yards) of tees.
CCNC has another course, Cardinal, that is also well-regarded, and a favorite of many of the members. Byrd designed Cardinal’s original nine, and Robert Trent Jones designed the back nine.
A private country club, the CCNC community sits in relative seclusion only a few minutes from the Village of Pinehurst behind a modest gate. The club has about 950 members.
“The big thing with the club is it has the feel of a golf club with all the amenities of a country club,” said Nick Gray, the assistant general manager.
Gray said the club has about “300 single-digit” handicappers.
A $4.5 million renovation by Kris Spence in 2016, highlighted by the installation of Zoysia grass on the fairways, Champion Bermuda on the greens and many tweaks to bring bunkers and water more into play, made Dogwood longer and better than ever. Some greens were rebuilt, others were modified.
When possible, Spence said he tried to restore any of Maples’ green contours that had been lost over the years. Maples, whose other highly acclaimed courses include Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville, Forest Oaks in Greensboro and Cedarbrook Country Club in Charlotte, was known for challenging putting surfaces with challenging spines and tiers requiring shots to specific sections of the green, depending on pin placement.
Spence said Maples’ expertise in crafting testing greens made the collaboration with Byrd, who often built flatter putting surfaces, especially noteworthy.
Founded by a “Who’s Who” in Charlotte and Raleigh business leaders, CCNC enjoys a reputation for its typically pristine conditions.
SOUTHERN PINES GC RANKS WITH ROSS SISTERS
If you go to Southern Pines Golf Club, don’t expect to find the typical remnants of a muni. The Bell Family, whose Ross Resorts courses include fellow Ross designs Pine Needles and Mid-Pines, and Franz turned the layout into one of the best in the Sandhills.
That was my opinion before I saw Golf Digest’s new list of the top 100 U.S. public courses, which ranked Southern Pines No. 72, between Pine Needles at 63 and Mid Pines at 86.
The course is that good. Not just good for a former muni, but good by any standard. In the same league as Pine Needles and Mid-Pines. In some ways, with its natural look and rolling topography, Southern Pines is similar to Pinehurst’s latest No. 4 layout with natural sand and vegetation lining the fairways and fast, undulating greens.
The course grabs your attention fast. The opening hole is beautiful downhill par-4 framed by natural sand and vegetation.
But with all the improvements, Ross Resorts maintained some of the course’s casual feel and blue-collar history. The simple pro shop and snack bar were kept, though remodeled and updated.
Southern Pines’ modest history and superb layout may make it a candidate for future USGA amateur events.
WOODLAKE GIVES MEMBERS SNEAK PEEK
Spence’s restoration of Woodlake Country Club’s Maples Course is open, but for now, to residents — only one round each during a 30-day “sneak peek” ending Oct. 20. The course will open to outside play next spring with members receiving preferred booking and tee times.
Hard to blame the members for not wanting to share their course yet. They’ve suffered for several years as the course was closed due to finances and a breached dam.
The limited play during the sneak peek should give the facility some wiggle room to complete construction. Plus, it will give additional time for a new fleet of Club Car carts to arrive. Spence
The centerpieces of a housing development in Vass, about 10 miles north of Pinehurst, Woodlake had two courses that closed and fell into disrepair – Spence compared the Maples property to a “jungle” – prior to the restoration.
After the dam of 1,200-acre Lake Surf along the course was almost breached by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the state drained the lake and the course was closed, The German owner lost a lawsuit filed by homeowners and the course was closed.
Community assets were saved in 2021 when Atlantic National Capital and Keith Allison of Fayetteville bought them for $3.5 million. Another course at Woodlake, designed by Arnold Palmer, remains idle with no public plans to open.
The routing of the Maples course remains much the same, though the former 18th hole was converted into 25 lakefront lots with a new finishing hole constructed on the remnants of the Palmer Course’s opening hole.
But building a new dam was a major project that needed state approval, eventually obtained this summer. The lake is expected to gradually fill up enhancing the beauty of the layout. Bobby Jones Links was brought in to operate the course.
We’ll have an eyewitness appraisal with more details about the course in the next few weeks.
PINEHURST NO. 10
Pinehurst No. 10, long-awaited since The Pit property was bought by Pinehurst Resort in 2011, is under construction with a design by Tom Doak. The resort has set April 3, only a few months prior to the U.S. Open, as the opening date.
Though the resort has made few details public, the former quarry property has the makings of an interesting, unique Pinehurst layout, though probably with fewer quirks than The Pit.