Pine Needles
North Carolina, USA

Eighth hole, 360/355 yards; One of the most improved holes due to Fought’s restoration, the eighth green now features defenses commensurate with the hole’s modest length. The hole was always well routed through a natural valley but prior to 2005, the green complex was one of the least interesting on the course. Fought restored the depth of the green’s primary bunker to over five feet (it was three feet) and recovered some of the green’s back right to front left pitch.

A master at routing holes, no way Ross would miss this natural valley as a spot for a fairway.

The deepened front right bunker provides appropriate menace for this modest length hole.

Ninth hole, 385/370 yards; One of Ross’s more deceptive holes,the kind sadly lacking in most modern courses. The distance is modest, the fairway is wide and there appears little trouble to be found. However, closer inspection shows the green complex to be full of challenge. All of a sudden, the golfer is best served if he places his tee ball in the right middle of the wide fairway so that he can approach directly down the length of the green. Otherwise, the angles of approach to the narrow green bring into play either the hollow on the right or the enlarged left greenside bunker.

This depression short of the ninth green coupled with the long left back bunker make recovery shots difficult.

Tenth hole, 525/480 yards; One of Ross’s most dramatic bunkers hugs the inside of this dogleg to the left. In recent times, the Bell family has meticulously restored the size and breadth of this oft-photographed bunker to its original dimensions. Those who hope to reach the green in two must flirt with this famed bunker off the tee. Appreciating its risk/reward nature, Johnny Miller proclaimed this to be ‘far and away my favorite hole at Pine Needles’ during the 2007 telecast of the Women’s Open.

The classic risk reward tenth: can the golfer carry the bunker and set up an eagle?

Eleventh hole, 415/370 yards; Ross magnificently captured the rolling terrain into the playing aspects of this hole. The three high spots of the hole are the tee, the landing area for a good drive and the green. The golfer ideally skips from high spot to high spot in playing this hole and avoids the valleys altogether. The native area of hard pan and wire grass was recaptured during Fought’s 2005 restoration, and the golfer is reminded that he is indeed in the sand hills of North Carolina.

This area was all Bermuda grass prior to Fought’s successful restoration.

Twelfth hole, 410/350 yards; Another hole where the golfer drives to a seemingly wide fairway. Yet once again, there is a preferred angle of approach as the green is open in front only on the right side; an approach from the left hand side must carry gathering greenside bunkers.

The golfer is keenly aware of the rolling nature of the property at Pine Needles in part because Ross didn’t build up his tee boxes. Too many modern architects build tall tee pads which has the unwanted effect of flattening holes from the tee. That is not true here as the crest of the hill is much in evidence from Ross’s twelfth tee.

The green complex at the twelfth favors an approach from the right side of the fairway.

Thirteenth hole, 210/180 yards; The deep green combined with the hole’s downhill nature makes club selection crucial. The newly restored bunkers are well in front of the putting surface; the hidden hazard is the swale that rings the narrow green as up and downs are rare if one short sides the hole.

Everyone admires the view from the elevated tee but the hole’s hazards aren’t evident until one gets level to the green. The back right hole location is one of the best on the course.

Fought faithfully recaptured Ross’s bunker placement at the thirteenth.

The downhill nature of the thirteenth is captured in the above photograph from behind the green.

Fifteenth hole,530/485 yards; An underrated hole which provides an interesting look back in time.Thirty-five paces from the front edge of the green is a grassy swale. The challenge in the late 1920s was to carry the depression short of the green in two on this three shotter in an effort to set up a birdie. Back then, as today, the challenge in doing so was to keep from hooking the ball off the stance provided by the right to left slant of the fairway. Today’s green is made even better than before as Fought raised it two feet to provide the interesting recovery options that golfers have long associated with Pinehurst.

Plenty of golfers reach around the fifteenth green in two blows; whether they get up and down for birdie is now a trickier proposition.

Eighteenth hole, 420/405 yards; Today’s Home hole was originally the course’s first and it make some wonder: has there ever been a better architect at designing first holes? Probably not. Just in Pinehurst, there are three superior ones and that’s before one starts to consider Plainfield and French Lick and Inverness and Salem and Essex and Hogan’s favorite at Oak Hill, etc. Ross clearly liked to set the tone early. As it is, this hole perfectly captures the charm of Pine Needles, and thus makes for a great closing hole. Also, it is a bit of a rarity for a Home hole as it plays downhill; most clubs are fixated with having the clubhouse on high ground which invariably means most Home holes play uphill. Judging where to land one’s approach so that it will release close to the day’s hole location is a shot that one never tires of playing.

The appealing broad sweep of the Home fairway as it turns downhill to the green. Typical for a Ross design, the skilled player is free to seek an advantage, this time by drawing his tee shot down the right to left sloping fairway.

More so than almost any other course, most people can’t help but head straight for the nearby practice field afterwards. There was always some shot out on the course that one should have played but may not have been comfortable in doing so, and this practice area is the perfect place to develop that shot. The dead level hitting area and white balls to a huge, uncluttered field is where the serious golfer happily spends hours and hours.

The view from the eighteenth fairway is across the first tee and practice putting green and to the practice area itself.

Pine Needles was a planned housing development from the start and was always intended to be the bigger, stronger of the two courses. Unfortunately, it opened late in 1928. The Great Depression took its toll on the Pinehurst community one year later and both courses were sold to take financial strain off the Pinehurst Resort. The fate of these two Ross courses hung in the balance.

Fortuitously, Pine Needles was purchased in 1953 by Warren and Peggy Kirk Bell. Mrs. Bell was one of the founders of the LPGA Tour and knew Donald Ross. Their first meeting occurred almost sixty years ago, when she drove from her home in Florida to Pinehurst. Mrs. Bell arrived unannounced hoping to play in the tournament that week. The first person that she met was one Mr. Donald Ross who politely informed her that the tournament was by invitation only. Disconsolate, she sat at a nearby table and prepared for the long drive home whereupon Ross re-appeared and extended on the spot an invitation to play. Such began a warm relationship between the Bells and their fondness for the Pinehurst area and for Donald Ross.

Nearly forty years after acquiring Pine Needles, the Bell family was also involved in the acquisition of Mid Pines, and thus the two courses are once again linked by a common ownership which understands golf. The family run resort of Pine Needles and Mid Pines is a throwback to when golf was a simpler game without the peripheral distractions that clutter many resorts in the United States. After a round on either course, one is inspired rather than exhausted. Golf, as it was meant to be, indeed.

The End