The Middle Ages of Pinehurst

pg. 7


And so, America’s Home of Golf fell into an age where the luster on the dream was more than a little tarnished. The 1969 transfer of the resort to the corporate robots of Diamondhead (“we have a lot of La Costa type ideas”) completed the club’s journey to its nadir. There have been legitimate questions as to whether the whole affair can regain its rightful place in the constellation of golfing’s supreme destinations.

The answer to that question is yes it can – and it will.

Courtesy of Pinehurst Resort

As you know, that redemptive journey is already well on its way. The crown jewel has – through brilliant decisions and stunning craftsmanship – resumed its rightful place.

A fully satisfying return of the overall resort will involve no less visionary undertakings. To a large extent, that will happen as well…all in good time. (Let’s start with a proper reintroduction of No. 1, shall we?)

The magical tournament which once held such a supreme place in the golfing world did not make it back into the fold. The unique spirit conjured by the mix of the highest caliber competition on the highest caliber of courses at the height of spring has been emulated for decades down the road in Georgia. Pinehurst itself did have various professional tournaments through the years. Fine affairs they were, but not on any transcendent level. However, that has been more than amended by Pinehurst’s establishment within the national championship rota. If any event signaled the resurgence of this resort it was the spectacular first playing of that event.

Not unlike the venerable No. 2 Course itself, there were those who seriously questioned whether, after the fall, Harvie would make it back to a deserved perch in the world where he once shined so very brightly. After an extended journey through the less desirable regions of personal experience he did…in Pinehurst…”the only place I ever felt truly at home.”
On the final day of the 1999 U.S. Open – and before he practiced putting for forty-five minutes – Payne Stewart was hitting balls on the driving range – the first one in America, actually. After duck hooking a 3-wood he heard this Southern drawl call out “I didn’t teach you to hit like that!”. Payne didn’t need to turn around to see who that was. He had lived at the Pine Crest Inn for months to study under the old master.

Harvie did some good playing in his later years, but it was in teaching a singular knowledge to students of the game that became his primary niche. In his very last years he played mainly at Forest Creek in Pinehurst. As he was making his way back to the clubhouse from one of his last rounds there he happened upon a friend who inquired about how he had played.

“Did you shoot your age today Harv?”

“Aw, hell no…I didn’t play that bad.”

Donald Ross was the man who handed the medal to the winner of Pinehurst’s major tournament. What sort of experience do you suppose that was? All those years of chasing the dream across those endless fields…and then the sun setting over the iconic clubhouse with the Scotsman offering congratulations in a voice still reflective of his native land. It would have been one of those handful of golden moments in life which remain a spectral presence far beyond the duration of the given day. In fact, most of the visitors during this era had their own mesmeric experiences. Only it was not usually with such fanfare. In smaller and quieter ways the same scenario played out with individual variations; such as in the exquisite stillness of a late afternoon on the veranda, a moonlight walk to the Carolina or a soaring four iron to the heart of one of those distinctive greens. In a way, you could say such sublime experiences have always been the raison d’etre of the village. Was it not for this so many travellers returned year after year?

Donald Ross would not have been pleased to see the winding path his magnum opus took after his long years of toil through that longleaf forest. However, this ongoing journey back to the intended essence would have impressed him greatly.

And some of the best chapters haven’t even been written yet.

Courtesy of Corbis


Chris Buie is the author of The Early Days of Pinehurst


The Tufts Archives  (you are encouraged to donate to this worthy organization)

“Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca at Pinehurst, North Carolina: National Marketing and Local Control”
Larry R. Youngs
Department of History
Georgia State University

“Pinehurst ~ Home of American Golf”
Richard Mandell

“American Triumvirate”
Jim Dodson