April 25, 2014
A recent pilgrimage to Pinehurst, NC for the Golf Writers Association of America golf tournament provided a welcome escape from winter’s grasp, and a pleasant interlude with my fellow golfing scribes.
We began our three-round event at Mid-Pines Inn and Golf Club, a 1920’s-era gem featuring a restored Donald Ross course. In January 2014 Golf Magazine decreed it the best U.S. Resort Renovation, highlighted by the removal of hundreds of trees and a reworking of the rough to resemble the new treatment given to nearby Pinehurst No. 2.
Many locations off the fairway now sport waste areas and patches of wiregrass. I can vouch for the special challenges these new features presented, as I re-acquainted myself with playing golf without layers of fleece and sweaters.
The renovated course also featured very firm, very fast greens, while retaining the famous Ross edges that guided less than perfect approaches off the greens and onto the adjacent closely mown areas.
Our next round took place at Pinehurst No. 1, part of the famous Pinehurst resort complex that will host the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open back to back this coming June. With only two and a half months before the start of those two majors, the Pinehurst folks were busy with their preparations.
A chain link fence is now up along Route 2, and grounds staff were placing green screen materials against the new fencing. Golf balls hit at the practice range fly into a high screen a few yards away, as the area is converted to tent spaces for the Opens.
The Number 1 course is unaffected, however, and was as fun as its reputation preceding our round.
Another original Ross design, the par-70 layout is “only” 6,089 yards from the blue tees. Several tough challenges, including several par 4s over 400 yards long, make that total a bit deceptive.
Consider the 222-yard par 3 sidehill/uphill 12th hole. Shots going left are dead. Shots aimed to the right to avoid the left side’s steep slopes can land in a bunker several yards short of the green. And the day we played, the wind was directly in our face.
Stephen Boyd, a retired media relations rep for Pinehurst, hit his driver to 8 feet, and made the birdie putt. I hit a sweeping draw with my driver. My ball came to a stop just short of the green side bunker left of the green. I missed my one-putt par by inches, and still felt fine.
We played our third round at the Dogwood Course of the Country Club of North Carolina, a beautiful, hilly layout, with several water holes that grab your attention. This 1963 design has hosted a U.S. Amateur and the 2010 U.S. Girls Championship. It is private, however, and arrangements were made for GWAA members.
We played from the blue tees, at 6,369 yards. The Bermuda rough was still light tan, as there hadn’t been enough warm days to bring back the green. With the fairways overseeded with rye, the contrast made it easy to grade one’s drives. Signs noted that the Stimpmeter number on the greens was 10, but that was on the flat spots. Putts from above the hole were far faster.
A few first attempts quickly convinced us to stay below the hole on our approaches.
Rookery holding Ryder Cup Contest
Tomorrow, April 26, is the deadline to sign up for The Rookery’s combined competition, held May 3 on the South Course and May 4 on the North Course.
Head golf pros Butch Holtzclaw and Kyle Deas will captain the two sides, and the teams will be paired up by handicaps. The first 38 to sign up will be in the match, which will play better ball of partners on Saturday and individual play on Sunday. Dinner will follow the Sunday afternoon round.
The entry fee of $100 covers the cart fees, team hats, prizes, and the dinner and adult beverages. For more information, call The Rookery pro shops at 684-3000 or 422-7010.