- The Golden Age of Pinehurst: The Story of the Rebirth of No. 2 by Lee Pace
Across the country there is a movement to return golf courses to their natural state by eliminating over-seeding, removing excess grass, and restricting watering. The "browning" of golf courses is part of the green movement. Some course managers are doing it to conserve money, but most as a return to the original conditions of golf. Lee Pace's The Golden Age of Pinehurst: The Story of the Rebirth of No. 2 is the story of one of America's most iconic golf courses being returned to its original state. The significance of the course restoration is due to Pinehurst #2 hosting both the US Open for men and women back-to-back in 2014, the first time the two tournaments have been held in close proximity on the same course. When millions watch the televised 2014 US Opens, many will probably be introduced to the new return-to-nature trend away from the highly manicured and landscaped courses modern golfers have grown accustomed to playing.
The Pinehurst resort in North Carolina consists of eight golf courses—#2 is one of the most revered 18-holes in the U.S., consistently ranked among the best. Under the original ownership of James Tufts, Pinehurst was developed into a leading golf resort dating back to 1895. Five years after its founding, Scotsman Donald Ross was hired as resident pro and started designing the #2 course, which began play in 1901. Ross, while using Pinehurst as his base, became the premier course designer in the country developing or redesigning hundreds of golf courses. Pinehurst #2—like most Ross course designs utilized the natural terrain—became known for its turtle-backed greens, fast and firm wide fairways that were flanked by unkempt bunkers and hazards consisting of hardpan sand and pine straw. When a pinecone fell from a tree, it stayed.
Pinehurst #2 became home to some of the most prestigious amateur tournaments and eventually professional events. In 1970, the Tufts family sold the resort to the Diamondhead Corp., which decided to accommodate the course to the new array of golf equipment and expectations of the modern golfer. The change meant practically sodding the entire course acreage to become a finely manicured golf venue with soft fairways. When a pinecone fell, it was swiftly removed. This lush version of the course successfully hosted the men's US Open in both 1999 and 2005.
The purpose of Pace's book is to support the decision and explain in detail the work to return Pinehurst #2 to its original design and terrain complete with unkempt bunkers some even spouting clumps of wire grass. Robert Dedman's purchase of Pinehurst in 1984 eventually lead to #2's rebirth that was completed in 2011 under the work of golf architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. To achieve the original look of #2 as Ross designed it, a thousand sprinkler heads were reduced to 450; forty acres of turf removed exposing the hardpan sand, some 8,000 wire grass plants dug in, and 40 percent less water used in maintenance. Many of the bunker's edges were intentionally "broken" for a rough, return to nature appearance—once again, fallen pinecones remain as part of the hazard. The course is no longer totally green but an array of earth tones. [End Page 503]
The Golden Age of Pinehurst is a coffee-table edition that was commissioned by Pinehurst LLC as the latest of three books about the resort by Pace. Its critical analysis is limited to the Diamondhead ownership period. The design by Sue Pace, Lee's wife, features high-quality photographs wrapped by the author's lengthy and often repetitious conversational prose. Its sales orientation is underscored by the many sidebars that address such topics as: Pinehurst's putter boy logo; the resort's archives; caddie tradition; local village shops; Presidential Suite in the Carolina Hotel; and others...