Our History

History Lives In These Sandhills

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In the late 19th century, when James Walker Tufts bought nearly 6,000 acres of land — at an average of a whopping $1 an acre — in what was then considered a ‘biological desert’ due to logging and soil erosion, he had no idea he was on the verge of founding the Home of American Golf®.





But Tufts wasn’t the first with grand plans for the Sandhills. The turpentine and timber industries had arrived with the railroads and left the area nothing but wire grass, scrub oaks and damaged pines. In 1884, John T. Patrick bought his own sizable chunk of cheap land, envisioning a resort destination due to the appealing climate. He called it Vineland, but soon changed it to Southern Pines.

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Incorporated in 1887, the town proved to be an ideal place for travel-weary rail passengers heading south. By the 1920s, Southern Pines really started to boom as a center of commerce and leisure living.

Aberdeen had also been put on the map by the late 1800s, though it was settled more than a century prior. Formerly known as Blue’s Crossing, the town has long served as a hub of transportation and commerce. The Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad Company, a ‘short line’ freight operation that started as a logging road, still runs today.



Yet it was with the arrival of Tufts, a soda fountain entrepreneur from Massachusetts, that the Sandhills truly found its niche. Tufts set out to build a town and grow peach orchards. He hired the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park, to design the Village of Pinehurst.

Tufts envisioned a health resort in the style of a New England village, where people with respiratory and other ailments could travel from the north via railway to recuperate. The Holly Inn, Pinehurst’s first hotel, opened on New Year’s Eve 1895 with around 20 guests.

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Soon after, legend has it that local farmers approached Tufts to complain about his guests disturbing their cows by hitting a little white ball around their fields. In 1900, ever the entrepreneur, Tufts engaged a Scotsman named Donald Ross to design a golf course to accommodate them. The rest is history.



The sandy soil, undulating hills, hardy grass and temperate climate all combined to make Moore County an ideal place for this most challenging game of leisure. After several false starts, the area had finally found a perfect fit.