No Resting on Laurels Around the Home of American Golf
By Brad King
Calling these “the best of times” around the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area of North Carolina might seem like it’s saying a lot, but sometimes the shoe simply fits.
Just take a look at everything that is currently happening around the Home of American Golf.
Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club recently celebrated its fourth U.S. Women’s Open and enjoyed rousing success, crowning another worthy champion in world No. 4-ranked Minjee Lee. The 26-year-old Australian joined her mentor, 2001 champion Karrie Webb, along with Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and Cristie Kerr on the Pine Needles Wall of Champions.
Soon after the final putt dropped at Pine Needles, thoughts around the Sandhills turned to the area’s next national championship, the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. It will be one of five U.S. Open Championships in the area by 2047, including another back-to-back Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open at No. 2 in 2029. Oh, by the way, the USGA staged its inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open in July at Pinehurst No. 6 and the event will return next year as well.
All of which is part of the USGA’s historic move to establish its second home in Pinehurst. In an effort to expand its impact in golf and extend its mission to champion and advance the game, the USGA is in the midst of constructing “Golf House Pinehurst,” a six-acre campus that will be completed by the end of 2023 and will include a new equipment-testing facility, innovation hub, museum and visitor center, and offices housing 50 full-time USGA staff members.
The USGA Experience will present an immersive view of golf and the USGA’s work to unify, showcase, govern and advance the game. Designed by Luci Creative, the Science of Golf and Championship galleries will feature interactive multimedia displays that incorporate augmented reality, interactive touch screens, sculptures and trophies. The USGA Golf Museum Special Exhibitions will uncover the organization’s deep collection of golf artifacts – the most comprehensive collection in the world.
The USGA’s Research and Test Center will be the only one of its kind in North America solely dedicated to testing golf balls and clubs for conformance to the Rules of Golf. At the USGA Shop, golfers will be able to purchase various products with the USGA championship logo of their choice as well as exhibit-related specialty items.
The USGA is also partnering with Pinehurst Resort to construct an outdoor testing pavilion and STEM education space near the resort’s main practice facility, including a mechanical golfer and ball launcher to demonstrate and evaluate golf ball aerodynamics.
“We love being a part of the Home of American Golf and bringing this vision to life,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA.
Then came the even-more-recent news that the World Golf Hall of Fame will relocate its physical presence on display from St. Augustine, Florida, to Pinehurst. Building on their longstanding partnership and shared passion to elevate the stories of golf’s legends, the USGA and the World Golf Hall of Fame will create a new visitor experience at the USGA’s Golf House Pinehurst campus, opening in 2024.
Additionally, World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held in Pinehurst in 2024 and 2029, to coincide with the 124th U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2 (2024), and the return of back-to-back U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica and U.S. Open Championships, also on Course No. 2 (2029). The first-ever back-to-back U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Open were contested in 2014.
“There’s no better connection to golf’s past, present and future than Pinehurst, and no organization that works harder than the USGA to preserve the history of this great game. We look forward to celebrating the greatest moments, and golf’s greatest athletes, by including the World Golf Hall of Fame as an important part of our new Pinehurst home,” Whan said. “Simply put, it just makes sense, and together with the Hall of Fame, we’re more committed than ever to delivering experiences that build even deeper connections between golf fans and those who have truly led the way in this great game.”
“For nearly 50 years, the Hall of Fame has honored the history and legacies of those who have made golf great,” said Greg McLaughlin, CEO, World Golf Hall of Fame. “Much like the USGA, the Hall of Fame is committed to connecting with fans around the world to highlight the greatest moments and legends of the sport. This expanded partnership will create an exciting new opportunity in Pinehurst – where the Hall of Fame originated – to celebrate Hall of Fame members and their contributions to golf.”
The World Golf Hall of Fame was founded in Pinehurst in 1974 and was operated by the resort’s management company until 1983, when ownership was transferred to the PGA of America. It moved to St. Augustine in 1998.
Many of the most cherished items in the Hall of Fame’s existing collection will be relocated to Pinehurst for the creation of a new Hall of Fame locker room, which will come to life on the second floor of the USGA Experience building. The result will be a seamless visitor journey from the USGA Experience galleries on the first floor to the second, showcasing the incredible talents of golf’s many contributors and their lasting impact on the game.
Artifacts from Hall of Fame inductees to be displayed in Pinehurst include:
“I’m confident (our) alignment with the USGA will further cement the long-term relevance and viability of the World Golf Hall of Fame, all while continuing to honor golf’s most storied individuals and artifacts,” said Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR and Chairman, World Golf Foundation. “Both organizations are committed to prioritizing the preservation of golf history, which will serve fans well in the years to come.”
Meanwhile, in other golf news around the Sandhills, the 2023 Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Championship will be contested at The Country Club of North Carolina’s Dogwood Course, originally designed by Ellis Maples and Willard Byrd and considered one of the state’s top five courses. CCNC has a long history of hosting elite golf championships, including the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Girls and Boys Junior Championships, Southern Amateur and North Carolina Amateur.
For fans of the latest in golf technology, Talamore Resort has recently debuted its Toptracer Range. Talamore guests can experience interactive golf entertainment with the transformation of the Talamore’s driving range into a facility powered by Toptracer Range technology. The technology uses high-speed cameras, coupled with sophisticated computer algorithms, to provide instantaneous ball tracking information to guests using the range.
“There are so many different things you can do with it. You can play other courses including Pinehurst No. 2 or Pebble Beach, you can play Topgolf, you can do long drives, you can do closest to the pins,” said Talamore Golf Resort General Manager Matt Hausser. “We have so much repeat business, it’s nice for them to keep coming back and finding something else here. We have 10 bays, so 40 people can use Toptracer Range at one time. It will be open till dark and the halfway house is conveniently located for food and drinks.”
In addition, the entire Talamore practice range has been upgraded and a new, 15,000-square-foot putting course is being installed between the driving range and the 10th tee boxes that is expected to open in early fall. Guests can warm up or practice on the putting course while waiting for Toptracer, or simply settling some bets after their round.
In other scuttlebutt around the Home of American Golf, the group that owns Pines Needles, Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club and that recently renovated Southern Pines Golf Club are reportedly planning to build a similar type of large practice putting green, as well as a handful of new cottages at Southern Pines GC.
Pinehurst Resort has reportedly been planning to announce Pinehurst No. 10 at some point soon, while a new distillery and a new hotel are also on the drawing board for the area. In addition, the North Carolina DOT has recommended replacing the Pinehurst Traffic Circle with a traditional interchange, which is expected to smooth the flow of traffic around the area.
“This destination is always evolving, always building for the future,” said Phil Werz, president and CEO of the Pinehurst, Southern Pines Aberdeen Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re not a bucket list destination, we’re a place we want people to keep choosing because there’s something new to see and do every time they return.”
The best of times in the Home of American Golf? That time is now.