By Brad King
Headed into 2023, there’s a palpable buzz pulsing throughout North Carolina’s Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area — or as it is more globally recognized, the “Home of American Golf.”
Golf around Pinehurst boasts a storied legacy unlike any other place in the country, offering a variety of memorable sporting experiences on layouts created by the most renowned names in the game including Donald Ross, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Gil Hanse, Dan Maples and many others.
And news broke the first week of January announcing that Tom Doak would join this elite group by designing Pinehurst’s 10th course, the resort’s first brand-new golf course in 28 years. Aside from the golf course, the site in Aberdeen will include a short course, clubhouse, guest cottages and other lodging. Located four miles south of the main resort clubhouse, Doak’s 18-hole routing is expected to open late spring of 2024, coinciding with the return of the U.S. Open to Pinehurst No. 2.
With nearly 40 golf courses in the Tar Heel State’s Sandhills region, all concentrated within a 15-mile radius of each other, there are a host of memories to be made. In addition to North Carolina’s best collection of golf courses, the area also serves up world-class dining and shopping, outdoor adventures, equestrian facilities and more.
The USGA is in the process of constructing its second headquarters — called Golf House Pinehurst — while the Pinehurst Resort’s legendary No. 2 course will host the 2024 U.S. Open and will serve as the USGA anchor site for future championships in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.
In addition, Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club hosted the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open, the fourth time the storied Donald Ross layout has played host to the prestigious championship.
Golf House Pinehurst is an active construction site. The two-building facility will include an equipment-testing center, a visitor-friendly USGA Experience and an educational landscape feature to be completed by the end of 2023. “The USGA, along with our many partners who helped make this project a reality, share a bold vision for Golf House Pinehurst and the impact it will have on this community and the game of golf,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA.
Another previous USGA championship venue is Legacy Golf Links in Aberdeen. The Nicklaus Design now features Mini Verde greens and is beautifully routed around five lakes. The collection of par 3s at Legacy may be the best in the area, while the 18th hole nicknamed “The Bear” was rated as the best finishing hole in the Sandhills.
In Southern Pines, Talamore Resort recently debuted its new Toptracer Range. The Toptracer technology uses high-speed cameras, coupled with sophisticated computer algorithms, to provide instantaneous ball tracking information to guests using the range featured 10 hitting bays.
“There are so many different things you can do with it,” said Talamore Golf Resort General Manager Matt Hausser. “You can play other courses, you can play Topgolf, you can do long drives, you can do closest to the pins.” The Talamore Toptracer Range features hitting bays all with high-speed cameras, TV monitors, technology and games, and casual seating is available.
In addition, miniature golf will soon make its debut in Taylortown, where Miniature Golf Solutions is creating 36 holes in Olmsted Village near the corner of Highway 211 and Main Street. It will be named Wee Pines. Pinehurst businessman and investor Marty McKenzie hired the Florida-based company to create and develop the project. The design concept is expected to be a blend of traditional and more modern aesthetics and will be a combination of “old-school fun and new trends.” The new miniature golf course is expected to open in the spring.
Meanwhile, Golf Pride has opened a first of its kind Retail Lab in the company’s 36,000-square-foot Global Innovation Center (GIC) Pinehurst, which opened in 2019. It is located next to the Tom Fazio-designed and highly acclaimed Pinehurst No. 8 golf course that recently received a host of upgrades, including new TifEagle greens, bunker restoration and fresh bunker sand, improved drainage throughout the course and the removal of invasive trees limiting views and inhibiting sunlight.
The Retail Lab has been part of the plans for the GIC since its inception and now for the first time this unique grip selection journey is open to the public. It provides an “inside the ropes” TOUR-like experience for golfers to choose the right grips for their game and have them installed on their clubs with a lead TOUR technician, while also allowing guests to access GIC-exclusive products and merchandise. For the steady stream of golfers who visit Pinehurst from around the world on a daily basis, this is a new “must-do” on the itinerary.
“There’s something unique going on here in Pinehurst,” says Jamie Ledford, president of Golf Pride, a division of Eaton Corporation. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to tap into the world of golf. There are a surprising number of golf companies and golf thought leaders based here in Pinehurst. Golf Pride made a decision to build our design and development center in Pinehurst and we have a huge opportunity to test it with golfers from around the world right here in Pinehurst. It’s a great spot for us.”
Aside from Golf Pride, the USGA, U.S. Kids Golf and the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA) have moved portions or their entire headquarters to the area in recent years.
The U.S. Kids Golf Academy is located at Longleaf Golf & Family Club in Southern Pines and annually hosts, along with more than a dozen area golf courses, the U.S. Kids Teen and U.S. Kids World Golf Championships each August. More than 2,000 junior golfers from around the world descend upon the destination to compete in the events.
Making all the activity convenient for its global audience, the Home of American Golf is strategically located with major East Coast international airports in Raleigh and Charlotte, 60 and 90 miles away, respectively.
“Pinehurst is the perfect community because of its world-wide reputation in golf and because of the world-class excellence here,” says Dan Van Horn, founder and president, U.S. Kids Golf. “This is a great place to live and work.”