North Carolina's Golden Oldies
From Pinehurst to Mid Pines, Pine Needles and Hillandale, North Carolina's Piedmont is home to a multitude of classic and timeless designs. Maybe it's those fairways lined with ancient oaks, or perhaps the lure of a walkable and elegant design devoid of contrived hazards, or the feel of a place where so many of the game's greats have played. Whatever the attraction, there's undoubtedly something wonderful about a golf course with a rich history. Not surprisingly, North Carolina boasts a fine portfolio of mature golf courses, some of which are famous around the world.
When golf came to America in the late 1800s, it wasn't long before the game spread south and took root in North Carolina. In the early years of the twentieth century, private and public courses opened from Asheville in the west to Wilmington in the east.
Pinehurst Resort and Country Club was the catalyst, opening a nine-hole course designed by Dr. D. Leroy Culver in 1898. Soda fountain magnate James Walker Tufts asked Culver to build what is now Pinehurst No. 1 as part of a resort that Tufts thought would be a welcome winter retreat for Bostonians and other northeastern residents in search of a respite from the grim New England winters.
In 1901, Pinehurst added nine holes to No. 1 and built the first nine holes of No. 2. By 1910, the first three courses at Pinehurst were complete and ready for play. To build their courses and promote the game, the Tufts' family hired Donald Ross, a young Scot who had apprenticed under Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews. Ross built many of his courses in North Carolina, often using mule-driven drag pans and rudimentary tractors.
Before his death in 1948, Ross designed, built or expanded 42 golf courses in the state. Two of the best are just a few miles from Pinehurst at Mid Pines and Pine Needles.
The former opened in 1921 and the latter in 1927. To this day, with their wide fairways and "turtle back" greens that reward strong ball striking and delicate short game touch. In 1995 and 2001, Pine Needles hosted the U.S. Women's Open Championship, and Mid Pines has hosted thousands of amateur and professional tournaments.
In 1915, Donald Ross designed the original layout at Durham's Hillandale Golf Course and subsequent designers include no less than Perry Maxwell and George Cobb. Hillandale is one of the most popular courses in the state due to its sensible fee structure and variety of holes. Expert advice on equipment can also be found here as its pro shop is routinely ranked one of the best in the United States.
Two fine military courses in the heartland of North Carolina are Ryder Golf Course, and its sister, Stryker Golf Course. Donald Ross designed the latter, which is the only Ross military course still in existence. Both are located at Fort Bragg and are open to the public on a limited basis.
In the booming Triad area, which boasts one of the finest collections of public-access golf courses in the United States, there are several outstanding golf courses built between 1931-1958.
Blair Park Golf Course in High Point is a 6,463-yard layout that hosts close to 40,000 rounds a year; scoring well at Blair Park requires a healthy dose of local knowledge.
Nearby Lexington Golf Club is a splendidly quirky course with a wonderful history replete with gentlemen, n'aer-do-wells, anarchic ex-athletes and everyone in between.
Championship Course at Tanglewood Park is an early Robert Trent Jones course that hosted the P.G.A. Championship in 1974. Set in a magnificent park among mature oaks, maples and other hardwoods, Tanglewood is one of the finest courses in the southeastern United States and possibly Jones' personal favorite.
Our tour of North Carolina's "antique" golf courses concludes with a few lesser-known destinations that are well worth a visit.
McCanless Golf Course near historic Salisbury and just a few miles from I-85 may be on the short side by modern standards, but it requires precise ball-striking to score well.
As the city's municipal facility since 1934, Sanford Golf Club has proven popular with thousands of local and visiting golfers.
In Shelby, Royster Memorial Golf Course is a fun nine-hole course that serves as the city's municipal facility.
In the heart of the Uwharrie Mountains near Troy, Montgomery Country Club is a semi-private club that welcomes visitors all year.
Spread further around North Carolina's central region, more excellent golf awaits the traditionalist. Near Charlotte, both Monroe Country Club and Mooresville Golf Course have 18 holes, nine of which Donald Ross designed.
Just minutes from downtown Charlotte, Revolution Park Golf Course has been a popular spot for beginning and accomplished golfers.
The same can be said for Gastonia Municipal Golf Course which provides patrons with a relaxed oasis in the middle of one of the Piedmont's busiest cities.
added: January 17, 2011
updated: December 10, 2012
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