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For such a revered golf destination - arguably, second only to St. Andrews in Scotland - it seems somewhat ironic that the original reason for the founding of Pinehurst, North Carolina, was to provide a settlement for sick people. (Those of us who would love to play golf every single day are often described as "sick," aren't we?) The idea for such a facility had first come to James Walker Tufts in the early 1890s. A rich businessman from Boston, Tufts had earned his big bucks by building and selling soda fountains. Eventually becoming more interested in philanthropy than business, he began looking for a place to build a resort for people with serious health problems - particularly consumption (tuberculosis). Through friends, Tufts learned of the curative powers of the North Carolina sand hills. Following a visit to the area in 1895, Tufts purchased nearly 6,000 acres at $1.24 each. His family and friends thought James Walker had gone whacko.
Within six months, however, the philanthropist's "folly" had the look and feel of a good-sized New England village and "Tuftstown" (as the locals called it) had a new name: Pinehurst. Less than a year later, though - due to the high costs of running such a facility - it also had a new purpose. Rather than a health resort for the middle class, it was now a place of leisure for the healthy and wealthy.
In the fall of 1897, the founder of Pinehurst watched with interest as a group of guests gathered in a field and began using wooden-shafted clubs to knock around small balls. Learning afterwards that it was called "golf," J.W. made a note to look into its popularity. A few months later, a patron of Pinehurst named Dr. Leroy Culver accepted an offer to design and construct a nine-hole course on the property. The resulting layout was an instant success and plans were soon made for a new clubhouse and an additional nine holes. In January of 1900, a year after the clubhouse opened, Pinehurst had its first 18-hole course (later called No.1). The following December, it also had a new head professional: a Scottish immigrant named Donald Ross. The demand for golf at Pinehurst grew quickly and soon another nine-holer was open for play - probably designed by Ross. With the addition of another nine holes in 1907 - definitely designed by Donald - the No. 2 course was complete. Still, the interest in golf kept growing. By 1923, the resort had four courses and all had been designed or remodeled by Ross. Throughout the U.S., nowhere had golf become such an important part of the landscape. Today - with eight courses now at the resort and many, many others available in surrounding cities - the Pinehurst area is still the No. 1 golf mecca in America. To borrow a phrase ... if you love golf, you've got to go.
Even though its infrastructure was modernized in 1998, the No. 1 course at Pinehurst Resort is pretty much the same tract that guests played in the early 1900s. Like the Village of Pinehurst itself, the No. 1 course is a charming trip to another time. Do not, however, be misled by the fact that it's the second-shortest course at the resort (6,128 yards from the furthest of four tees). The fairways are tight, the greens are tiny, and there aren't many flat lies to be found anywhere. And to those who have played it, the 223-yard par-three 11th on No. 1 is among the best holes that all of the eight courses here have to offer. As for the No. 2 course ... well, what more can be said about this classic and revered layout? Site of the U.S. Open in 1999 and 2005, the consensus No. 1 course in North Carolina, and No. 2 on Golf Digest's most recent list of "America's 100 Greatest Public Courses." At 7,252 yards from the tips (three other tees are available), the No. 2 course is the longest at Pinehurst Resort. Its length, though, is not its most daunting feature. Perhaps nowhere in the world will you find more challenging green complexes. Each offers firm, fast putting surfaces, and each is equipped with a number of slopes that tend to take the ball away from the hole - and possibly even off the green. So be sure to bring your "A" short game. Getting it up-and-down after a missed green may take some magic ... or a miracle. No doubt about it: Pinehurst No. 2 is a challenging layout. But it's also very pretty, extremely interesting and fun to play. One last thought: the best way to experience No. 2 is by taking one of the caddies that are available. They're aware of the many intricacies of this golf course, they know the greens, and they can help make your round here even more memorable.
As it is with the original course here, don't be turned off by the shortness of Number 3. Designed by Ross and opened for play in 1910, the 5,682-yard No. 3 course has long been a popular one for resort regulars - both low- and high handicappers alike. Like No.1, the No. 3 course features the look and feel of golf in another era. Its rolling, tree-lined fairways, numerous bunkers, and quirky (and recently renovated) putting surfaces help make this little layout a lot tougher than it looks. Except for his original routing, most of Ross's No. 4 course (opened in 1919) was redesigned in 2000. Architect Tom Fazio called his work here his "tribute to Pinehurst" and all that the area has meant to the game of golf. Now tough enough to be used as one of the qualifying courses for the match play portion of the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2008 (to be held on Pinehurst No. 2), No. 4 now features 180 pot bunkers and a back-tee length of 7,117 yards.
Designed by Ellis Maples (son of Frank Maples, Ross's long-time Director of Maintenance at the resort), the No. 5 course opened in 1961. Possibly due to its interesting variety of holes - uphill, downhill, doglegs, long and short par fours - No. 5 gets more play than any course at the resort. It also has more water in play, and a back-tee length of 6,848 yards. The No. 6 course (opened in 1979) was the last of the eight exceptional courses here to be built near the beautiful and historic clubhouse. Originally designed by Tom Fazio and his Uncle George, No. 6 was completely renovated and updated to USGA specifications by Tom in 2004 - with new greens, new bunkers, and new shot values on almost every hole. No. 6 was a big-time layout before; it's even more of a championship course now (7,157 yards from the tips).
Located a mile from the main clubhouse, Pinehurst No. 7 was built on some of the most rugged land around the village. Thanks to the terrain, there's much more of a "mountain course" feel to this Rees Jones-designed layout than at any other in this remarkable rota. Opened in 1986, the course was renovated and lengthened by the architect in 2003 (500 yards were added and it now measures 7,125 yards from the back tees). Due to its hilliness (8 of the 18 holes play uphill), however, No. 7 can play a lot longer than its yardage. While not quite as hilly, Pinehurst No. 8 offers some elevation changes, too. Located just two miles from the clubhouse, No. 8 was created to celebrate Pinehurst Resort's centennial in 1996. A Tom Fazio design that's sturdy enough to have hosted the PGA Club Professional Championship in 1997 and 1998, No. 8 is also considered a "player friendly" golf course. Golf for Women Magazine, in fact, ranked it #16 on its "Top 50 Courses for women to play" list.