PINEHURST, NC, June 11, 2014 – Inspiration, philanthropy, railroads and warm weather. Those were the elements that merged at the beginning of the 20th century to create one of the greatest golf meccas in the world in Pinehurst, N.C.
On two weeks of golf that will determine both the men’s and women’s national champion get ready to tee off, it is worthy to note that Pinehurst would not be the venue for the next two weeks had it not been for the vision of James Walker Tufts.
Even today, Pinehurst nestles as an isolated oasis of golf amid the longleaf pines in the Sandhills of North Carolina. Eliminate golf and Pinehurst would likely still be a remote region of rural countryside with little else to attract visitors.
At the end of the 19th century, Tufts purchased nearly 6,000 acres of sandy wasteland for about $1 per acre. The region was once a flourishing pine forest which had been cut for timber and turpentine. Many observers thought Tufts, who had become rich with his Soda Fountain Company. was crazy for his investment.
Whether it was dumb luck or pure inspiration for the New England native, Tufts’ original goal was to establish a resort destination for upscale visitors to escape the harsh winters of the Northeast.
With ready access from nearby railroads, combined with the mild North Carolina climate, Pinehurst became an ideal location. By 1895 a New England-style village had been established with more than 20 cottages, the Holly Inn, a general store and a dairy.
“Tuftstown”, as it was called for the first six months, was intended as a place of recuperation for people dealing with the stress of the Industrial Revolution.
A few years later, Dr. D. Leroy Culver of New York designed a basic 9-hole golf course. Another 9-holes were added in 1899 by John Dunn Tucker to complete Pinehurst No. 1, the resort’s first 18-hole course.
Tufts did not stop there, however. He hired Frederick Law Olmsted, who desigmed Central Park in New York, to reforest the area by sowing more than 200,000 seedlings and other plants. Many of the plantings for the horticultural project were imported from France.
Virtually simultaneously, a young Scottish golf professional named Donald Ross was hired as director of golf operations. Ross was a prolific course designer who lived for a half a century in Pinehurst until his death in 1948.
Shortly after Ross came to Pinehurst, he redesigned Pinehurst No. 1 followed by the famed No. 2 course which may be his signature achievement and has long been regarded as one of the finest courses in America.
This week Pinehurst No. 2 will be the site of both the men’s and women’s U.S. Open National Championships back-to-back for the first time in history.
As Olmstead’s seedlings grew and Ross’ game flourished, the village was renamed “Pinehurst.” “Pine” for the beautiful longleafed trees and “hurst”, which is a wooed plot of rising ground.
While golf was the primary interest of visitors to Pinehurst, the region was a noted recreational area for horses, tennis, bowling, archery, hunting, polo, croquet and a variety of other activities. In 1916, sharp-shooter Annie Oakley arrived as director of the Pinehurst Gun Club performing two marksmanship exhibitions each week.
The Carolina hotel opened in 1901 as the focal point of the activities in Pinehurst. Ir remains a center today, and the village retains its original New England charm.
For golfers, Pinehurst is the St. Andrews of the United States. It is a showcase for the American history of the Royal and Ancient Game.
Despite the popularity of golf with more than 40 courses in the area today, Pinehurst is still accessible primarily by two-lane country roads.
The railroads are no longer the factor they once were, but that matters little to those who love to hit a little white ball across lush green grass because golfers will never stop “making tracks” to Pinehurst.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
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