About four miles south of the Pinehurst Resort’s main clubhouse is a sprawling 900-acre property that Pinehurst’s owners, the Dedman family, purchased in 2011. Part of that land, a former sand mine, for two-and-a-half decades was home to a polarizing, now-closed golf course called The Pit. Today, it’s what Pinehurst President Tom Pashley calls the resort’s “Field of Dreams.”
“Our repository of every idea that we have now can exist down there,” Pashley says.
In late spring of 2024, the former Pit property will reopen to the public with a new Tom Doak-designed layout: the 10th 18-hole championship course at the iconic resort.
And what’s coming next at Pinehurst is even grander in vision, embracing not only traditional design but also fun, engaging, and increasingly trendy secondary options like a short course (or courses) and possible putting course. The resort will also evaluate development opportunities with town officials, including the possibility of guest cottages and other lodging in addition to a new clubhouse for the newest addition: Pinehurst No. 10.
In some ways, Pinehurst has itself to thank for a roadmap.
Pinehurst undertook a major restoration of its flagship No. 2 course in 2011 and then introduced its nearly two-acre Thistle Dhu putting course the next year. The hugely popular Cradle par-3 course opened in 2017 just outside the main clubhouse, bringing an even more friendly, casual vibe to the historic property. Music plays throughout the par-3 course, where golfers, some with bare feet, play with drinks in hand thanks to an open-air bar called “The Cradle Crossing.” Just after Gil Hanse opened The Cradle, his celebrated redesign of No. 4 followed in 2018. Most recently, the resort’s No. 8 course underwent a makeover.
With 171 holes in total, Pinehurst is among the nation’s biggest golf properties, but even that’s proving insufficient to meet existing demand.
“With this record surge in travel interest and our members playing more than ever, we do need more golf,” says Pashley, who took over as Pinehurst’s President in 2014 after 14 years in the resort’s marketing department. “We’ve really been editors of the Pinehurst experience. Since the Dedman family acquired it in 1984, we’ve added to it, but this is going to be our first chance in the last two decades to make a meaningful (regulation-length course) golf addition to Pinehurst.”
The property that was home to the Dan Maples-designed curiosity known as The Pit from 1985 through 2010 boasts rugged dunes and native sand, natural ridgelines, towering longleaf pines, wiregrass, streams, and ponds. Topographically, it’s quite distinct from the other Pinehurst courses, with about 75 feet of elevation change and expansive views from its highest point over the rest of the area.
“It’s bigger, bolder, and more dramatic,” says Doak, adding that the sand native to the region is what he’s most excited about working with. Landscape architect Angela Moser, who has worked on courses such has Streamsong Black (Florida), St. Patrick’s Links (Ireland), and Te Arai Links (New Zealand), will serve as Doak’s lead design associate for the project.
It was more than 40 years ago that Doak first visited Pinehurst and played the Donald Ross-designed No. 2 course, which he rated a perfect “10” in his seminal book The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. Doak was also a vocal supporter of the course’s restoration by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who years ago actually created a property-specific course routing for The Pit that Pinehurst had sat on ever since.
Over the past decade, Coore & Crenshaw have opened ballyhooed resort courses such as Sand Valley, Streamsong Red, Ozarks National, Cabot Cliffs, and Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes. But Pashley says it turned out for the best that Pinehurst didn’t move forward with the original plans for The Pit.
“I’m glad we didn’t develop it in 2012. We’ve learned so much more about what the future of golf should look like and how it should feel,” Pashley says. “If we had just built that course down there, we wouldn’t have even known about The Cradle. We wouldn’t have been able to incorporate what we’ve learned here down there. Hopefully what The Pit becomes is truly this melting pot of putting green, short courses, big courses, and fun.”
With 900 acres, there’s certainly room for multiple courses—big or small. Given how busy Coore & Crenshaw are with other projects—among them a new short course at Streamsong, their first Caribbean course at Cabot St. Lucia, a second private course at McArthur in Hobe Sound, Fla., and a redo of the Pines Course at The International outside Boston—it’s not surprising the team isn’t involved in at least the initial plan for The Pit.
The next historic chapter at Pinehurst will involve Doak, but there may be more to come.
“This exceptional property is a place where many of our dreams of the future can be contemplated,” Pinehurst Resort CEO Bob Dedman Jr. says. “How those dreams play out will be determined over time, the same way the path forward revealed itself through recent additions like The Cradle, Thistle Dhu, and the redesign of Pinehurst No. 4.”
When it comes to bringing new golf to Pinehurst, what else would you like to see involved?