From Pasture to Pinehurst

They called him a fool

Photos courtesy of the Tufts Archives

 

Our story begins in 1895, when Boston Philanthropist James Walker Tufts purchased 5,800 acres of ravaged timberland in the Sandhills region of central North Carolina. This land, which cost Tufts about $1 per acre, once held a flourishing pine forest that had been cut for timber and used for its plentiful supply of turpentine and building supplies. What was left behind was a barren, sandy wasteland. And what else? A pasture.

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The Fool Builds

Many locals thought Tufts a fool for his purchase, but the astute businessman sold his thriving soda fountain company on the idea of a health retreat – far away from the cares of the world. From the very beginning, Pinehurst was designed as a philanthropic gesture by Tufts, as a place for middle-class Americans to recuperate from the ailments of the time. Most believed those suffering from the respiratory illnesses as a result of the Industrial Revolution could be cured by the “pine ozone” only found in the region. Tufts’ idea was to create a New England-style village, with walkways and year-round greenery.

Tufts’ idea was to create a New England-style village, with walkways and year-round greenery.

By the first year, Tufts had directed completion of a general store, dairy farm, boarding house, more than 20 cottages and the Holly Inn, which opened Dec. 31, 1895. The Carolina Hotel hosted its first guests in 1901. It immediately served as the center of all activity at Pinehurst, surrounded by lush grounds, perfect for enjoying the warmth of the day.

Recreation and gracious accommodations were premier features of Tufts’ health resort. Riding, hunting, polo, lawn bowling, bicycling and archery were popular in Pinehurst’s early days; many remain so today. Tennis was one of the first planned recreational activities at Pinehurst, with two courts on the original blueprints for the Holly Inn lawns.

A New Game

Finally, three years later, there was golf.

Well, sort of.

According to history, some hotel guests introduced the game in the dairy cattle grazing fields, hitting little white balls that disturbed the herd. Tufts then hired Dr. D. Leroy Culver of New York to design and build a golf course in Pinehurst, and in February of 1898 a rudimentary nine-hole course was constructed. The first clubhouse followed a few months later. Pinehurst’s first golf professional, John Dunn Tucker, was hired in 1899 to add an additional nine. The course later became Pinehurst No. 1, our first 18-hole layout.

In 1900, Tufts hired Donald J. Ross, a young Scottish golf professional, to direct golf operations at Pinehurst. Ross remained with Pinehurst until his death in 1948. During those five decades, Ross built a reputation as one of the foremost golf professionals and course architects in the country. He designed or redesigned more than 400 golf courses throughout North America.

By 1903, the Pinehurst Golf Club was established, the North and South Championship series was underway, and Pinehurst was becoming a major focus for golf in the U.S.

His first Pinehurst efforts began with his arrival as he redesigned Pinehurst No. 1. His first 18-hole design here was Pinehurst No. 2, a championship course with sand greens and a natural, gently rolling topography. He later built No. 3, No. 4 and a rudimentary course for employees and caddies, all of which he continuously updated during the off-season.

 

The Cradle of American Golf

By 1903, the Pinehurst Golf Club was established, the North and South Championship series was underway, and Pinehurst was becoming a major focus for golf in the U.S. The best in the world have played Pinehurst: Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Glenna Collett Vare, Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg, and Louise Suggs. Snead once proclaimed Pinehurst No. 2 “as my number one course.”

It has greeted and challenged golfers from throughout the world, as the site of the 1936 PGA Championship, the 1951 Ryder Cup Matches, the 1962 and 2008 U.S. Amateur Championships; the 1989 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, the 1991 and 1992 TOUR Championships, the 1994 U.S. Senior Open, and the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Open Championship, the first of which was won with a famous 15-foot putt by Payne Stewart. In 2014, Pinehurst hosted both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open Championships in back-to-back weeks, marking the first time in history both tournaments were played in the same year, on the same course.

Not bad for a ravaged timberland.

 

If you would like to purchase any of the photos appearing on this page, please contact the Tufts Archives.

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