By LEE PACE
To Ben Crenshaw, there are two places in the world that every golfer should visit: St. Andrews and Pinehurst. “A golfer is not complete until he’s been to both,” says Crenshaw, co-architect with Bill Coore in the 2010-11 restoration of Pinehurst No. 2.
To David Fay, there is the “three-legged stool of golf” — St. Andrews, Pinehurst and Pebble Beach.
“The United States may not have a St. Andrews, but Pinehurst is the closest thing to St. Andrews we have in terms of the feel for the history of the game, the passion of the game,” says Fay, the former executive director of the USGA who was instrumental in first bringing the U.S. Open to Pinehurst in 1999. “The whole place just exudes golf.”
Pinehurst’s roots in Scotland trace to the mid-1700s, when Scottish Highlanders traveled south from Pennsylvania on the “Great Wagon Road” and northeast from Wilmington along the Cape Fear River and settled in what would become Moore County. They named villages in the area Aberdeen and Carthage; they buried McCaskills, Mathesons and McDonalds in a cemetery to the west of Carthage. The county to the south was named Scotland County.
“One reason I enjoyed my annual pilgrimage to Pinehurst so much was what seemed to me an ethereal connection to St. Andrews,” said Bill Campbell, the noted amateur golfer and four-time winner of the North and South Amateur. “You see Scottish names on towns passing by and street signs. Even the haphazard flow of the roads in the Village is very much a Scottish touch.”
Laurie Auchterlonie was a Scottish club maker who visited Pinehurst most every winter beginning in 1973 in his role as “international curator” of the World Golf Hall of Fame, located at the time next to the fourth green of No. 2. “Golf was born in Scotland,” he liked to say, “but it lives in Pinehurst.”
As The Open Championship returns to the Old Course at St. Andrews, let us count the strains on the umbilical cord connecting the two golf-centric communities:
Both towns and their rich collection of golf courses are situated on sandy soil, the perfect drainage base for golf.
Donald Ross, architect of the original four courses at Pinehurst, learned much of green keeping, club-making and architecture during his apprentice year at St. Andrews in the early 1890s; he put those skills and knowledge to work at Pinehurst.
Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews was a giant in the Scottish golf community as a player, administrator and architect; Richard Tufts of Pinehurst served the USGA for many years (president 1956-57) and left an imprint on the rules, agronomy, handicapping, architecture and championship set-up.
The Old Course has only one water hazard, the Swilcan Burn on holes 1 and 18, and ditto for No. 2, that being the pond in front of the 16th tee.
Moore County has sand and wire grass; the Kingdom of Fife is rich in sand, whins and heather. The dogwoods are white and pink in Pinehurst; the gorse is yellow, the heather purple in Scotland.
Golf carts are prohibited on both courses, though golfers may take them on No. 2 and keep them on the cart paths. Caddies are the way to go at both courses.
Each club has had a colorful roster of loopers—Tip Anderson at St. Andrews and Fletcher Gaines and Hardrock Robinson at Pinehurst pulling clubs and reading greens with flair, humor and wisdom.
Each town has an esteemed and historical watering hole/hostelry, St. Andrews with the Dunvegan Hotel and Pinehurst with the Pine Crest Inn.
Each has its signature background music, the skirl of bagpipes sounding across the Old Course and the carillon from the Village Chapel accenting the No. 2 experience.
The British Golf Museum is located just a few steps from the first tee of the Old Course; there is no formal golf museum in Pinehurst, but the Tufts Archives in the Given Memorial Library is a treasure troves of memorabilia, golf art and artifacts.
St. Andrews has the Himalayas putting green that has entertained and challenged golfers since 1867, Pinehurst has its Thistle Dhu putting course that was added in 2012 and has proven to be an enormous hit among members and guests of all ages and abilities.
There is the peace and quiet, the ambiance of signature streets in each town, The Scores in St. Andrews and Village Green East and West in Pinehurst. If you want a cashmere sweater, slip into the Tom Morris shop across from the 18th green of the Old Course in St. Andrews or The Gentlemen’s Corner in the heart of the Village of Pinehurst. If it’s fine golf art you desire, peruse the paintings the Happy Hacker in St. Andrews and Old Sport & Gallery in Pinehurst.
St. Andrews has its modest starter’s hut by the first tee of the Old Course. Pinehurst in 2013 tore down its old brown structure and built a new one to the exact size of the hut in St. Andrews—only with materials more indigenous to the Sandhills instead of the stone of St. Andrews.
An inscription on a plaque donated by the St. Andrews Links Trust that hangs on an outside wall of the Pinehurst hut reads as follows: “Of all the golf centres in the world, there is perhaps only one that comes close to sharing the ideas and aspirations of St. Andrews – Pinehurst.”
Lee Pace has been writing about the Pinehurst golf scene for three decades. His latest book, “The Golden Age of Pinehurst—The Rebirth of No. 2,” is available in all retail shops at Pinehurst.