A New Era
Tom Fazio entered the golf design and construction business under the tutelage of his uncle, tour pro George Fazio, in the early 1960s and remembers the landscape for golf practice:
“Every good player had a shag bag in the trunk of his car and his caddie would stand in the distance with the bag,” Fazio says. “The caddie opened the bag up and caught the ball on one bounce. You only needed a very small area. Back in the day, only the good players practiced, and some of them didn’t practice much. If they did practice, it was on the golf course. How many stories have you heard about Walter Hagen and Jimmy Demaret showing up on the first tee after partying all night? The pros back then went from the golf course to the bar.
“The practice ground is the first impression at a golf course for many people. It’s important for guests to have a good experience when they hit balls. No matter what time of year, no matter the weather, we think we have a place where a golfer can work on his game somewhere within our overall facility.” -Bob Farren
“Today professional golf has evolved that there is so much money and so much good competition, a work ethic has taken over. Today they sign their scorecards and go to the fitness trailer or back to the practice tee.”
The importance of the practice environment today is underlined in the fact that over the last decade, Pinehurst has re-sculpted the hitting area with target greens, lengthened the depth of the range by 50 yards and built a state-of-the-art teaching facility. The area was resculpted after the 2014 U.S. Open to double the hitting area for the members tee at the east end of the facility. The club installed all-weather mats at the west end of the hitting area early in the 2000s that are used during the winter and to take wear and tear off the hitting turf at other times of the year.
The club has also doubled the hitting area at course No. 6, and now it has an excellent practice area at No. 9 with its purchase of that Jack Nicklaus-designed course in the spring of 2014.
“The practice ground is the first impression at a golf course for many people,” Farren says. “It’s important for guests to have a good experience when they hit balls. No matter what time of year, no matter the weather, we think we have a place where a golfer can work on his game somewhere within our overall facility.”