Pinehurst News

Presidents have long been coming to – and commenting on – Pinehurst


Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and President Gerald Ford played golf during the World Golf Hall of Fame Tournament on Sept. 11, 1974. (Photo from National Archives)

Golf has long been the pastime of presidents.

Sixteen of the last 19 U.S. Presidents have played golf. Some more than others.

Barack Obama played more than 200 rounds of golf since he took office in 2009. While that may sound like a lot, Obama will never catch up to Woodrow Wilson, who reportedly played 1,200 rounds during his presidency.

Maybe that record is in jeopardy now (just a little joke, y’all). In any event, if it is, it’s not likely to be broken here:

That’s OK. We can agree to disagree. And, more room for our guests, then.

It’s been a little while since a President has been in Pinehurst to play. Obama visited Pinehurst while on the campaign trail in 2008, but didn’t hit the links.

And while he’s mostly retired, legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae still takes special requests, and McRae has the experience. He’s carried bags for four presidents: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

HEM14906.15 &.16 Richard Nixon, 12-13-1964

Richard Nixon played golf in Pinehurst in 1964 before taking office. (Photo from Tufts Archives)

McRae told the Associated Press that Nixon is the best player of the group, but he enjoyed them all.

“I mean, you’re caddying for somebody who is the head of the United States,” McRae told the AP. “There ain’t but one man ahead of him, and that’s God.”

Here’s a look back at some of Pinehurst’s presidential visits.

President Theodore Roosevelt visited Pinehurst twice: after leaving office in 1909 and before running again in 1912, according to Audrey Moriarty’s book “Pinehurst: Golf, History and the Good Life.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt has visited Pinehurst twice. (Photo from Tufts Archives)

… Continue Reading

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The “Throwaway” Hole-In-One on The Cradle

In 1923, Ray Elliott was a caddie at the Laconia Country Club in central New Hampshire. He came from a poor family, but found himself drawn to the game of golf.

Elliott didn’t have money for clubs, but the players he caddied for did. In those days, of course, golfers played hickory-shafted clubs, and whether they fell out of favor for their less-than-inspired play or because they were so worn, many of Laconia’s regulars would eventually toss those old hickories in a scrap heap of sorts. They had a name for the abandoned brassies and niblicks: Throwaways.

Ray Elliott lived for those throwaways.

Elliott collected clubs when he could, and started playing golf at 9 years old. Eventually he completed a set in only the most basic sense of the word – no two clubs in Ray Elliott’s bag matched.

Ray Elliott in 1948.

Yet by 15, Elliott was a scratch golfer. He played into his 70s, spending much of that time better than scratch as a plus-player, and handed down not only his name to his son, but the love of golf.

“He taught me the game,” Elliott, the son, says. “You should’ve seen his swing. People used to stop and watch him swing those old clubs. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Ray Elliott, now 67 and a member of Pinehurst Country Club, shares something else with his dad – an affinity for hickory clubs. The younger Elliott also doesn’t have quite a matching set still, but that’s because two of his hickory clubs were once his father’s. Even his dad’s old putter, a 1950s-era Bristol Dandy with a copper shaft, is always in Elliott’s bag. Every time Ray Elliott plays golf, he carries his dad with him.

Ray Elliott, with his father’s niblick on the 3rd hole of The Cradle.

And so the Elliott’s were together, as they always are, on Pinehurst’s short course, The Cradle, on Monday. And whenever Elliott plays The Cradle, he always uses his hickories, including one of his dad’s original throwaways, a 1920s niblick.

It was with that club that Elliott aced the Punchbowl, The Cradle’s third hole. Playing by himself, Elliott lined the throwaway off the steep hill behind the pin, and watched from the tee as the ball began its rolling descent. By the time he reached the green, Elliott didn’t see a ball.

“I knew it had to be in the hole,” he says.

Elliott asked the group in front of him to walk with him to the cup to verify the hole-in-one. A shiver went through him.

“It’s not so much that it was a hole-in-one,” Elliott says, his eyes misting. “It’s that I had done it with my father’s club. With that club.”

A throwaway.

Ray Elliott takes a practice swing with his father’s niblick on the 3rd hole of The Cradle.

Since The Cradle opened, a debate has simmered along its sandscape and waving wiregrass: Is a hole-in-one on a short course equivalent to an ace on a regular golf course?

Elliott now has four holes-in-one. But, to that question, with eyes still wet, he is firm with his answer.

“This hole-in-one means more to me than all three of the other ones combined,” he says. “This one will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

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Kyle Franz explains the thought behind the Maniac Hill redesign

Golf Architect Kyle Franz is no stranger to Pinehurst, having worked extensively with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw on the famed Pinehurst No. 2 restoration before doing tremendous work at Mid-Pines and Pine Needles.

Back in Pinehurst, Franz has led the redesign – and could also be considered a restoration – to one of the country’s first practice ranges, Maniac Hill. Here, Franz explains why he’s bringing native sandscape and wiregrass from Ross’ era back to Maniac Hill.

We’ll have more from Kyle in the coming days, including his thoughts of what the golfer will experience on Maniac Hill when work is complete in March.

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A Couple’s Massage is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift and getaway

There to relax, unwind and get away from the constant pressures of life, a typical Spa at Pinehurst guest will often have a look of relief on his or her face while checking in.

Few, though, are great poker players, and they can’t hide everything. And Pinehurst lead massage therapist Dustin Donahue can always spot the tell.

“Sometimes, you see a little bit of guilt on their faces,” Donahue says. “They’re looking forward to their massage or their treatment, but there’s a part of them that feels a little bad that they’re getting to enjoy this and their spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t.”


And so while sending your significant other to The Spa at Pinehurst for a little getaway certainly can go a long way in earning those all-to-important brownie points in the household, there’s another option that may be even more well-received – the Couple’s Massage.

“To be able to say, ‘For three hours, nothing is going to happen that we need to know about. We’re going to be here for each other. Everything is put away in a locker, and it’s just you and I reconnecting and pushing that reset button and getting to know each other again.’” -Dustin Donahue

Set in the tranquility of The Spa at Pinehurst, a Couple’s Massage features a larger private room with two tables and two massage therapists. Comfort and relaxation are the primary goals, Donahue says, and therapists are typically well-tuned to how the couple wants to enjoy their Spa experience.

“We’re pretty good at figuring out pretty quickly how a couple would like their treatment to go,” Donahue says. “If they want to talk, engage with us, laugh a little, or if they’d like it to be a quiet day, we’ll make sure they have the kind of experience they really want.”

The treatments themselves are 50-minute massages, but guests can center those treatments around a full day’s experience. Couples will often arrive early to enjoy time together lounging in The Spa’s large indoor pool area, enjoying a smoothie and ordering lunch to be served to them following the massage.

It’s that singular time together that’s significant.

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“You can really see, when a couple is here together, they’re able to both be present and not worrying about what’s going on outside,” Donahue says. “They’re both taking a break from the kids, or taking a break from life, and really able to get away and turn off the cell phone for two or three hours.

“To be able to say, ‘For three hours, nothing is going to happen that we need to know about. We’re going to be here for each other. Everything is put away in a locker, and it’s just you and I reconnecting and pushing that reset button and getting to know each other again.’”

Sounds like the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

“I can’t think of a better one,” Donahue says. “Whether you’re newlyweds, still dating or have been together for 50 years, it’s good for you.”

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To Pinehurst, With Love

It’s Valentine’s Day, and we’re fortunate we don’t need to look very far to find people who love Pinehurst. And so, with that in mind, we asked a few people around here what they feel in their hearts about this place.

Please feel free to add what you love about Pinehurst in the comments below.

Larry Goins (left) and Frolin Hatcher

Larry Goins, Clubhouse

“Every season is new. It is always real refreshing to come back to work…rain, shine, sleet or snow. A spring day is my favorite, but every day is a beautiful day here. We even love it when it rains. We have raincoats and umbrellas, and if our feet get wet, we just put on dry socks.”

Frolin Hatcher, Clubhouse

“It doesn’t feel like 50 years here for, and I don’t feel like I’m 75 years old either. Once you get into it, the time just goes by. I think this is the ideal place for me. I love people, and keeping them smiling, that’s our deal.”

Ben Bridgers, Director of Golf

“What I love most about Pinehurst is really something I feel every day walking around this special place – it’s the incredible history. Whether it’s standing on the first tee of Pinehurst No. 2, hitting balls on Maniac Hill or just walking through the hall of the clubhouse, you are presented with this feeling that everyone who has been important in our game for the last century has walked in these same footsteps. It’s Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones, it’s Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, it’s Payne Stewart and Tiger Woods, not to mention legendary caddies like Jimmy Steed, Fletcher Gaines and Willie McRae. It’s hard not to have chills when you think about it.”

Willie McRae, Legendary Caddie

“You know, people ask me all the time what’s so special at Pinehurst. And I tell ’em, ‘All the girls here are pretty and everybody treats you real nice. Ain’t nobody here ever treated me bad…Well, not since the 1940s anyway, but they were from New York.’”

Nancy Sadler, Member Relations Manager

“To me, what’s wonderful about Pinehurst is that every day, you see that memories are being made. And in those moments when you realize that you’ve had a small hand in helping someone make these lasting memories – memories that they may keep with them for the rest of their lives – it is especially gratifying.”

Alberta Travis, Holly Inn Front Desk Supervisor

“My husband always tells people, ‘My wife wakes up every morning with that smile on her face, so I know she enjoys her job.’ You kind of accumulate family members over time. You get to know people and you really care about them.”

Thierry Debailleul, Executive Chef

“I love the southern food traditions with a modern approach in a busy and vibrant resort year-round. I also love the heavy weight of what Pinehurst represents in the sport of golf, and matching the foods to that expectation. I appreciate the mission to train cooks and chefs into the culinary arts within such a historic resort with a vision into tomorrow, but carrying so much of the past in our kitchens.”


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