Pinehurst Heritage Archive

Seeing Donald Ross

IT’S A “STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES” KIND OF MOMENT. But instead of that turn of phrase, something that can happen when walking around Pinehurst, especially for the golfer, is a “stop and see Donald Ross” kind of moment.

It happened to us on Thursday when walking around Pinehurst No. 1, which Ross redesigned after his arrival at Pinehurst at the turn of the 20th century. Standing on the tee of the 218-yard par-3 12th hole (the number of the hole has changed over the years), it hits you – THIS is Donald Ross.

While it’s about a different hole on a different Pinehurst course, author Chris Buie explains here what you see before you so often on Pinehurst No. 1, and especially the 12th:

An example of how Ross brought so much personality to his courses can be found on a par-3 on Pinehurst No. 3.
The uphill 14th is not your standard par-3. In the days of hickory clubs, it played 208 yards to a green placed at the top of a fairly sharp hill. No one but the ace player was expected to reach the green with their drive. But Ross never forgot the shorter player. There is ample room for a tee shot left of the green leaving a short pitch. Like many of golf’s finest holes (such as the 13th of Augusta), it is essentially a “half-par hole”.

As you can see, the 12th on No. 1 has many of the same characteristics, just with plenty of room to the right in this example. It’s pure Donald Ross.

And it’s good to be reminded that we get to see Mr. Ross every day.

(Editor’s Note: We know what Lee means here: “Looks good in sepia as well.” But it’s also great to see how little the hole has changed since this vintage photo was taken.

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Moving the PGA Championship date isn’t new, and when it came to Pinehurst in 1936, it was because of Donald Ross

The cover to the program for the 1936 PGA Championhsip at Pinehurst.

The cover to the program for the 1936 PGA Championhsip at Pinehurst.


The PGA Championship has been anchored in its early August time slot in the golf calendar since the mid-1960s, but in the old days it was a match play competition held in May or June. And for five years in the 1950s, it was played the week after the British Open, making it impractical for golfers to play in both of what are now considered major championships. Sometimes the tournament dates were set to coincide with the operational calendar of the host course.

A case in point was 1936, the venue was Pinehurst and the date was the week before Thanksgiving.

A vintage photo of The Carolina Hotel. Photo Courtesy of the Tufts Archives

A vintage photo of The Carolina Hotel. Photo Courtesy of the Tufts Archives

Pinehurst was conceived as a wintertime resort for residents of the Northeast who had neither the time nor the resources for a two-day train journey to Florida during the cold-weather months. Thus The Carolina Hotel and Pinehurst Country Club were open from mid-autumn to mid-spring; they closed down in the summer and the cooks, waiters, bellhops, housekeepers, golf pros and caddies moved to the mountains or New England for summertime work.

The U.S. Open was contested in the fall at times during the very early part of the 20th century, but it has been essentially locked into its June dates since World War I. So Pinehurst was never an option for the Open until the advent and proliferation of air conditioning in the 1960s allowed the Resort to expand to a year-around operation.

In the mid-1930s, famed architect Donald Ross, perhaps miffed because of losing out on a chance to design Bobby Jones' new course in Augusta, Ga., refocused his efforts into his prived Pinehurst No. 2. A photo from the 1936 North & South shows the care Ross took in updating his gem. This is No. 2's second green.

In the mid-1930s, famed architect Donald Ross, perhaps miffed because of losing out on a chance to design Bobby Jones’ new course in Augusta, Ga., refocused his efforts into his prized Pinehurst No. 2. A photo from the 1936 North & South shows the care Ross took in updating his gem from sand to clay to grass greens. This is No. 2’s second green. Photo Courtesy of the Tufts Archives.

But the PGA was more flexible with its dates, and an important connection between the PGA and Pinehurst head golf professional and architect-in-residence Donald Ross made the 1936 event a logical arrangement for both the PGA and Pinehurst. Though Ross is known as the foremost golf architect in America in the first half of the 1900s—with nearly 400 courses to his credit —he came to America in 1899 from Scotland with the skills of a golf pro and green superintendent.

Charlotte Observer columnist Jake Wade shed some interesting light on Ross’s priorities in May 1945 upon Ross’s visit to Charlotte to work on his design of Myers Park Country Club.  Despite Ross’s fame and popularity in designing golf courses, Wade noted that Ross had always maintained his membership in the PGA.

“Mr. Ross looks like a banker and indeed must be quite a wealthy man,” Wade wrote. “Yet with his dignity and reserve and gentleness of manner and easy, aristocratic touch, he still likes to be known as a golf professional.”

No doubt Ross’s connections with the PGA and his desire to showcase a major overhaul of his prized No. 2 course worked to bring the PGA Championship to Pinehurst. There was little if any new design work available in the throes of the Great Depression throughout the first half of the 1930s, so naturally Ross turned his attention to the course he could access by walking out his back door and onto the third green.

Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross

Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross

And the proud Scotsman was motivated by the emergence of a new course in Augusta, Ga., one conceived by golf champion Bob Jones. Ross believed he had a handshake agreement with Jones to build what would become Augusta National Golf Club, but Jones later decided to work with Alister MacKenzie after seeing MacKenzie’s work at Cypress Point on the California coast.

“Ross was a proud, reserved, standoffish man, almost egotistically so,” author and historian Charles Price noted. “He was miffed. He considered himself to be America’s foremost architect.”

Ross and green superintendent Frank Maples had made significant agronomic improvements to No. 2 in recent years. They converted all the tees to grass in 1929. They laid five miles of irrigation pipe down the fairways in 1933 so the new winter rye grass could be properly watered (architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw would use those very pipe lines in 2010-11 in restoring the fairways to their original dimensions and contours). And by 1934, Ross believed he had developed a strain of Bermuda grass that could survive cold weather and heavy foot traffic well enough that he built three experimental grass greens on No. 2. They did well over the 1934-35 season, and he converted all the greens on No. 2 from sand and clay to Bermuda the following year.

The fourth green of Pinehurst No. 2, as it appeared during the 1936 North & South - the same year Pinehurst hosted its first major event, the 1936 PGA Championship. Photo courtesy of the Tufts Archives.

The fourth green of Pinehurst No. 2, as it appeared during the 1936 North & South – the same year Pinehurst hosted its first major event, the 1936 PGA Championship. Photo courtesy of the Tufts Archives.

Finally, Ross arrived his current hole configuration in 1935, adding the fourth and fifth holes and abandoning two that ran between the current 10th and 11th on ground now occupied by course No. 4. The fifth hole, incidentally, was originally played as a par 5 at 467 yards until it was changed to a par 4 prior to the 1951 Ryder Cup Matches; that historical precedent is among the reasons the USGA played it as a par 5 again for the 2014 U.S. Open.

“No. 2 has always been a pet of mine,” Ross said. “In building these fine new greens, I have been able to carry out many of the changes which I have long visualized but only now have been able to put into practice.”

Another key change was sculpting the sandy soil around the new putting surfaces into the swales, humps and hollows Ross knew so well from his hometown course in Dornoch, on the northeast coast of Scotland.

The 6th hole of Pinehurst No. 2.

The 6th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 in the mid-1940s.

“This mounding makes possible an infinite variety of nasty short shots that no other form of hazard can call for,” Ross said prior to the 1936 PGA. “Competitors whose second shots have wandered a bit will be disturbed by these innocent appearing slopes and by the shot they will have to invent to recover.”

It was the perfect confluence of events and the times for Pinehurst to host its first national championship.

“I have actually played No. 2 in my mind, in marvelous figures, a hundred times the last few months while I have waited for sleep to take me,” Tommy Armour said prior to the tournament. “It’s the kind of course that gets into the blood of an old trooper.”

Lee Pace is a regular contributor to the Pinehurst Blog. He latest book, “The Golden Age of Pinehurst—The Rebirth of No. 2,” is available in all retail shops at Pinehurst.

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Looking back on Amelia Earhart at Pinehurst, and news that “could rewrite history”

Shortly before aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan mysteriously disappeared in her attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937, Earhart and her husband George Putnam were frequent guests at The Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst Resort. Earhart would often fly her Beech-Nut Autogyro in and out of the Pinehurst Flying Field in the early 1930s. In the photo below, taken at the Pinehurst Flying Field, Earhart is shown with Lloyd Yost.

An upcoming documentary on the History channel claims to have unearthed a photograph that could be Earhart and Noonan in Japanese custody. The Today Show this morning had an intriguing story about the photo and the documentary:

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Looking back: Phil, Pinehurst and the Beeper

With reports that Phil Mickleson is likely to miss the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills to instead attend his daughter’s high school graduation, we’re reminded of the scene in Pinehurst in 1999, summed up in the video above with interviews with Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay.

As Golf Digest writes this week:

The narrative was established at the 1999 U.S. Open, when Mickelson played in the final pairing of the final round with Payne Stewart under the gauzy gray sky at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, N.C. He was prepared to leave that championship at a moment’s notice, regardless of his score or station on the leaderboard, if his wife Amy went into labor with their first child.

The beeper he carried with him never went off. But Stewart did, one-putting the last three holes to relegate Mickelson to a runner-up finish. Then, after Stewart punched the sky, he cradled Mickelson’s face in his hands and reminded him that he wasn’t getting a consolation prize, but was about to receive the ultimate prize – fatherhood.

The first of his and Amy’s three children, Amanda, was born the next day, June 21, five days after Phil celebrated his 29th birthday.

 And then, of course, after Payne made the fateful putt:

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History at the Holly


The Holly Inn opened its doors more than 120 years ago. Today it remains essential to the Pinehurst experience.

By Leah Hughes

On New Year’s Eve in 1895, The Holly Inn welcomes its first guests. For $3 apiece, 20 people send out the old and usher in the new at this hotel in the pine barrens of North Carolina’s Sandhills.

As guests step into the lobby, onto native heart-of pine-floors, they take in the relaxed elegance of floral motif carvings, stenciled ceilings, art glass fixtures and decorative tile. The interior details reflect landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted’s commitment to nature.

Located in the heart of The Village of Pinehurst, the Holly mixes architectural styles: Part Queen Ann Revival, part Arts and Crafts, part Art Nouveau. All of it — the Holly Inn, the surrounding property with abundant foliage and winding pathways — is a product of Pinehurst founder James Walker Tufts’ vision for this winter retreat. On the eve of a New Year, this place — soon to become the home of American golf and one of the most storied resorts in the country — begins a legacy of hospitality that will continue for decades.

Changing Times
The Holly has been enchanting guests since that first New Year’s Eve in 1895. In those days, the hotel boasted all of the modern amenities of the time: electric lights, steam heat, telephones, a solarium, billiard room and the “best hair mattresses.”country.

Holly Inn Vintage

Although much has changed since the Holly’s founding, it remains a Village focal point.

Originally founded as a retreat from Northern winters, Pinehurst’s season ran from November 1 to April 30. The Holly reached its capacity by springtime of the first year.

Expansions were made the next several years. The 1898 season saw the addition of a new music room where an orchestra performed daily.

A story from The Pinehurst Outlook on Dec. 2, 1898, touted: “The Inn as it stands today is one of the best-equipped hotels in the country. While not as large as some, for comfort, excellence of appointments and convenience, it is second to none.”

Through the years, the inn evolved. Perhaps its most unexpected role came in the mid-’40s. In 1943, it was home to officers and their families when Camp Mackall was short on housing. Then in the summer of 1944, The Holly was the site of an Army-conducted study of the common cold. Conscientious objectors from Fort Bragg, who had religious objections to war, volunteered as guinea pigs for the experiment.

The inn struggled in the 1970s as newer, more modern accommodations caught the eye of travelers. The Holly closed for a period, and its future was uncertain — but after extensive renovations, it reopened in 1986. The meticulous restoration preserved the inn’s finest features, and it was designated a National and State Historic Landmark.

A Seat on the Porch
A black-and-white photo inside the Tufts Archives — the treasure trove of Pinehurst history located across the street — shows women in full-length dresses and jackets lounging on The Holly’s porch. A man stands beside them in a suit and tie. On a recent weekday,


The lobby’s dark wood, holly wallpaper and intricate fireplaces create a warm, inviting atmosphere.

On a recent weekday, two women drop their shopping bags by rocking chairs on The Holly’s porch and sit down with glasses of wine.

In The Holly’s century-plus history, fashions have come and gone. Modern technology has evolved from a single typewriter and telephones, to data ports, to wireless Internet. Hair mattresses have been replaced with feather-top bedding. But The Holly’s innate sense of relaxation has remained. And guests return in search of that same feeling.



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