By Alex Podlogar

This was the USGA’s day.

And make no mistake, the USGA let the anticipation build. On Friday morning, the Golf House Pinehurst and World Golf Hall of Fame ribbon cutting ceremony did not start with oversized scissors and dignitaries stretching the length of a USGA-branded red, white and blue ribbon. That would come later. It did not start anywhere inside Golf House Pinehurst. It didn’t even start in front of the Golf House Pinehurst campus.

The day, instead, began closer to the railroad tracks that run behind the two stately and modern buildings than to the pine-lined Carolina Vista in front. There, in a slick hospitality tent not unlike the ones guests and locals see when driving by Pinehurst No. 2 a month before a U.S. Open returns, the day began with speeches – among them fiery and homespun, depending on the speaker – amid handshakes and blazers and quarter-zips and smiles and coffee.

The USGA’s day to officially open Golf House Pinehurst and the World Golf Hall of Fame is really rooted in a September morning nearly four years ago, back when the guest list was as limited as it was socially distanced and masks were required. That was when the USGA announced Pinehurst would be its first Anchor Site, and in addition to four more U.S. Opens returning to Pinehurst, the USGA would bring its second headquarters to the Resort’s main clubhouse campus, a mere pitch down the hill from the first tee and 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2. In time, as construction commenced and was completed, the USGA’s research and testing center would be located here, as would office space, a USGA welcome center and museum, and then later announced, the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“I’ve waited 3 ½ years to say this,” USGA CEO Mike Whan said in a rousing welcome. “Good morning, neighbors.”

With structures now in place, 65 staffers in their offices, and artifacts cleanly and inspirationally displayed as if the game’s greatest players were simultaneously rubbing shoulders in the greatest locker room of all time, Pinehurst can celebrate the USGA’s special day alongside it.

It is our day, too.

“There are a lot of things we share in common,” Whan continued, listing the enduring partnership successes both Pinehurst and the USGA have experienced together over the decades. “Now we share a zip code.”

It was a day for golf, too. The pomp of the grand opening moved from the tent out back and quietly meandered through the Glade and the Grove, proving it was a day for environmental sustainability and tranquility as well. There, at the front door, those in attendance stepped their way through the living and breathing history and stewardship of this game. On the fairways up the hill, just about every important figure in the game of golf has traced his or her footsteps. Inside, those steps are celebrated. In the Hall of Fame alone, which returns to its rightful home 50 years after it initially opened here, nearly 30 players who won during their careers at Pinehurst are among the enshrined. There will be more in due time. Their tools of this unconquerable craft, which will now be tested here, will be on display someday.

It was a day for all future guests and current residents, the first of whom entered the building when it officially opened to the public at 1 p.m. on Friday. There is a lot to take in:

  • The USGA Experience, an immersive view of golf and the USGA’s work to unify, showcase, govern and advance the game. Designed by Luci Creative, the Science of Golf and Championship galleries feature interactive multimedia displays that incorporate augmented reality, interactive touch screens, sculptures and trophies;
  • The World Golf Hall of Fame, where sports fans can discover and relive the legacies of those who made the game great;
  • USGA Golf Museum Special Exhibitions that highlight the USGA’s deep collection of golf artifacts – the most comprehensive collection in the world;
  • The USGA’s Research and Test Center, the only one of its kind in North America solely dedicated to testing golf balls and clubs for conformance to the Rules of Golf;
  • The Glade, the USGA’s outdoor learning landscape that will help to elevate awareness of the USGA’s ongoing work to help make golf more sustainable, with native plants and pollinator habitats;
  • The Grove, a restoration of the ancient longleaf pine forest native to the region, through a unique partnership with N.C. State University;
  • The USGA Shop, where golfers can purchase various products with the USGA championship logo of their choice as well as exhibit-related specialty items.
I know the value of the United States Golf Association, and what it means to golf, not for decades, but for over a century and this facility will live for more than decades. It will be centuries.
N.C. Sen. Tom McInnis
N.C. Sen. Tom McInnis
N.C. Sen. Tom McInnis

“To Golf House Pinehurst, to the USGA Experience, to the World Golf Hall of Fame, allow me to say it, ‘Welcome home,’” said Pinehurst Resort President Tom Pashley. “What a special day.”

It was the USGA’s day. It was Pinehurst’s day. It was North Carolina’s day. It was golf’s day. It was the fans’ day. It was a day for N.C. Sen. Tom McInnis to remind us that his soulful oration does not need a microphone to captivate an audience.

“I know the value of the United States Golf Association, and what it means to golf, not for decades, but for over a century,” Sen. McInnis said, thinking back four years to when these plans were first discussed. “And this facility will live for more than decades. It will be centuries.”

McInnis was just warming up.

“Without those great visionaries and the great players all represented in the Hall of Fame, we wouldn’t even be here today,” he continued, decibels rising. “Somebody had to put the show on, because it is all about the show! And we’re going to get to see the show again in a few days, and the show is going to be beyond exceptional. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Cradle of American Golf!”