Bob Farren has seen plenty of changes since he started working at Pinehurst in 1982, but he never thought an 18-hole putting course would generate so much attention. The new layout, located near the first tee and 18th green of the resort's No. 4 course, debuted on Aug. 31 to rave reviews. "Frankly it's created a lot more energy than I ever thought it would," said Farren, Pinehurst's director of golf courses and grounds. "The reception it is getting has been astounding."
Called "Thistle Dhu," the 15,000-square-foot green was the brainchild of Pinehurst CEO and owner Bob Dedman Jr. and inspired by the Himalayas putting course in St. Andrews. (Its namesake is a Pinehurst estate with its own miniature golf course built in 1919.) The new putting course is free to play but currently open only to resort guests and Pinehurst Country Club members.
Despite its location near the first tee, the heavily contoured Thistle Dhu is no mere practice putting green. "It would blow your mind to try and practice on it before you went out to play," said Farren. "You would have no confidence whatsoever. I wouldn't say it's over the top, but it's right at the top.
"You might have two holes out of the 18 where you have a completely level putt," Farren continued. "And you better make those because you could very likely four-putt the next hole and go off the green."
The Pinehurst Resort also has plans for a new green and approach shot area, designed to replicate shots found on Pinehurst No. 2, the venue for both the men's and women's U.S. Opens in 2014. The new practice area will be on the former site of the 18th green on the No. 1 course.
"We think the new practice area will help people understand what makes No. 2 so special and enable them to get a little taste of it before they play there," Farren said.
So why would a world famous resort with eight layouts build a putting course? It's not just for fun, or to provide golfers with a way to settle bets while enjoying a cocktail. "There are ways as an industry that we can grow the game and expose people to the game," Farren said. "This may be one of them going forward."
Thistle Dhu was built by Toby Cobb and Dave Axland, associates of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who renovated the resort's famed No. 2 course in 2011.