Standing over a birdie putt on the first hole of The Cradle, the new Gil Hanse par-3 course at Pinehurst, there is a most unexpected distraction: a Creedence Clearwater Revival guitar riff. Yes, stately old Pinehurst is getting its groove on, and the most obvious manifestation is pouring out of the hidden speakers scattered around The Cradle, a rollicking little layout with a beverage cart that features beer on tap.
Adjoining the Cradle is another new addition, Thistle Dhu, a topsy-turvy putting course on which the tee markers double as drink holders. A couple of hundred yards away is the 18th green of the venerable No. 2 course, framed by a new sports bar called The Deuce. What was once a pair of boring retail stores has been repurposed as a convivial gathering spot. The party spills onto the deck overlooking No. 2’s closing hole, site of Payne Stewart’s iconic fist-pump. Hit a good shot and you may be serenaded by 50 or more onlookers.
All of these additions have come in the last year, an overdue recognition by the stewards of Pinehurst that the resort, while historic and grand, had gotten a bit musty. I went for the first time in 2005, when jackets were mandatory in the Carolina dining room and everyone spoke in a soft whisper, as if in a museum. This June I returned for the first time since then and couldn’t believe the evolution. The occasion was an annual boys trip I’m part of: two-dozen golf lovers on the lam from real life. We had a blast playing money games across The Cradle and Thistle Dhu. The Deuce was a perfect place to watch the NBA Finals. I was pleased to discover that not only are jackets no longer required in the Carolina room. The white linen tablecloths have been banished, too.
Now Pinehurst is ready to further its reinvention with the September unveiling of the new No. 4 course, which has been redone top-to-bottom by Hanse. He’s not prone to hyperbole, but Hanse raves about the “vistas” and “dramatic scale of the property.” This spectacular layout has Top 100 written all over it.
“No. 2 has always been known for its history, but around here there wasn’t a lot of golf conversation beyond that,” says Tom Pashley, the president of Pinehurst. “I think No. 4 will now be inserted into the conversation as a healthy challenge to No. 2 when it comes to which course golfers think of as their favorite at Pinehurst.”
In keeping with the emphasis on good times, No. 4’s grand opening is accompanied by the debut of the Pinehurst Brewing Company, a new microbrewery in a gorgeous, rehabilitated brick building in the heart of Pinehurst Village. Pashley takes on a dreamy tone as he talks about the homemade ales being paired with the ribs and brisket coming out of the state-of-the-art smoker behind the brewery, but life around Pinehurst these days is not without its concerns. “A year later we’re still grinding on the playlist for The Cradle!” Pashley says. That’s music to the ears for those of us who have always wanted Pinehurst to be a little more fun.