Tuesday, July 16, 2024
HomeSportsThe two Pinehursts have had differences in the past.

The two Pinehursts have had differences in the past.

PINEHURST, N.C. — This place can deceive you with its charm and whimsy, resembling Mayberry transformed into a golf haven in the sandy North Carolina hills.

Walking along the brick paths in the village, you’ll pass by two-story brick buildings housing cute shops and cozy pubs. Each year, over a million visitors come here seeking the perfect golf-themed getaway, making it a golf mecca akin to Disney World.

Despite the illusion of a golf oasis, Pinehurst Resort is a robust corporation with luxury accommodations, cottages, and ten golf courses crafted by renowned architects. While it may have originated as a haven for tuberculosis patients, designed by the same creator of Central Park, the reasons for its inception differ greatly from why it thrives today.

Today, Pinehurst Resort prides itself as the birthplace of American golf and has been named the first “anchor site” by the USGA, hosting U.S. Opens every 5-6 years for the next three decades, starting this week.

Pinehurst has resurrected the World Golf Hall of Fame, solidifying its ties with the town and emerging as a destination on the bucket list of generations of golf enthusiasts. It now stands as a central focal point, bridging the gap between casual and professional golf worlds for the foreseeable future.

But not too long ago, this place was grappling with $70 million in debt, facing challenges with the local community and entangled in numerous legal disputes from predatory management practices to disgruntled members.

In those turbulent times, a private investigator known as “the Fat Man” had a mission to take down the owner of Pinehurst, hanging his poster in front of his desk with a simple goal: “I just want this guy nailed to the wall.”


There’s a mantra Robert H. Dedman Jr. often echoes: “Always Pinehurst, but always better.”

GO DEEPER

From the shadow of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, a game-changer emerges

However, progress does not always follow a linear path. The journey from a company town to something greater began when James W. Tufts hired Donald Ross as a golf pro and established Pinehurst No. 1 before unveiling the masterpiece Pinehurst No. 2 in 1907. By 1920, Ross had completed his fourth course and Pinehurst had evolved into a premier golf destination with three inns. The town and resort were so intertwined that employees were paid in scrip redeemable only at Tufts-owned businesses during the Depression. Pinehurst also ventured into professional golf circles, hosting notable events like the 1936 PGA Championship and 1951 Ryder Cup.

However, in 1971, the Tufts family sold Pinehurst to Diamondhead Corporation, a real estate project by Malcom McLean that shifted the traditional paradigm by lining the courses with condos and modernizing Ross’ design. The prestige of the resort waned, leading to a decline in quality and accumulating $70 million in debt before the banks took over in 1982.


Spectators are turning out in droves to watch Tiger Woods and the rest of the U.S. Open field at Pinehurst this week. (Andrew Redington / Getty Images)

A savior emerged, although the title became a source of contention for many.

Robert H. Dedman Sr., founder of ClubCorp, a Dallas-based corporation known for acquiring distressed private golf and country clubs to revamp them, took over Pinehurst. By restoring tradition and enhancing its standing in the golf world, Dedman Sr. became a billionaire magnate widely recognized for his contributions to golf. His son, Bob, who later assumed a leadership role, executed a successful restoration and consolidation of Pinehurst’s status.

Fifteen years and $100 million later, Pinehurst hosted the 1999 U.S. Open under Dedman Sr.’s vision, solidifying its place in the sport. Despite Dedman Sr.’s passing in 2002, Bob continued the legacy, with Pinehurst striving to reach new heights. The resort staged a historic event by hosting the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens consecutively in 2014, cementing its prominence in American golf.

However, this transformation sparked backlash, with legal actions taken between 1991 and 2000 by over 3,000 Pinehurst members against the club for various grievances. Other controversies, such as the sale of Pinewild Country Club to Tohato Inc. and ensuing lawsuits, further complicated Pinehurst’s journey.

In spite of challenges and controversies, Pinehurst has emerged stronger, attracting millions of golf enthusiasts every year and enhancing its legacy through new courses and amenities. The Dedmans’ commitment to preserving Pinehurst’s heritage while elevating its future has placed the resort on an upward trajectory that appears unstoppable.

Today, the focus is on the course and the excitement it brings, leaving the past issues behind as Pinehurst continues to evolve and thrive.

(Top photo: Tracy Wilcox / PGA Tour via Getty Images)

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