Mid Pines has been among the elite venues for the game of golf for nearly a century. The course was designed by the esteemed Scottish architect Donald Ross and opened in November 1921, the centerpiece to an opulent private club that included a four-story inn.
“Most golfers want to strike a happy medium of tastes,” Ross said in juxtaposing Mid Pines to music. “Wagner and Bach may be over-difficult for them to appreciate, and modern jazz may be too shallow for them to respond to. But opera and Viennese waltzes … that’s better.”
Now in 2015, golfers can revisit the early days of Mid Pines following the renovation of the course by architect Kyle Franz and the resurfacing of the greens to hybrid Bermuda. The greens are now quick and firm, and bunkers and roughs have been stripped of long grass and replaced with hardpan sand, wire grass and miscellaneous natural debris—pine needles, pine cones and organic material.
The result has been designated by GOLF Magazine as its “Best U.S. Course Renovation” of 2013. The magazine termed the work “brilliant” and added, “While Pinehurst No. 2 will likely always be the region’s top attraction, fans in search of authentic Donald Ross should flock to Mid Pines.”
Mid Pines was recently rated the second best course in North Carolina by Golfweek’s Best: State-by-State Courses You Can Play in 2015. Pine Needles didn’t fall too far behind landing the #4 spot. Mid Pines was also ranked #85 in the Nation by Golfweek.
Construction began late in 2012 and continued through the spring of 2013. Then the course was closed for the summer and the greens were resurfaced with Mini Verde, the ultimate warm season turf grass for putting greens, tees and surrounds. The greens had not been rebuilt since the late 1930s, when they were converted from their original sand-and-clay base to grass.
“The restoration has turned out far better than I could have imagined,” says Kelly Miller, president of Mid Pines and its sister resort, Pine Needles. “I knew Kyle was a talented young guy with a lot of skill and some great ideas. To see the vision come to fruition has far exceeded our expectations.”
The family of LPGA founding member Peggy Kirk Bell has owned Pine Needles since 1953, and it added Mid Pines to its resort operation in 1994. With Mid Pines opening in 1921 and Pine Needles following in 1928, the resort has two of the gems of the Donald Ross design portfolio. Pine Needles has been the host of three U.S. Women’s Opens and in 2003- 04 underwent a major restoration under the direction of architect John Fought.
Now Mid Pines has smooth, true-putting greens that will remain healthy throughout the year and the landscape offers stunning visual contrasts between green grass and the browns, creams and yellows of the bunkers and hardpan sand.
“I think it’s a gem. It was good before and it’s much better now,” says Chris Dalrymple, owner of The Gentleman’s Corner in Pinehurst and a long-time Moore County golfer. “It’s the prettiest course around here in the spring. The restoration captures the essence of the old Pinehurst … you can picture Julius Boros wearing a cardigan sweater with a cigarette in his mouth standing on the first tee or walking up 18 fairway.”
John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College and a member of GOLF magazine’s course rating panel, has a broad inventory of golf course experiences and says the “new/old” Mid Pines might well be the second best golf course in the Sandhills.
“Except for lacking the Pacific Ocean, it almost has the visual appeal of Cypress Point,” Dempsey says. “It almost looks like the old pictures you see of Mid Pines of people wearing coats and ties and watching a match finish on 18. I can’t say enough about it. Going out and playing nine holes in the last of the winter sunlight in late afternoon, the visuals are fabulous.”
Ran Morrissett of Southern Pines is a co-founder of GolfClubAtlas, a website devoted to chronicling and discussing classic golf architecture. He is a fan of the work Coore & Crenshaw did on Pinehurst No. 2 in recapturing its old-world ambiance and similarly believes Franz struck a chord with Mid Pines.
“A course should reflect its natural environment,” Morrissett says. “Pinehurst No. 2 for too many years did not reflect that it was in the Sandhills of North Carolina. It could have been in Georgia or South Carolina. It was the same with Mid Pines. Now you have an undeniable sense that you’re in the Sandhills of North Carolina. How can that not be a good thing? For so many years, we covered up the sand. That’s a head-scratcher.”
The course plays 6,528 yards but his hardly a pushover. The greens are firm, well-guarded by bunkers and the ebb and flow of the land provides innumerable uneven lies on approach shots. Keith Harris, a top player in North Carolina amateur circles for several decades, says if he had a son just learning to play the game, he’d put the boy on Mid Pines.
“You can get a complete examination of every skill needed to play the game at a higher level at Mid Pines,” Harris says. “If you can play that golf course now, you can play anywhere.”
For more information visit www.pineneedles-midpines.com.