The Southern Resort of a Proper Bostonian

James Walker Tufts—of the Massachusetts Tuftses—built a New England village on 5,000 acres of Carolina desert and opened it as a health spa, never guessing that his Pinehurst would turn out to be a mecca for golfers
September 09, 1962

The National Amateur golf championship is being held two weeks from now in the serene and single-minded little village of Pinehurst, N.C. This is as appropriate a gesture to history as it would be to play the World Series at baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for golf has been Pinehurst's chief commodity for six decades. The drowsy resort is as significantly linked to the game as Las Vegas is to gambling, Cannes is to film festivals, or Saratoga is to horses.

Ask a resident or regular visitor to Pinehurst if he has been playing much golf lately. "No," he might reply with a sad shake of his head, "only in the afternoons." Or consider what happened in 1951 when professionals of the U.S. and Great Britain played in the Ryder Cup matches on Pinehurst's world-famous No. 2 course. Only several hundred people showed up to follow the pros. This astonished an English visitor, who observed that the other courses that make up the Pinehurst Country Club were jammed with golfers.

"The greatest players in the world are here and no one is watching them," he complained to a Pinehurst oldtimer. "What's the matter with these people?"

"My good fellow," was the reply, "people come to Pinehurst to play golf, not to watch it." This is the attitude that explains Pinehurst; it is a mecca of golf, and its pilgrims come to play.

Pinehurst is not really a town, it just looks like one. It is actually a privately owned corporation called Pinehurst, Inc., which has been run for 67 years by a onetime Boston family named Tufts. As a means of giving their little settlement of 600 permanent residents more financial solidity the corporation has sold a few home and business sites to private owners, but there is no municipal government at all, just a board of directors. Pinehurst, Inc. runs the police, the utilities and the fire department. It owns Pinehurst's land as well as two hotels, one garage, one laundry, greenhouses, stables, a training track for horses and many buildings that it has leased out to private businesses.

Its most vital holding, however, is the Pinehurst Country Club. This massive golfing preserve includes five 18-hole courses (only one other club in the world has as many), four tennis courts, a lawn bowling green and a rambling stucco clubhouse whose front portico of 29 Doric pillars gapes out over the huge playground like a giant, toothy bear. The country club is used to harvest the town's most profitable crop, the golfers. Some 30,000 of them come south to Pinehurst between October and April each year and play more than 100,000 rounds of golf. Just keeping them hurrying contentedly around the various courses requires an overworked fleet of 120 electric golf carts, plus 450 caddies who attempt to outdo each other in both efficiency and attire. A sample outfit: black alligator shoes, Argyle socks, mustard-colored slacks, a navy-blue shirt and shiny black straw cap.

Golf brings a great deal of money into Pinehurst every year, but the corporation has never let this fact rush it into overcommercializing its town. "We are trying very hard to keep things small, to preserve the amateur spirit of golf," says Dick Tufts, the recently retired president of Pinehurst, Inc., a former president of the United States Golf Association and a devoted golf scholar who has written two books, one on the history of the game, the other on its rules.

The corporation officers have not only tried to maintain the amateur flavor of golf at Pinehurst, they have enhanced it by sponsoring several major tournaments. The North and South Amateur, whose prestige is exceeded only by the National Amateur, has been played at Pinehurst since 1901, the North and South women's amateur since 1903, the men's seniors since 1952 and the women's seniors since 1954. Pinehurst's only professional tournament, the North and South Open, was dropped in 1951. Too commercial.

Considering its contributions to amateur golf, it may seem surprising that this will be the first National Amateur ever played in Pinehurst. One reason has been that the tournament is usually held in early September when Pinehurst would ordinarily be, to put it bluntly, too hot. Another is that Dick Tufts had been reluctant to ask for the Amateur for fear that it would be thought he was using the tournament to publicize his resort.

The decision to bring the Amateur to Pinehurst was forced upon him. It was made two years ago during the Amateur Championship in St. Louis and demonstrates the high esteem that Pinehurst's No. 2 course is held in by the country's top players. A group of competitors present asked the USGA's executive director, Joe Dey, why the Amateur had never been played in Pinehurst. He explained, supplying the reasons above, but agreed to poll the field in St. Louis as to its choice of a site for the 1962 event. Overwhelmingly the players were in favor of Pinehurst and its No. 2 course. Dick Tufts was asked if Pinehurst was available. Pinehurst would be honored, he said.

To help overcome the heat difficulty the tournament has been scheduled a little later than usual. Another innovation has also been readied. In order to get the first-day field of 72 matches around the course before dark, it would be necessary to start the earliest twosome off at 6:30 a.m. "I'll be darned if I'll make anyone play golf at that hour," Dey told Dick Tufts. "Let's institute Pinehurst daylight saving time." The first twosome will now tee off at 7:30 a.m., Pinehurst time, and the town will be in its own time zone for the entire week.

There are those who would say Pinehurst has been in its own time zone since 1895. That was when its founder, James Walker Tufts, a Boston soda-fountain-equipment manufacturer, came south to found a peaceful, quiet resort where people could come for rest and recuperation. He purchased 5,000 acres of cut-over timberland at $1 per acre (worth $12,000 an acre now) and set about establishing a health resort for northern invalids of moderate means who would take walks and carriage rides during the day and play cards and charades at night. He built the Holly Inn and 16 cottages and then sent out notices to northern doctors that "consumptives are welcome." It was just about this time that consumption (tuberculosis) was definitely categorized as a contagious disease, not a hereditary one, as medical science (and James Tufts) had previously assumed. The following year Tufts's notices stated: "Consumptives excluded."

The fact that anyone at all came to Pinehurst seems to be something of a resort miracle. What Tufts had bought for $5,000 was 5,000 acres of desert. He called his little village Pinehurst because a hurst is a mound or piece of rising ground, usually a sandy one. Early visitors scanned the arid waste around them and announced that they could understand the hurst part of the name very well but for the life of them could not see how pines could be connected with the place.

But pines grow fast in Carolina, and so did Pinehurst. One of its most important charms was its initial design. The original plan, as drawn up by the Boston landscape and civic planning firm of Olmstead and Olmstead, called for a village common, with the town hall at one end and a church at the other. The streets swept out from this village green in concentric circles, with the shops and business offices clustered around the common. The designers ordered 200,000 trees and shrubs (50,000 of them from abroad) and laid out a series of 60-foot-wide lanes. These were made up of 30 feet of roadway, bordered on each side by an eight-foot strip of shrubbery and seven feet of sidewalk. These lanes, lined with longleaf pines, holly, dogwood, glistening magnolia trees and snug little cottages, were built for the horse and buggy. They are so circuitous that even longtime residents get lost in the bushy maze. The Boston designers also tried, and succeeded, in leaving a strong northeastern stamp on Pinehurst. The result today is that the town looks as much a part of New England as Rockport, Mass. or Camden, Me.

Golf came quite casually into this carefully planned community. A group of early visitors was noticed knocking a golf ball from hurst to hurst. Tufts, a man who needed some grass growing under his feet at this point, ordered a nine-hole course built in 1898. He didn't tell his guests that its chief use was to be as a break against the fierce brush fires that swept around the community from time to time. The first full course was Pinehurst No. 1. It was finished in 1899. The No. 2 course, then 5,860 yards long, was completed in 1907, course No. 3 was finished in 1910 and course No. 4 nine years later. The fifth course, Pinehurst No. 5, was added in 1961. The courses have been rerouted so many times over the years that about 40 or 50 of the holes have been, at one time or another, part of two, or even three, of the layouts.

Until 1934 the putting greens on all four courses were sand—a condition that often enabled local experts to out-hustle some of the golf stars who played there. But by the beginning of World War II all the greens were grass.

The town expanded along with the golfing facilities. The first hotel, the Holly Inn, was finished in 1896. In 1901 The Carolina Hotel was opened. Two more hotels, the Manor House and the Pine-crest, were built later. The Carolina remains the largest of all. It is a huge, rambling, four-story structure of yellow clapboard that looks as if it should be peopled with characters from the novels of Henry James. During the 1920s The Carolina was so popular that its spacious halls were curtained off into additional rooms.

"In those days," recalls Dick Tufts, who has wintered in Pinehurst since 1904, "the clerk at the desk where you checked in didn't give you the key to your room, he gave you a safety pin."

Business became so good that in 1920 the Tuftses decided to expand Pinehurst. They bought land in the Knollwood area of nearby Southern Pines, put up two hotels and two golf courses at a total cost of more than $1 million and sat back contentedly to let the continuing national prosperity justify their large financial risk. What they got instead was October 1929, the financial counterpart of an unplayable lie. Pinehurst. Inc. went bankrupt.

"We had quite a scramble," admits Dick Tufts when prodded, adding with unquestionable accuracy, "It was mainly a financing problem."

One of the town's most important businessmen is a bit more explicit. "The Knoll-wood operation went bankrupt and took Pinehurst down with it," explains Livingston Ludlow Biddle II, a Philadelphian who owns part of Village Court, a group of quaint brick colonial store and office buildings on the town's main street. Biddle also handles the sale of much of Pinehurst's tightly restricted real estate.

"The First National Bank of Boston took the company over for a year or so and sent a man down to run it," he says. "Eventually Hornblower & Weeks took &n the mortgage and carried it until Dick Tufts could buy it back at a reasonable price." Its Depression troubles were the only faltering steps Pinehurst took in its placid, upward march through the years. "As a matter of fact," says Tufts, "we did a great deal of work on the golf course during that time. We built the grass greens and we put in a watering system for the No. 2 course."

"Of any town in the U.S. this one has changed the least," says Biddle, his voice supplying no clue as to whether he is boasting or complaining. "They fight change here. They make a thorough and complete effort to keep things just as they are. They still keep the little horse-drawn carriages, they still keep the 40-year-old bus that makes trips to and from the country club (150,000 round trips, all with the same driver, Talbert Causey, at the wheel). They're fighting the modern house. Every time someone submits plans for one of those flat-roofed houses the corporation has a fit and rejects them. Once they approved plans for one and later decided they couldn't stand it. They made the owner put a gable on top of it."

There is another phase of life in Pine-hurst that has also remained static through the years. This is the corporation's restrictive policy of allowing only white Gentiles to buy property or stay in the hotels. And the corporation screens all prospective new property owners to weed out anyone else it may consider unsuitable, too.

"Occasionally someone who shouldn't slips into one of the hotels," says a local businessman, "but they never get to come back. The hotels down here have a complex system of blue, red, yellow and white cards on everyone who stays here. Their card system would make Hitler look like an amateur." He declined to explain what all the colors meant.

This policy, so astonishingly out of place in Pinehurst's relaxed and friendly atmosphere, has not kept the village from having its share of distinguished visitors. John D. Rockefeller Sr. owned a house in Pinehurst, as did General George C. Marshall. Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull used to stay at The Carolina, where he ran his life by the clock. Every morning at 9:30 he would leave the hotel for a half-mile walk to the country club, spend exactly 30 minutes on the putting green and then walk back to the hotel. This was the extent of Mr. Hull's golf game.

A more typical Pinehurst attitude is that of a present resident, a Philadelphia investment counselor named Arthur F. Spellissy. He owns a large house overlooking the 10th fairway of the No. 2 course. He was in the habit of going straight from his home to the 2nd tee of the course and playing the next eight holes. This brought him back to within 200 yards of his house. But the 200 yards vexed him, as did the fact that he could play only eight holes instead of that nice round golfing number, nine. Visitors to Pinehurst can now see the solution to the Spellissy dilemma. It is his very own beautifully kept par-3 hole of 185 yards—built and maintained by Spellissy himself—which brings him right back to his front door.

There are, if you insist on looking for them, things to do in Pinehurst other than play golf. Most of the hotels hold card and bingo nights, there are two good restaurants in town, and from February to April the Pinehurst Playhouse presents a selection of touring stage plays. Taverns are against the law in North Carolina, but the nearby Dunes Club (which opens in mid-October) has maneuvered around the law by becoming a very large private club indeed. You can join. It has a bar, dining room and floor show. Nor is the nearest roulette table in Nevada. Southern Pines has a motion picture theater and, if pressed, Pinehurst will admit to having riding, hunting, fishing and tennis facilities. But what it has above all, even above its golf, is its sense of peace and air of easy lassitude.

"Pinehurst's greatest attribute," wrote a famous resident, John P. Marquand, "is its friendliness and calm. Even on the most crowded days of the spring season, when individuals are struggling feverishly for starting times on the golf courses and when the hotels have run out of reservations, peace never wholly leaves Pinehurst. It never loses the spiritual lack of haste or the impression of leisure and repose and hospitality that its founder designed for it."

That's what it will offer when the country's best amateurs come there to decide a championship between September 17 and 22. They will like Pinehurst hospitality and Pinehurst No. 2. But they better not expect a gallery. Everybody else in town will be out playing Pinehurst's other courses.

PHOTOTONY TRIOLO PHOTO PHOTOThe Carolina, a 250-room island in a desert sea of sand, slept overflow guests in its halls PHOTOLadies' Day, 1905. Elastic at waist was put around ankles to hold dress during swing PHOTOPinehurst's first golf course looked like a large, flat sand trap when opened in 1898

PINEHURST TRAVEL FACTS

GETTING THERE: Pinehurst is in central North Carolina. Its season, usually from Oct. 1 through April, opens early this year for the Amateur. Best air connections are via Eastern, United and Piedmont to Raleigh, 58 miles from Pinehurst; or Eastern, Delta, Southern and Piedmont to Charlotte, 115 miles away. The remaining distance from either airport can be managed by Airmotive charters (six-passenger Aero Commanders) or by car. The rail connection is by Seaboard to Southern Pines, four miles away.

STAYING THERE: Pinehurst's two hotels run on the American plan (lunch is taken care of by a ticket to the country club). The fashionable 250-room Carolina has single rooms for $16 to $24 and double for $28 to $42. A single room at the air-conditioned Holly Inn (80 rooms) runs $14 to $21, and a double $24 to $38. A Howard Johnson motel offers double rooms for $10 to $12, and a few miles away, near Southern Pines, the Pine Needles Lodge has double rooms for $36, with meals.

GOLFING THERE: During the Amateur all Pinehurst. Inc. hotel guests can play courses 3 and 5 as part of a $22.50 all-week admission ticket. From Oct. 12 to Nov. 11 and Feb. 21 to April 27 rates for guests are $8 for one round and $4 for each additional round. At other seasons: $4 a day and $17 a week, with no limit on the rounds.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)