Few places can boast a 123 year history rich with great golf and hospitality. Fewer places can say they've taken the lead in ushering a Renascence, of sorts, for the game of golf. 2014 was an eye opening year for the public of what Championship golf could look like. The resort and USGA fully embraced the natural features of the sand hills area. Coore and Crenshaw set out to retrun No2 to what it would have looked like in Ross's era. Wiregrass replaced perfectly manicured Bermuda and irrigation systems removed resulted in a much less water consumption. The results provided a great championship test and a polarizing debate or two was sparked.
Fast forward four years and The Cradle has captured the hearts and minds of the guests and locals alike. A short nine hole loop on the storied clubhouse's front lawn serves as an outlet for youthful energy and old ingenuity. In my hours on the Cradle I watched countless golf teams playing as one group cheering and jeering their friends in good nature. Father's led their sons around the track. Their bags as big as they are but the energy was boundless. It is not only common but encourage to bring a gangsome and make a couple well natured bets. Enjoy some drinks and take in the music playing on the course.
The Cradle isn't great just because it is a short course. It's greatness lies in its design and presentation. Gil Hanse laid out the Cradle and it's evident that his imagination was firing on all cylinders. I couldn't help but image a shot from this spot to that or over this green to that green. And I can safely say without hesitation I am one of many that have dreamt up their own shots on this tiny parcel of land. The best thrill is standing on #9's tee box and watching people play into the 3rd hole. A punchbowl played up the hill results in all kinds of hopeful anxiety of an ace. I hope more courses take the lead set by Pinehurst and find ways to make golf fun again. Short courses or their putting course, Thistle Dhu, are templates for sustaining our game.
Now, Pinehurst could rest on the remarkable success of The Cradle and Thistle Dhu but instead they keep moving forward. My sense of the place is that they not only respect but cherish their past. They want to carry those traditions into the modern era and make their own mark. The continuation of this is evident in Pinehurst No. 4 which is currently under the knife of Gil Hanse. What is being done is nothing short of amazing. Having played the course a few years ago and seeing the return of the land's natural corridors I am left dumbfounded. How could such land actually lay under all those bunkers? Gone are cart paths and narrow chutes to play down in a hit and chase fashion. Replaced are open areas with sweeping views of holes just played and those yet to attack. Short walks from tee to green. Blind tee shots, heroic carries, ground game and principles that define golden era courses have returned.
As Pinehurst continues to evolve it carries a bright torch. People will follow the lead of our great public venues and I am hopeful that more local courses see the value in naturalness, playability and FUN.