Work continues this summer on the restoration of the Southern Pines Golf Club course toward a September 2021 completion, and one of the interesting elements of the project being directed by Kyle Franz is building a new par-three hole to replace “the lost hole” from Donald Ross’s original design.
Golf has been played on this site just south of Morganton Road in Southern Pines since at least 1906, and newspaper records indicate an 18-hole Ross course was operational by 1923, with a new nine having opened in 1924 (it was later abandoned).
The remaining 18-hole course was owned from 1951 to 2020 by the Elks Club until acquired by the management company that owns and operates Pine Needles and Mid Pines, another pair of 1920s-era Ross courses. Franz, who has coordinated restorations of both those courses (Mid Pines in 2013 and Pine Needles in 2016) and also worked for Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw on the restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 from 2010-11, was immediately hired and began work to rebuild greens, bunkers and various features with mounds, wiregrass and sand that reflect the course’s original personality.
Southern Pines is unique among most American courses in that the ninth hole does not return to the clubhouse. The first tee and eighteenth green are side-by-side in the northeast corner of the property, and the course winds southward with holes two through six before the routing turns back on the seventh hole.
Franz had access to aerial photos of the course dating to the early 1950s that shows a par-three hole positioned to the left of the fourth green and running in a southeasterly direction and connecting with the 15th tee. That hole would have allowed golfers to play one through four, this par-three and finish a nine-hole round with 15 through 18. The par-three was abandoned at some point in the mid-1900s.
“We thought it would be cool just to work this par-three into the routing and give people the opportunity to play nine holes and play a really cool golf hole,” Franz says.
There was a sand pit sitting in the trees that Franz thought would make an ideal green site. He had the area cleared of dozens of trees and built a green, a pair of bunkers and a new tee. The hole will play about 140 yards.
“This is such a good place for a golf hole that it was just kind of begging for it. It’s got kind of a Redan look to it,” Franz says, pointing to the green positioned at a 45-degree angle to the line of play with a deep bunker front-left. “You can land the ball on the front and let it bounce onto the putting surface. It’s been a really cool and fun part of the project.”
Another nod to the past in the Pinehurst-area golf scene is that Franz has built a sand green next to the regular green. The circular putting surface is made of a clay base mixed with sand and dusted with sand on the top, mimicking the style of green Ross built on all of his Sandhills area courses before the evolution in the mid-1930s of Bermuda grass greens.
“No one today has any conception of what a sand green looked and played like,” Franz says. “This will a neat little history lesson.”
Work continues on the course restoration, with new hybrid Bermuda greens and rebuilt bunkers among the features of the project. Franz is also adding length where possible to the 6,354-yard layout.
“This golf course has been well-respected as an outstanding routing on a great piece of land,” Franz says. “It’s just lacked some of the resources to keep it up to date. We’ve cleared out trees to open vistas and improve air-flow. The greens will have a Ross feel to them, and we’ve re-introduced a lot the shot values that were here in the beginning. I can’t wait to see the finished product.”
Learn more about the full Southern Pines Golf Club restoration here.