A Brief History of Pinehurst
In 1895, Boston Philanthropist James Walker Tufts purchased 5,800 acres of ravaged timberland in the Sandhills region of central North Carolina. This land, which cost Tufts about $1 per acre, once held a flourishing pine forest that had been cut for timber and used for its plentiful supply of turpentine and building supplies. What was left behind was a barren, sandy wasteland.
Many locals thought Tufts the fool for his purchase, but the astute businessman sold his thriving Soda Fountain Company on the idea of a health retreat – far away from the cares of the world. He was impressed with the year-round mild climate of the area, and believed it the perfect place for a New-England style town. As streets, sewer and water systems were established, Tufts wrestled with what to officially call the place he’d developed. For the first six months it was known simply as Tuftstown, after its founder. But while at his summer home at Cottage City (now known as Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard), Tufts searched a list of names submitted for a contest to name a real estate development. He decided the name Pinehurst was appropriate: The “Pine” of course for the beautiful trees and “hurst”, a wooded hillock or plot of rising ground. Thus, he adopted it for his village and resort.
To help make his dream reality, Tufts hired the firm of Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot to create a master plan for the ravaged land. Its chief designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, was well regarded at the time, designing such large projects as Central Park. More than 222,000 tree seedlings and other plants were brought in as a result, many of which were imported from France.
By the first year, Tufts had directed completion of a general store, dairy, boarding house, more than 20 cottages, and the Holly Inn, which was opened December 31, 1895.
The Carolina hotel opened in 1901. It immediately served as the center of all activity at Pinehurst, surrounded by lush grounds, perfect for enjoying the warmth of the day. Recreation and gracious accommodations were premier features of Tufts’ health resort. Riding, hunting, polo, lawn bowling, bicycling, and archery were popular in Pinehurst’s early days; many remain so today. Tennis was one of the first planned recreational activities at Pinehurst, with two courts on the original blueprints for the Holly Inn lawns.
Golf came to Pinehurst three years after Pinehurst first opened to the public. According to history, some hotel guests introduced the game in Pinehurst dairy cattle grazing fields, hitting little white balls that disturbed the herd. Tufts then hired Dr. D. Leroy Culver of New York to design and build a golf course in Pinehurst, and in February of 1898 a rudimentary nine-hole course was constructed. The first clubhouse followed a few months later.
In 1900, Tufts hired Donald J. Ross, a young Scottish golf professional, to direct golf operations at Pinehurst. Ross remained with Pinehurst until his death in 1948. During those five decades, Ross built a reputation as one of the foremost golf professionals and course architects in the country. He designed or redesigned more than 400 golf courses throughout the North American continent.
His first Pinehurst efforts began with his arrival as he redesigned Pinehurst No. 1. His first 18-hole design was Pinehurst No. 2, a championship course with sand greens and a natural, gently rolling topography. He later built No. 3, No. 4, and a rudimentary employee/caddie course, all of which he continuously updated during the off-season.
In 1903, the Pinehurst Golf Club was established, the North and South Amateur Invitational Tournament series was underway, and Pinehurst was becoming a major focus for golf in the U.S. The best in the world have played Pinehurst: Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Glenna Collett Vare, Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg, and Louise Suggs. Snead once proclaimed Pinehurst No. 2 “as my number one course.” It has greeted and challenged golfers from throughout the world, as host to the Ryder Cup Matches, the PGA and The TOUR Championships, and the U.S. Open Championship, won with a famous 15-foot putt by Payne Stewart in 1999. Pinehurst also hosted the 2005 U.S. Open, the 2008 U. S. Amateur and looks forward to again hosting the U.S. Open Championship in 2014.
But golf was not the only popular activity at Pinehurst. Annie Oakley, sharp-shooter and star of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, came to Pinehurst in 1916 with her husband, Frank Butler. Annie was in charge of the Pinehurst Gun Club, and gave shooting exhibitions at the Carolina hotel twice a week. Between 1916 and 1920 she instructed up to 125,000 men and women in the art of marksmanship.
Each of Pinehurst’s recreational facilities has a history as steep as Pinehurst itself, and the resort has been able to retain that turn-of-the-century charm and ambiance. While many guests still migrate from New England, Pinehurst is a destination from all over the country and the world. And in 2002, it returned to its roots as a health-driven resort with the opening of The Spa at Pinehurst adjacent to the Carolina hotel.
Just as Tufts envisioned over 100 years ago, guests visit today to discover this peaceful retreat. What they find amidst this serenity is the history, beauty and Southern hospitality of an era past.