Under a Carolina blue sky and seated in a wooden chair on a veranda just outside the Donald Ross Grill, Tom Pashley had a good view of Pinehurst Resort’s history and present.
Looking to his left, Pashley, the president of the 123-year-old resort in North Carolina’s sand hills, saw history through the famed No. 2 course, commonly known as “Donald Ross’s masterpiece.” Immediately in front of him, Pashley glanced out The Cradle, a nine-hole, par-3 course that opened this past September.
While Ross, the legendary Scotsman and his No. 2 course always will be the faces of Pinehurst, The Cradle, complete with its own bar car called “The Acorn,” represents a new era at Pinehurst.
“We’re letting our history guide our future,” said Pashley, who has been president of Pinehurst Resort since 2014.
Pinehurst’s history certainly is golf. The resort, founded by James Walker Tufts, now has nine golf courses, as well as the Carolina Hotel and other smaller hotels inside the Village of Pinehurst, and Spa at Pinehurst, which recently added a full-body cryotherapy treatment.
Under the ownership of the late Robert Dedman, who bought the resort in 1984, and now Robert Dedman, Jr., management has acted as stewards of Pinehurst’s history and legacy. Stewardship is not unusual for any ownership/management group of a historic property around the country, but talk these days is as much about Pinehurst Resort’s future as its past.
“I’ve heard Bob Dedman use that language—that [ownership] views itself as stewards for the next generation,” Pashley said. “Much more so than owners of the past.”
With stewardship of Pinehurst’s rich history, Pashley said, comes a responsibility to look to the future.
“That’s the interesting place we find ourselves in now and what is so exciting for me,” Pashley said. “We’re going through not a complete transformation, but a significant transformation of what Pinehurst is.”
Pashley pointed out to The Cradle.
“It [the transformation] started with 10 acres of land right here,” he said. “We moved two golf holes (one each from the No. 3 and 5 courses) and replaced them with nine short holes. That takes us from just being stewards and maintaining something to actively positioning it for the next several years.
“I always say, ‘We’re not a time capsule.’ That’s a choice. We could choose to be a museum and have sand greens and do more hickory clubs and show people the way it was and try to own that position—if there is such a thing. But that’s clearly not the direction we’re going.”
The future of Pinehurst didn’t just pop up with the creation of The Cradle. The Pinehurst resurgence, it can be argued, began in 1999 when No. 2 hosted the U.S. Open. Payne Stewart beat Phil Mickelson on the tournament’s final hole and with a big smile and fist pump, provided an image for the ages.
Pinehurst hosted the U.S. Open again in 2005 and in 2014, back-to-back hosted the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens on No. 2. In 2014—prior to the U.S. Opens—renowned course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw renovated No. 2 and brought it back to more of its original, more natural look, as when it opened in 1907.
Now along comes The Cradle, along with The Deuce—the clubhouse restaurant that overlooks the 18th green of No. 2 that opened in 2016.
What’s next? The men’s U.S. Open will return to Pinehurst No. 2 in 2024. Pinehurst’s No. 4 course currently is being renovated by Gil Hanse and is scheduled to open Sept. 20. The Pinehurst Brewery, located in an old brick building that once served as the power plant for the Village of Pinehurst, will open Labor Day weekend as the resort’s first microbrewery.
“When people come here and go to our bars, they want to try something that’s local,” Pashley said. “With our clientele being 70 percent male, we think it’s going to hit our guests right between the eyes.”
Symbolically, of course, but that’s really the intent of Pinehurst’s look to the future while preserving and honoring its past.
“Golf resorts are super competitive right now,” Pashley said. “Golfers have so many great choices. People are traveling all over the world—not just to Pinehurst. You need the right mix of experiences they are looking for—give them a reason to come back. We’ve had to add to those experiences. It’s not enough just to ‘be’ Pinehurst.
“It’s interesting, I think, that a 123-year old golf resort is one of the more innovative resorts in the country. It would be easy for us to rest on our laurels and just be about No. 2 and the U.S. Open Championships. But what we are doing now is innovation with one eye on the past and one on the future,” he concluded.