Pinehurst, NC - January 2013 By Michael J. Fay; Captain, Donald Ross Society
Kelly Miller, the CEO of Pine Needles and Mid Pines is a devoted Donald Ross fan. He also has a very good eye for the Architecture of the older courses and how to renew their relevancy. He played the # 2 course after the restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and was very much impressed. The restoration of # 2 to the corridors of 1936 and the reintroduction of substantially more areas that would be described as sandy wire-grass covered areas has really reinvigorated the course and returned it to the 4venue that Ross created in 1936. Some 50 plus acres of fairway were removed. The result has not only impressed Kelly Miller but almost every golfer who has seen the work.
Mid Pines is a wonderful venue. It is often named as the favorite of the Ross courses in the Sandhills. It is covered with common Bermuda grass. Even the greens are common Bermuda which is tired and worn. A number of the greens have shrunk over the years having been encroached by the fairway grasses. The course has always been a very dependable foe for any golfer but it had become tired and confined. Trees insinuated their way into the playing areas changing the corridors of play. Dog-legged holes became more severe and in many cases the play from the tees was dictated by the trees rather than the original intent and angles that were left there by Mr. Ross. Kelly Miller decided that something had to be done to bring this 1922 classic back to its’ former glory.
Kelly sought out the shaper that did the work at # 2. His name is Kyle Franz and he has a very impressive resume for a man his age. Kyle is about 30 but has worked for Tom Doak in the building of Barnbougle Dunes and the Doak course at Bandon. From there he joined forces with Crenshaw and Coore at the Pinehurst #2 course. Currently Kyle is associated with Gil Hanse and will be joining him in Rio to help with the Olympic Course. In an age where anyone in the Golf Architecture business has difficulty finding work, Kyle has managed to work with three of the very best firms.
Kyle immediately showed his perspicacity by visiting with Audrey Moriarty at the Tufts Archive. Mrs. Moriarty reports that he trudged through the Mid Pines files. On the course he can be found with a 1930’s aerial photograph of the property.
The plans for Mid Pines are restorative. Trees have been cut back from the dog-legs at # 9 and # 16 (see photo above). Waste area styled areas have been added to a number of holes including #‘s 10, 16 and 17. The look is very natural. There is a good deal of other work to be done including the returning the greens to their original parameters and replacing the common Bermuda surfaces with mini-verde grass which is more manageable as well as capable of being cut to lower and faster levels. There will be a small amount of tweaking on the greens to accommodate the faster speeds.
Current 15th Tee at Mid Pines
Two tees will be pulled back # 3 and # 15. Both help the course keep up with the distances demanded by today’s equipment. Fifteen will go back 60 yards making it a true par 5.
Proposed New 15th Tee at Mid Pines
Kyle Franz is a delightful young man and has that quality that is necessary for great Golf Architecture “The Eye”. He sees and relates to the project in a way that the normal viewer cannot grasp. The project will go on into the summer of 2013, yet the course will remain open for play while the construction goes on. I strongly suggest that if you can get to Pinehurst make sure you get to Mid Pines and take a look.