Next at Pinehurst: USGA Golf House, World Golf Hall of Fame

The new home of Golf House Pinehurst and the World Golf Hall of Fame. (Joy Sarver Photos)

PINEHURST, North Carolina – These are extraordinary times for the “Cradle of American Golf.’’

The U.S. Golf Association will begin unveiling its new campus in Pinehurst on Dec. 1. This six-eight acre spot will evolve leading into the U.S. Open in June, 2024. That may turn out to be the most significant addition to the golf industry, but — shortly before the big tournament — Pinehurst No. 10 will become the first new design to open at the resort in nearly three decades. Its opening is scheduled for April 3.

In between the two openings the USGA will be working its way into a new era, and it’s been a long time coming. Discussion about the move from New Jersey to Pinehurst started during the frequent rain delays during the 2009 U.S. Open in New York. Now those talks have come to fruition.

“Our campus all along was to showcase all our values, not just our championships,’’ said Janeen Driscoll, director of brands communications for the USGA. “This community only knows us for the U.S. Opens we bring here. We truly believe this is the center of the golf universe, and we’re going to give back.’’

The USGA received $27 million from the state of North Carolina to help bolster economic development and Pinehurst donated the land.

Pinehurst also produced 1,200 on its volunteer wait list, community involvement that impressed the USGA, and the organization was also interested in working with the well-regarded North Carolina State University agronomy program.

Here’s an artist’s rendering of what the gardens behind Golf House Pinehurst will look like. They’re to showcase native plants and grasses for future use golf courses.

Several Pinehurst people were hired by the USGA to open an office after the 2005 U.S. Open was played at Pinehurst No. 2. It was a small operation – a max of 20 staffers to focus on U.S. Open matters – while the corporate office remained in New Jersey. There are 350 people based there.

With the shift in headquarters the Pinehurst office staff will max out at 65.  It’s a massive facility built on land that had been used for tennis courts and is located between The Carolina Hotel and the first tee of Pinehurst No. 2 with the address of 3 Carolina Vista.

One wing of the complex will house administrative offices and the equipment testing  center. The other will have the USGA Experience on the bottom floor and the World Golf Hall of Fame on the higher floors.

At our museum in New Jersey most everything is about the history of golf,’’ said Driscoll. “About 90 percent of our collection is in a vault below ground, though, and most people don’t get to see it. We have golf bags of most every president, books dating back to 1400 and a very rich art collection related to the game of golf.  That’s why we built this. It’s not just to look back at history.’’

The World Golf Hall of Fame started in Pinehurst in the 1970s. Upon its return the Pinehurst Resort wil become the site of the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies every year a U.S. Open is held in Pinehurst. The next inductions will be sponsored by CME Group next June 10.

Some items from the New Jersey museum will be brought to Pinehurst and exhibits will change every six months. The walk through the USGA Experience and Hall of Fame will be seamless.

The USGA Experience will feature a championship gallery, interactive exhibits, movie shorts and video clips that will intrigue golf devotees.

“It’ll give us a chance to story-tell more than we had in New Jersey,’’ said Driscoll, a golf industry veteran who has been a Pinehurst area resident since 2000.  “This will be almost double the size of what we have in New Jersey.’’

The equipment test center in New Jersey will be demolished and moved to Pinehurst. The new headquarters will also be a base for the USGA to develop a national team similar to what other countries have.

That’ll be headed by Heather Daly Donofrio, who came over from the Ladies PGA Tour to become USGA managing director of player relations and development. In September Chris Zambri, associate head men’s coach at Pepperdine University, was named the first head coach of the U.S. National Development Program.

Llamas once served as caddies at Talamore. Now they’re a photo op that can’t be missed.

ALL THESE NEW THINGS tend to overshadow the hard work put in by the longstanding members of the Pinehurst golf industry.  The course at the Talamore Resort, for instance, once was known for the llamas that graze in an area on the back nine.  That’s still a novel feature, but the course has been renovated and is now called The New Course and its practice range includes Trackman technology.

One of the recent Talamore upgrades is  a Trackman facility very close to the course.

Talamore has been an old favorite. This time we were introduced to Southern Pines, which has its own following.  Those golfers just got a new 18-hole putting course, called Overhills. It’s a Kyle Franz design.

The cups will soon be in at Overhills, Southern Hills’ new putting course.