Destination Golf - November 2016 * - Page 49

Without room for a long-game range, Caledonia offers a sizable short-game, warm-up station. The tiny 9th hole, all of 118 yards in length, borders the practice area, and might be mistaken for belonging if it did not have a tee sign of its own. Caledonia maneuvers its fairways amid the tall oak trees native to the region, bending left and right, carrying a bit of water here and a bit more sand there. At the end of each is an absolute treat of a putting surface. Golfers are heard to exclaim with frequency, that they could spend an afternoon on any of the courses greens and never get bored, or have the same breaking putt. Is there a better endorsement around than that? The Pinehurst, North Carolina area is filled with examples of Donald Ross’ vision of golf course architecture. From the eponymous resort to Mid Pines and Pine Needles, the sand hills of the south-central portion of the Tar Heel state are home to the Scotsman’s magnificent use of topography. The most enjoyable one of all might be the one that flies under the radar, the Southern Pines course in the town of the same name, adjacent to Pinehurst proper. Formerly owned by the Elks Club, Southern Pines benefits from the same changes in elevation as found at Mid Pines and Pine Needles, the ones noticeably absent from Pinehurst #2, the most famous and flattest of all Ross courses. Southern Pines tops out at some 6200 yards, so it will never prove to be too long a course for anyone. That’s not to say that it is anything approaching short. Let’s explain. The clubhouse at Southern Pines sits high on a hill, overlooking the golf course. Standard operating procedure, I’ll give you that, but what happens next is scintillating. The first hole tumbles downward to the green, shortening the opening par four. The second rises and rises to a table-top putting surface. Measuring 490 yards from tip to tip, it plays a good fifty yards longer. The third is a drop-shot par three of mid-iron distance, and the fourth, another par four that rises from landing zone to green. Two things jump out immediately: each hole plays in a different direction, ensuring that sun and wind are unique for each shot. And, the tee balls on two and four play directly into a rising fairway, causing the ball to carom not forward, but up, reducing the roll out. Thus, holes that seem quite manageable on the scorecard will prove to elicit much more distance than anticipated from the golfer. It’s genius, you know, and pure Donald Ross. Southern Pines features two principal environs during its 18-hole tour (an additional nine holes existed, bordering the present course on the east, but it was allowed to go to fallow.) The first is the central bowl that lies below the clubhouse hill. Open to the elements, it offers the sensation of a sunken amphitheater, allowing for views of adjacent holes for yards around. The second is an interior ridge where the majority of the holes are located. The ridge has a great deal of topographical movement as well, and is highlighted by an incongruously-shaped lake that extends across and into five of the holes. Along this back property, the golf holes fit with ease between towering pines, gently moving this way or that, never in a decidedly-angular fashion. This can be said about Donald Ross dogleg holes: they are never abrupt, never jarring. Volume 3 • Issue 36 49