The current state of golf courses in America can be summarized by a closer look at Pit Golf Links, a scrappy set of 18 holes five miles south of Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. In February 2011, Bob Dedman, Pinehurst’s owner, bought Pit, and then closed it. As the fight for the avid golfer’s dollar got tough, Pit was one of many to tap out.
This was another case of capital is king, and guys like Dedman, Donald Trump, Herb Kohler, Mike Keiser and Wayne Huizenga have been the snakes in the grass-for a lack of a better analogy-striking when the time has been right. More than anything, they’re buying up prime real estate, growing their stakes in golf. And as natural selection continues to play out across the country of courses with broken business models, inept management, horrific designs and bad timing, it’s the guys with deep pockets who are maximizing the returns on their investments by hiring minimalist architects.
As colleague Peter Finch and I continue our phone tour of some of the best resorts in the U.S., I spoke to Don Padgett Jr., president of Pinehurst Resort since 2004. Not only is Padgett an accomplished golfer who has played in six PGA Championships and three U.S. Opens, his father, Don Padgett Sr., was the former director of golf at Pinehurst and was the past president of the Professional Golfers Association.
Padgett shared the news of Pit becoming a Bill Coore-designed Pinehurst No. 9. He also said that as long as he has been in and around the business of golf, he has never seen anything as successful as the restoration of No. 2, which will host the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in 2014.