PINEHURST, N.C. — Gil Hanse has had his share of high-pressure assignments recently. Currently one of the hottest golf course architectural firms, Hanse Golf Course Design has been responsible for the 2016 Olympic Golf Course in Brazil, Trump International in the United Arab Emirates and Streamsong Black in Streamsong, Fla.
So Hanse can be forgiven for letting his hair down for a second as he grooved to the sound of the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing over the speakers as he helped open his latest creation – 789 yards of pure, unadulterated fun at Pinehurst Resort.
The Cradle, Pinehurst’s short course designed by Hanse in a nifty five-month turnaround, was designed on what were the first holes of Course Nos. 3 and 5, creating a tight 10-acre package of twists, turns and native features.
“For me, it is the candy aisle at the grocery store,” said Tom Pashley, Pinehurst Resort president. “You can’t look at it and not want to go play it, not want to get a piece of it. My daughter and I drive by it and she says ‘it’s overwhelming.’ There is so much texture, color, elevation change – it draws your eye – it is a bit of a magnet.”
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The longest hole is 127 yards and the shortest is just 56 yards — with the Pinehurst Resort clubhouse forming a remarkable backdrop setting for a majority of the holes.
The idea of a nine-hole short course has been floated amongst the resort's brain trust for several years, but never came to pass until recently, when Hanse was also tapped to renovate Course No. 4.
“We are always going to respect and honor the tradition and our history, but we do need to continue to evolve and add color photos to our black and white hallways,” Pashley said. “Fun is ageless, fun doesn’t discriminate and we’re trying to find more ways to add fun to Pinehurst.”
On opening day Sept. 30, a 14-year-old and an 84-year-old carded hole-in-ones.
“It is so cool, spanning those ages, and this place is accessible and playable for all of them,” Hanse said. “I have a really good friend that talks about golf courses being happy places and not happy places, so we rate them on a scale of happiness, and this is a really happy place.”
The Cradle is an easy walk that needs only three clubs to play. (Photo: David Droschak)
The cost to play is $50 (junior golfers 17 and under play free with a paying adult) with the resort providing a small Putter Boy canvas carry bag. All you need to provide is a putter, sand wedge and pitching wedge, one ball — and a fun attitude.
“Donald Ross said Pinehurst No. 2 was the fairest test of golf he ever designed and I think when you look at The Cradle it’s going to be the most fun test of golf that has been designed at Pinehurst,” Pashley said. “Fun is the focal point, fun was the theme, fun works. Fun is undefeated.”
If you play nine holes, you’ll want to continue on and play another nine to try and beat your first score. It can be addicting.
“Look at different shots, look at different angles, play off of slopes, let the ball feed and roll back down — enjoy yourself,” Hanse said. “Hopefully golfers will appreciate the creativity and fun that went in to designing The Cradle.”
Hanse and his wife will be moving to Pinehurst shortly, and he’ll begin carving out a new No. 4 Course with his day job. So, don’t be surprised to see Hanse with a wedge in hand on The Cradle from time-to-time.
“The Cradle property lends itself to a feeling that you’re out there with a bunch of people,” Hanse said. “I can see buddy groups, 16 guys with four groups in a row, that’s going to be a blast. You can see who is doing what here and there and the celebrations.
“The game is hard enough, so it’s nice when you give people the opportunity to have a good time — and tell me when you get tired of making birdies.”
David Droschak was an award-winning writer with The Associated Press for 20 years. He was honored with the Sports Writer of the Year award in North Carolina in 2003. He lives in Apex, N.C.