Reinvigorated Pine Needles Makes Move in N.C.’s Top 100 Golf Courses
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines has always been a favorite of North Carolina Golf Panel course raters, and that’s never been truer than in 2019.
The Donald Ross design, now in its 91st year, improves from seventh to fourth in the latest Top 100 Courses in the state rankings, thanks to a restoration overseen by Kyle Franz. The changes brought back many of Ross’ original concepts, including wider fairways created to re-establish his original hole locations. All 70 sand traps were restored and reconfigured, and eight new bunkers were added.
The nation will get a peek at Franz’s handiwork next month when Pine Needles hosts the second annual U.S. Senior Women’s Open on May 16-19. And three years from now, the course will host the U.S. Women’s Open for the fourth time.
This marks the 24th year that the N.C. Golf Panel has rated courses in what’s widely regarded as one of the best states for golf in the country. As has always been the case, Pinehurst No. 2 leads the Top 100. Grandfather Golf and Country Club (Linville) and Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club (Cashiers) retained their second and third rankings from a year ago.
Of note is 19th-ranked Pinehurst No. 4, which is receiving national acclaim after an extensive renovation led by Gil Hanse. “No. 4 reopened late enough in our season last year that panelists didn’t have an opportunity to see what Gil and the Pinehurst staff have created,” says Kevin Brafford, the panel’s executive director. “We’ll have that chance this year, and I’d expect our 2020 rankings will reflect accordingly.”
Founded in 1995 by public relations specialist Bill Hensley, the N.C. Golf Panel consists of more than 175 in-state residents from the mountains to the coast. The annual rankings, which first appear each April in Business North Carolina magazine, are determined by a scoring system where panelists consider these factors, among others: routing, design, strategy, memorability, fairness, variety and aesthetics.
In addition to the Top 100, panelists also vote on the Top 50 You Can Play, plus the best dozen courses in each of six regions in the state. For 2019, there are two specialty ballots, by region: Most Fun Courses and Best Practice Facilities. Lastly, panelists were asked answer this question: If you had to put together a three-day golf trip within the state, playing only courses that are open to the public, where would you go and play? Those answers, as well as the complete rankings, can be found at NCGolfPanel.com.