PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA | Twenty-one years after Pinehurst Resort hosted its first U.S. Open, shadowed by questions about whether the quaint village in the North Carolina sandhills could handle hosting tens of thousands of visitors, the USGA has found its second home.
Pinehurst and the USGA made it official Wednesday morning, cementing their relationship with an announcement made near the 18th green on Course No. 2 where Payne Stewart holed his U.S. Open-winning putt in 1999 and is remembered nearby with a bronze statue of the moment.
“This is one of the great days in the 125-year history of the USGA,” chief executive officer Mike Davis said Wednesday morning. “It’s just the start of something wonderful.
“How appropriate for the United States Golf Association to be at the home of American golf.”
While the new arrangement will keep the main USGA office anchored in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, it will create a second base in Pinehurst, unofficially called Golf House Pinehurst.
The agreement includes a bag full of goodies:
- Pinehurst No. 2, already a three-time host of the U.S. Open, will host at least five more (2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047), becoming one peg in an unofficial rota that is expected to include Oakmont and Pebble Beach hosting the national championship every five to six years;
- Multiple other USGA championships will be played at Pinehurst and nearby Pine Needles, including a likely U.S. Open doubleheader in 2029 with the U.S. Women’s Open following the men’s event as happened in 2014;
- The creation of at least 35 new jobs with a total employment of 50, with an average annual salary of $80,000. Currently, there are 15 USGA employees based in the Pinehurst area;
- The USGA annual meeting becoming a permanent fixture at Pinehurst beginning in 2022;
- Two new buildings on the resort property, one of which will house the new USGA testing center as well as a museum area to showcase the organization’s vast collection of artifacts.
“More than a million people a year come to the Pinehurst area. It’s on everyone’s bucket list,” said Craig Annis, chief brand officer for the USGA.
“To get closer to those people, to put a stake in the ground here and to be able to share our products and services is a tremendous opportunity.”
Called “Project Woodpecker,” the initiative took months to bring together and required the support and approval of both local and state officials. A bill that passed recently in the North Carolina legislature approved up to $18 million in incentives to secure the agreement.
“We are humbled the USGA has named Pinehurst No. 2 as the first U.S. Open anchor site. Eight U.S. Opens in less than 50 years is a real testament to our partnership.” – Bob Dedman
It developed, at least in part, from the USGA’s decision to commit to its “anchor site concept” for the U.S. Open, effectively reducing the number of host courses for the event that accounts for approximately 75 percent of the organization’s annual operating budget. The decision to build the rota around a small core of courses resulted from interviews with players, fans and other groups.
The first discussions began about five years ago between Davis, former executive committee chairman Diana Murphy, Pinehurst owner Bob Dedman and resort president Tom Pashley. When the USGA settled on its anchor site plan, Pinehurst was perfectly positioned.
“We are humbled the USGA has named Pinehurst No. 2 as the first U.S. Open anchor site,” Pinehurst owner Bob Dedman said. “Eight U.S. Opens in less than 50 years is a real testament to our partnership.”
Additionally, the U.S Senior Open, the men’s and women’s U.S. Amateur championships as well as the U.S. Junior and U.S. Girls’ Junior championships will be played in the Pinehurst area.
The other element in the decision to create what will be a small Pinehurst campus centered about the USGA’s testing facility. After renovating the headquarters in New Jersey, there were plans to update the existing facility.
In talking with Pinehurst and area government officials interested in enhancing research and development in the area, the decision was made to build a new testing facility in Pinehurst. The overall USGA investment is approximately $25 million.
The two USGA buildings will be located between the resort clubhouse and the Carolina Hotel on the site of existing tennis courts. Construction is expected to begin in 2022. The overall economic impact is estimated at more than $2 billion over time.
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Top: The main clubhouse at Pinehurst. Photo: John Mummert, USGA
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