A decade ago, when Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were overseeing the spectacularly successful restoration project at Pinehurst No. 2, writer Lee Pace spent a good bit of time shadowing Coore.
Pace, a longtime Carolinas golf writer who has written a handful of books about Pinehurst resort and the surrounding area, was struck by Coore’s simple approach to the golf course.
“Over the years he worked on that, I don’t think I ever once saw him in a golf cart,” Pace said. “He wasn’t the kind to get in a golf cart. He’d walk around and he’d talk about being able to feel the ground with his feet.”
Pace has similar feelings, believing that walking a golf course is a part of the experience. He doesn’t judge cart-riders too harshly, but given the choice Pace prefers to sling a bag over his shoulder and set off on another adventure.
It led Pace to write a book titled Good Walks, Rediscovering the Soul of Golf at Eighteen of the Carolinas’ Best Courses, which was released earlier this spring by the University of North Carolina Press.
“Just like sand has been a link throughout golf architecture for five hundred years, walking has been a link throughout the history of golf for more than five hundred years.” – Bill Coore
The book, like the various club histories Pace has written and designed, is a delight. Filled with gorgeous photography featuring many of the Carolinas’ most captivating courses and with chapters devoted to stories about those places and the people who walk those courses regularly, the book is a reminder of what the game means to so many.
Building the book around walking – using a trolley or a caddie qualifies – allowed Pace to tell the stories of special likes such as Biltmore Forest Country Club, Eagle Point Golf Club and Palmetto Golf Club almost literally from the ground up.
“I’ve just always enjoyed the feel of it, the camaraderie, the experience of walking,” Pace said. “Let’s pick clubs that have a good walking culture, that are walkable which eliminates a lot of ’80s and ’90s real estate.”
There are obvious health benefits to walking and the game’s pandemic-influenced surge in popularity sent golfers new and old in search of trolleys and carry bags. The cart culture remains a fixture in the game but walking has made a comeback.
Pace put it this way in the book’s introductory chapter: “To hell with Mark Twain, who supposedly once said that ‘golf is a good walk spoiled.’ To me and to a passionate and resolute minority, carts are great golf ruined.”
Course designer Tom Fazio goes to great lengths to hide cart paths. Similarly, designer Gil Hanse minimizes their impact on the courses he touches.
Here’s what Coore says about walking in the book: “Golf is a game born of nature. I rather doubt that the originators of golf in whatever form ever envisioned the day people would ride around and play the game. Just like sand has been a link throughout golf architecture for five hundred years, walking has been a link throughout the history of golf for more than five hundred years.”
Because golf is an 18-hole game, Pace picked 18 courses to celebrate in his book. At each place, he found a player or a group of players who also believe in walking. The story of each course ‒ whether it’s the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach or Secession in the South Carolina lowcountry ‒ is told as much by the people who play there as by Pace.
At Biltmore Forest, he quotes attorney Bill Brazil, who is in his mid-50s and maintains a single-digit handicap at the Donald Ross-designed club.
“I hate to get on a treadmill. I’d much prefer to throw a bag on a trolley or on my shoulder and go walk 18 holes. All my buddies are committed to that. We rarely get in a cart,” Brazil said.
At Secession, the club has just two carts on the property and requires special permission to use them.
“In a golf cart, it seems like you’re always trying to get to the next shot. At Secession, it seems like when you’re walking between shots, that’s as important as the time over the shot,” member Charles Reynolds said.
Even at resorts, which thrive on guest and cart fees, walking has its place. Pace said Pinehurst Resort, Kiawah Island and Sea Pines allow walking now on all of their courses.
At Biltmore Forest last summer, walking rounds made up nearly three-quarters of all the rounds played by July. At Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, walking rounds were up 44 percent compared to the previous year.
At Grandfather Golf and Country Club, which gently rolls beneath its namesake peak that sits 1 mile above sea level, long-time pro Chip King counted himself among those who returned to their walking roots.
“I’ve fallen back in love with the game,” King said in the book.
In Good Walks, Pace tells the stories of 18 golf clubs in the Carolinas, much of the detail provided by the people who know them best.
It is, indeed, a good walk.
Top: Members walk Grandfather Golf and Country Club
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