The eyes of the golfing world will focus later this month on Pinehurst No. 2, North Carolina’s premier golf course, built by Donald Ross in 1907. This year, Pinehurst has the honor of hosting both the U.S. Open (June 12-15) and U.S. Women’s Open (June 19-22) championships, making it the first time in history that both tournaments will be played in the same year on the same course.
In addition to eight quality golf courses, Pinehurst Resort is also home to one of the world’s quality putting courses: Thistle Dhu, which opened a few years ago. The 15,000-square-foot green was the brainchild of Pinehurst CEO and owner Bob Dedman Jr., and was inspired by the Himalayas putting course in St. Andrews. Historically, Thistle Dhu was a Pinehurst estate with its own miniature golf course built in 1919. The current facility is heavily contoured, and is no mere practice putting green but a real challenge to any putter’s level of expertise. The Pinehurst putting course features 18 holes of mind-bending journeys designed to entertain everyone in the family, from the golfing beginner to the scratch player, and everyone in between. Play is free to resort guests, just bring your ball and putter and enjoy the fun.
Thistle Dhu was built by Toby Cobb and Dave Axland, associates of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who renovated the Pinehurst No. 2 course in 2011.
Putting Course at Bandon Dunes
On the Oregon coast, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is home to five of the world’s best golf courses, and recently added the Punchbowl putting course. Bandon Dunes resort owner Mike Keiser was introduced to the concept of a putting course during a visit to Pinehurst Resort.
The Bandon Dunes version is a wildly contoured 3.5-acre (150,000-square-foot) surface located near the clubhouse at Pacific Dunes. It was designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, the architects who designed Bandon’s Pacific Dunes and were the lead designers on Old Macdonald, a sister course.
Because the site is so huge—the combined area of the putting surface is bigger than all 18 greens at Pacific Dunes combined—there are countless options for pin placements, hole lengths, directions and angles.
Punchbowl is similar in size to the putting course at St. Andrews, so you are likely to face a lot of fairly long putts in playing 18 holes. The main difference is that the Himalayas is pretty level from one end to the other, with a lot of internal dunes, whereas Punchbowl takes up 20 feet of elevation change from end to end.
Designer Doak didn’t have any direction from the Bandon Dunes owner about how to construct the putting course. “He just said, ‘Make it really fun for people,’” said Doak. It appears he succeeded.
Chances for Family Fun
Putting courses of all shapes and sizes can be found throughout the country. Here is a sampling:
• The Enzian Falls Championship putting course is complementary for guests of the Enzian Inn and Alpine Rivers Inn, located on Highway 2 in the German-themed village of Leavenworth in central Washington. The course features 18 holes of natural bent grass greens with panoramic views of the Icicle River, waterfalls, streams, and the surrounding Cascade Mountains that could double as the Alps.
• In Clackamas, Oregon, you’ll find the 18-hole Sahalee putting course. Its new additions include sand traps, challenging breaks, and undulations to test even the best putters in this beautiful setting under stately fir trees. The course is open to all ages, with putters of all sizes available, and of course, it’s kid friendly.
• In Redmond, Oregon, the 18-hole Eagle Crest putting course sports hazards, sand traps, and a variety of challenging breaks.
• The Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club, located in the seaside town of Galloway, is the only golf and spa resort on the New Jersey Shore. It recently opened a nine-hole professionally manicured putting course dubbed the Turtle Course, named in honor of the diamondback terrapins that inhabit Seaview’s famed Bay Course each summer.
• The Prairie Club in Valentine, Nebraska, offers its own version of the Himalayas, a one-acre putting green whose dramatic contours can be seen from the bedroom windows of those staying in the Prairie Club Lodge.
• The Marriott Desert Springs resort in Palm Desert, California, also features a unique, 350-yard, 18-hole putting course, complete with water hazards, sand bunkers and rough. Created to provide golfers of all ages and abilities an enjoyable golf adventure, The Greens at Desert Springs—the 18-hole championship putting course —is the perfect solution. The nation’s first, all-natural turf putting course combines all aspects of a full-length course: sand bunkers, water hazards, strategically placed trees, and rolling “fairways” all played with just a putter. The par 54, 1,435-foot course is truly “golf in miniature,” but big-time fun for individuals, families or group events.
• In Langley, British Columbia, Poppy Estate is a unique and challenging 18-hole, par 72 putting course that’s nestled in the beautiful surroundings of Thunderbird Showpark. Bordered by ryegrass and wildflowers, the putting course is situated on more than five acres, and boasts 80,000 square feet of rolling, undulating A4 bent grass putting greens; one of the most unique putting course in British Columbia.
Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer, and writer. Rick writes a weekly golf blog, “The 19th Hole,” which is published every Saturday at rvlife.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.