Golf Course History
Written by Lee D’Onofrio (Thurs. July 12, 2007) Blog story
SOUTHERN PINES COUNTRY CLUB OPENED IN 1906 AS A NINE HOLE COURSE AND WAS EXPANDED TO EIGHTEEN HOLES BETWEEN 1910-1912
“EXHIBIT 1″ is a postcard which depicts the 11th hole at Southern Pines:
(Courtesy of the Moore County Historical Association, Larry Koster Collection.)
Anybody who has played the course will recognize “EXHIBIT 1″ instantly as the 11th hole.
[I have chosen not to include modern photographs of the course by way of comparison. I hope this will leave some of the mystery at large and pilgrims will be drawn by these wonderful old images.]
“EXHIBIT 2″ is another postcard. This is a very accurate depiction of the 6th hole at Southern Pines. The caption at the top of the postcard reads, “A Sporty Hole, Southern Pines Country Club.”
(Courtesy of the Moore County Historical Association, Larry Koster Collection.)And while these two EXHIBITS don’t have telltale postmarks or dates, Susan J. Pockmire of the Moore County Historical Society informed me they come from a collection of Southern Pines Country Club postcards and photos with postmarks or other time stamps ranging from 1907 to 1917.
“EXHIBIT 3a” is the address side of a postcard found by Bob Miller, Exalted Ruler of the Southern Pines Elks Lodge (owners of the course since the mid 1940′s). And this exhibit is so very fascinating because it establishes the Fifth hole played today as the same Fifth hole played in 1908. It’s postmarked December, 1908, was mailed from Southern Pines to Boston, Mass. and contains German handwriting (a translation would be very welcome). The back side also has a handwritten date of “12/9/08″.
The flip side of this postcard shows an incredible image of the Fifth hole at Southern Pines, the same Fifth hole we play today. Notice the type print at the top of the card which reads, ” ‘The Fifth Green’ Country Club Golf Links, Southern Pines, N.C.”
So, in “EXHIBIT 3″ we have an artifact which, combined with the other postcards, places the original design back to 1908 and proves that the same course still exists today.
“EXHIBITS 4 and 5″ are two newspaper clippings from The Outlook, December 1907. They document a match played between a team from Pinehurst and a team from Southern Pines. “The recent match was played on the visitors’ grounds”, the grounds at Southern Pines. The match ended in a tie and was completed two weeks later at Pinehurst. (Southern Pines won. Go team.) Take note that Mr. Ward shot 57 for the nine hole match which established a course record. How freakin’ hard was this course playing for 57 to have been a course record?
“EXHIBITS 6a and 6b” are taken from a marketing brochure published by the town of Southern Pines as an advertisement and enticement to draw in golfing visitors. 6a concerns the “GOLF Season for 1912-1913″ and lists various conmpetitions scheduled. 6b is another page from the brochure which proves that the first nine of the golf course was opened in 1906 and the second nine no later than 1912.
“EXHIBIT 7″ is a photograph, documented again by Susan Pockmire, “circa 1907″ which depicts the Bilyeau home with the golf course. According to page 91 of Mandell’s book, the Bilyeau home served as a temporary clubhouse prior to the second nine being built.
Taking all of this evidence together, and comparing the images depicted therein with the course today, it becomes clear that the Southern Pines Country Club golf course came into existence in 1906.
This date is of further importance, because, if the course can be connected to Donald Ross as its designer, then Southern Pines would be able to claim, as part of its newfound identity, that it is the third new golf course ever designed by Donald Ross (as opposed to those he remodelled, such as Pinehurst #1).
Mr. Ross’s first original design was the front nine of Pinehurst #2.
His second design (and first full eighteen hole course) was the Winchester Country Club in Mass., 1902.
Furthermore, if Mr. Ross did design SPCC for a 1906 opening, he did so before he designed the back nine of Pinehurst #2, which was opened in 1907. Therefore, were the Southern Pines course designed by Mr. Ross, it must be considered, due to its close proximity to Pinehurst, one of the earliest examples of the signature style of the Leonardo DaVinci of golf course architecture.
DID DONALD ROSS DESIGN SOUTHERN PINES COUNTRY CLUB?
Ah, this is the question which has baffled Sandhills Ross disciples for decades. While it has come to be accepted lore that Donald Ross designed Southern Pines Country Club, what is there to actually “prove” with “concrete” evidence that the course was created by him?
On Tuesday July 10th, 2007, I woke up determined to continue the search. But, alas, it was not to be. You see, The Cuteness, upon my waking her that morning, quickly discerned that we both just happened to be off on this day and she insisted I put the hunt behind me and take her to Fayettville for lunch and a movie. One cannot resist the wily charms of The Cuteness.
And here’s where things get very weird. She and I went to see the 1:20 PM showing of “Nancy Drew”. It was a fun little flick, faithful to the sleuthing vibe of the old books. As I sat there happily digesting my buffalo style quesadilla, Ms. Drew had a revelation that a logo she believed was an “X” actually turned out to be two palm trees crossed (think about the “big W” in “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”).
Ms. Drew runs to her computer, blasts away at the search engine, and then reads back to us, her captive audience, the list her search reveals. And when she says, “Southern Pines…” I nearly fell out of my chair. There was no escaping it. I knew right then and there, I had to solve the mystery of Donald Ross and Southern Pines. I kid you not, Southern Pines is in that movie out in theatres right now.
The next day, after returning from the Given Memorial Library-Tufts Archives, I spent hours sitting at the computer. So many false leads and failed connections left me just about busted.
But then, at 4:45 PM I stumbled across a web page for the “Historylinks Museum”, a museum dedicated to the history of Dornoch parish in Scotland, the hometown of Donald Ross. Their Donald Ross web page contains a reference to “EXHIBIT 8″:
“A valuable artefact is a copy of a pocket size, 12 page booklet ‘Donald J Ross Associates Inc, Golf Course Construction’ which provides “A partial list of prominent golf courses, revised to 1930″ designed by Donald Ross and his associates Walter B Hatch and J B McGovern.”
The web page features only the cover page to this utterly intriguing booklet.
It’s important to note that the image provided by this museum only portrays the front cover and nothing else. Indeed, there is nothing in that image which backs up the allegation that the booklet contains a “partial list of prominent golf courses” designed by Donald Ross. But until this moment, I did not know, nor did it appear from their writings, that any of the other Ross researchers were aware such an important list existed.
This list of course becomes more important than any other list of courses designed by Mr. Ross and Associates because this list was published, according to the allegation by the Dornoch museum, by Mr. Ross and Associates and is accurate up to 1930.
Furthermore, since it is a “a partial list of prominent courses”, it would establish, from Mr. Ross himself, a list of courses he valued very much.
When I saw Ran Morisette in the pro shop later that day, I showed the image and caption to him. He was astonished, and admitted he’d never seen or heard of this booklet before.
We then discussed the ramifications if Southern Pines Country Club were not listed in this publication and the ramifications were not good. Of course, since, by Mr. Ross and Associates own choice of words, ths list was only “partial”, any course claiming lineage to Mr. Ross would not necessairly be shut out, but to be excluded from a list created by the master himself… well that would not be good indeed.
Certainly, I could just call the museum, have them open the booklet and confirm whether the Southern Pines Country Club was listed in this booklet. Right? Wrong (perhaps).
If you’ll scroll to the bottom of the web page, you’ll find the following caption:
“Images of the items donated by Elizabeth Pippitt Shapiro have been included in a ‘Donald Ross’ album which forms part of the slide shows available on the PC provided for pubic access to the museum catalogue. The newspaper and magazine cuttings and other documents have also been produced in portable document format and may be viewed from an index file available on the museum PC.
It says “images of the items” were donated, not the items themselves. I began to panic. It would be of no use to call them if all they had were the images on the web page because that image is only of the cover. Madness. And in that panic and madness, I didn’t comprehend the rest of quote above pertaining to the “index file”.
And it’s a bloody damn good thing I didn’t comprehend it because, I assure you, I would have spent my day trying to bribe the Dornoch librarian with some fine single malt whisky.
But as confusion clouded my befuddled cranium, I thought the only chance would be the Tufts Archives at the Given Memorial Library.
Indeed, a longshot if there ever was one because Richard Mandell, Michael Fay, Ran Morrisette and probably hundreds more freaks just like me had scrutinzed every square inch of that place looking for just such a Holy Grail list emanating straight from the master’s mouth as it were.
Still, the images were provided by Elizabeth Pippitt Shapiro, the maestro’s grand-daughter. So there was a chance the librarians could point me in the right direction.
It’s important to note here, that the image provided to the Dornoch Museum by Ms. Shapiro does not contain the alleged quotes about the booklet containing a list of Ross courses. So, for that quote to be real, somebody must have opened the booklet and taken that information from it.
Oh, to be able to touch it, feel it with thine own hands and read the actual list.
So this morning at 9:30 AM sharp, I arrived at the Given Library, beeline for the Tufts archive and to my horror Melissa Bielby, assistant to Executive Director Audrey Moriarty, informs me that Audrey is away on vacation for the next two weeks and Mr. Root won’t be in until 2:00 PM.
Melissa graciously offers me her assistance. When I explain that I’m trying to authenticate Southern Pines Country Club as a Donald Ross design she becomes instantly skeptical that I will find any such documentation here at the Tufts Archives and informs me that, “Richard Mandell and Michael Fay have spent days, weeks even, hunting through everything we have.”
This of course makes perfect sense to me, but she politely agrees to take a look at the Dornoch web page image of the booklet just in case and then replies, “I’ve never seen it.” I ask if I can see the files of Mr. Ross’s corresppondence and she assures me it is not in there but is happy to get the file for me anyway.
She looks through it briefly herself before handing it over, and once again assures me it is not there. I desperately cling to the folder as the sad clown look comes over me and I know for sure it’s not in there. I mean, how could all of those researchers overlook such a valuable artifact whilst searching at the one place you’d expect to find it?
It doesn’t take me long to complete my review of the file. Melissa was indeed correct. The booklet was not in there. Now I’m torn between giving up or getting my hands dirty with a few more years of The Outlook.
Just when I’m about to quit, I think about old Nancy Drew and how I felt in that movie theatre. And I decide, “Damn it, I know I’m going to find the answer.”
And just at that moment, Melissa, standing by the locked glass case which holds various Donald Ross memorabilia on exhibit, exclaims, “Wait a minute.” I look up and she says, “I think it’s right here in the display case.”
I run over and there it is, sitting in the middle of a group of photos.
And I discern immediately why nobody ever found it. As the Dornoch museum so accurately stated, it is indeed “pocketsized”, perhaps three by four inches and it’s very thin.
It also does not say anything about it being a booklet on the cover and sitting there in the locked glass cabinet where nobody can pick it up, it looks just like a fancy business card for Donald Ross and Associates…nothing more.
Not having the benefit of having read the Dornoch Museum’s obscure web page, there is absolutely no reason why anybody looking at that tiny booklet would ever think it was more than a glorified business card. It does not look like a booklet at all, and there’s certainly NOTHING on its face which would alert a researcher to the treasures found within.
Melissa had run off to find the keys as I began pacing the floor wondering if Southern Pines Country Club was listed. She eventually found the key to the cabinet, reached in and simply handed it to me without opening it, which I thought was a very classy thing to do.
“EXHIBITS 9-11″ are blown up scans of this tiny booklet.
And there it is, the concrete, undeniable proof. A Donald Ross publication from 1930 wherein Mr. Ross claims Southern Pines Country Club as his own.
Donald Ross designed 36 holes at Southern Pines Country Club before 1930, including the first nine, the second nine (which make the original course we still play today) and the abandoned nine as well.
Furthermore, Mr. Ross designed a fourth nine which was apparently never built after the depression hit in 1929.
Mr. Ross included Southern Pines Country Club in this booklet/brochure of “Prominent Golf Courses” which was used to promote Donald Ross and Associates to the public. And therefore, based upon all the evidence presented, I believe it is fair to say that Southern Pines Country Club was the third original design Donald Ross completed and therefore it deserves it’s rightful place in history as an influence on all that was to come after it, including the back nine of famed Pinehurst #2.
Special thanks to the Given Memorial Library, especially Melissa Bielby, John Root and Audrey Moriarty of the Tufts Archive. Thanks also to Richard Mandell for his wonderful passionate book, and to Ran Morrisette for his equally passionate website. Thanks to Michael Fay and the Donald Ross Society, C. Jay Harris, Rob Pilewski, Avestra Golf, Woody Davis, Howard Cannon, Rodney Russel, Bill Baker, the Bob Miller, Charlotte at the Elks Lodge, Kevin Gallagher, Mr. DeSandy, Mr. Motsinger, Dornoch Historylinks Museum, Susan Pockmire and Sarah from the Moore County Historical Society, my parents, The Cuteness and Donald Ross. God bless you all.
Call (910) 692-6551 to arrange your tee time today!