When Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club hosts the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open this week, it will become the first venue to host the major championship four times. It should come as no surprise that the USGA wanted to return to the Donald Ross layout in Southern Pines, N.C. It features a unique and storied history with deep roots in the women’s game.
Plus, it's one of the best golf resorts in the North Carolina Sandhills, meaning anyone can go play it anytime.
A Lasting Legacy at Pine Needles
Peggy Kirk Bell, one of the earliest members of the LPGA Tour, purchased Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club along with her husband in 1954. The duo restored the Ross design and introduced her famed Golfari programs that provide instruction to golfers of all skill levels. Unfortunately, Kirk Bell passed away in 2016 but the course continues to be owned and operated by her family. Golfari programs are still available with instruction for women, by women.
The club also has packages for those looking to enjoy a getaway with accommodations available on site, as well as the opportunity to play Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club across the street or nearby Southern Pines - two other Ross gems also owned by the family. Pine Needles offers 74 guest rooms and chalet-style lodges with heavenly beds and more comforts. An in-ground swimming pool, grass tennis courts, a game room and fitness center are among the many other amenities for visitors.
Signature Holes at Pine Needles
The 2022 U.S. Women’s Open returns to a course that is very different from the one that last hosted the event in 2007. Architect Kyle Franz oversaw the restoration of Pine Needles beginning in 2017, intensely studying the original Ross design in an effort to return the venue to as close as its original 1940s layout as possible. Through the restoration, around 11 acres of rough were removed, which made the already wide fairways even more open. The greens were also regrassed and recontoured. Finally, 70 bunkers were reconfigured, with eight more added to the layout, in addition to new tee boxes to cater to short and long hitters.
Several holes have stood out since the course’s restoration. No. 3 is the one hole on the course that remains closest to its original Ross design and has seen the least amount of change throughout the years. Through the restoration, No. 4 saw significant change, with each of the bunkers returned to their original sizes and the green restored to its two-tier shape. A native hazard reminiscent of Ross’s early work was added in front of the teeing area at No. 16 and a front left hole location was restored to the green. At No. 18, the fairway bunker and grassy area that bordered the entire left side of the hole was restored. The left side of the green and a bunker on that same side were also expanded.
U.S. Women’s Open History at Pine Needles
The course has witnessed its share of history over the years. In 1996, Annika Sorenstam came to Pine Needles as defending champion having captured her first major victory at The Broadmoor in 1995. Sorenstam would win by six strokes to set a new tournament record of 272 and became the sixth player to defend her title.
The U.S. Women’s Open returned in 2001, and like Sorenstam, Karrie Webb was looking to win back-to-back. Webb won by eight strokes over Se Ri Pak and became the seventh player to successfully defend her title. That same year, Morgan Pressel became the youngest player, at the time, to qualify at the age of 12.
In 2007, the championship dealt with weather delays. The third round was completed on Sunday and Cristie Kerr emerged with the outright lead to capture her 10th career win and first major title.
Pine Needles also hosted the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2019. Helen Alfredsson entered the final round tied with Trish Johnson, but it was Alfredsson who was victorious after an up-and-down day where she carded five bogeys and a birdie en route to a two-stroke victory.
This year's winner will only enhance the legacy of Pine Needles for the next generation to come.