A new era for historic Southern Pines Golf Club near Pinehurst

Investment into the historic Carolina Sandhills course includes restoration work by architect Kyle Franz

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The Southern Pines Golf Club has always been the Donald Ross course in the North Carolina Sandhills that was a great value play oozing with potential to be something more.

That potential is ready to be realized under its new owners. Kelly Miller, the president of the nearby Pine Needles Lodge and Mid Pines Inn, has had his eye on Southern Pines for more than 15 years. His patience and persistence paid offer earlier this month when he finalized the lease to manage and eventually purchase Southern Pines from the local Elks Club. Miller, an Elks member, said Architect Kyle Franz will restore the 6,268-yard, par-71 course to its original roots. The course dates to 1906 but has lost some of its Ross features over the last century.

Franz is a Ross restoration expert, giving rebirth to the original sandscapes at Mid Pines in 2013 and executing a greens rebuild and bunker renovation in 2016 at Pine Needles, which will host its fourth U.S. Women's Open in 2022. He also worked on the restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 under Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw.

"A number of the green complexes will have to be redone," Miller said. "They were redone in the early 1990s. Some were significantly altered to where there is not much of Ross left. We will redo those. A lot of the other greens were kind of left alone. So we’ll just work with those."

Miller said they haven't determined which grass they will use on the greens, but tree management will be a priority. "We also want to clear out a lot of trees that have grown through the years, raise the canopy up so you can see through the golf course. There will be some great vistas where you can look across - there’s a lake out there - (so) you can see several holes. I think it will be pretty spectacular when we are all finished."

Southern Pines Golf Club is a value-oriented Donald Ross course in the Sandhills.

Southern Pines has always been loved by locals and value seekers. Its star rating on Golf Advisor (3.9) tends to get dragged down by reviews that don't always take into account the club's historic roots. Local Golf Advisor DenisDotson gave Southern Pines four stars in a June review.

"Southern Pines isn't up there with the top tier of Pinehurst resort courses, Tobacco Road, or Pine Needles, but it's a solid Donald Ross track that's very affordable," the review reads. "We got a late afternoon tee time for only $40 on a summer Friday, and it was well worth the money. The course is classic Ross - fairly straightforward holes with undulating tricky greens. Conditions were pretty good, but with some patchy areas in the fairway. The greens rolled pretty true, but a bit on the slow side. Our group all agreed this is definitely worth a visit if you're on a budget in the Sandhills. Donald Ross left his mark on the region and Southern Pines was one of his first designs. It's not championship golf by any stretch, but it's got solid character."

Miller is excited to be the future steward of a local gem in the heart of downtown.

"We think it really fits in with our facilities here," he added. "I’ve actually been trying to get involved with it, whether that be a lease or a purchase, for 15 plus years because I think so highly of the golf course. I think it was Ross’ third course, although I haven’t verified that. It has great topography and a great set of par 3s."

Southern Pines, North Carolina
Semi-Private
3.5723294118
248
Southern Pines, North Carolina
Resort
4.4068764706
37
Southern Pines, North Carolina
Resort
3.7878764706
38

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Nice to see the preservation of these courses. The Southern Pines course has gone to waste over the past years.

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I wonder if any thought was given to rebuilding the holes no longer in use. I also hope that the makeover continues to offer good value or if this is an excuse to raise prices.

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With so many courses closing over the last 15 yrs., it's wonderful to see one being saved, especially a Donald Ross Course. Have played it a handful of times over the same period of time and enjoyed the routing and those tricky greens. Bravo to the New Owner, who made it happen. Will definitely be on our list for our annual Father's Day outing.

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Played there in the mid-90s - one employee collecting green fees, doing course maintenance, running the front-end loader on the range(?) and manning the snack bar. Place was a dump and I swore I'd never go back, The holes (routing) were great, but the condition was deplorable or worse.
Ten years ago someone, somehow convinced me to go back. Conditions had improved significantly and there were several employees in place, all of whom I complimented highly. I have been back several times since, making it a point to play there when I am in Pinehurst - it is a great value and I really enjoy the course. I am glad that the new era is coming, but will miss the bargain of playing a Donald Ross course at a rock-bottom rate.

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All of us local golfers in the Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Aberdeen are thrilled that Kelly Miller and the entire Bell family will be the new stewards of Southern Pines CC. The legendary Peggy Kirk Bell, her husband "Bullet" Bell purchased Pine Needles in the 50's. Since that time they continued to make the improvements needed and have held 3 US Women's Opens. It's exciting to know that the course is in good hands with local owners who have proven they will do the right things to honor the Ross heritage and make the course what we all know it can be!

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A new era for historic Southern Pines Golf Club near Pinehurst