National Golf Club - Bright Future Ahead

By Sonny Jones, Contributor

SOUTHERN PINES, NC -- The "P" words have brought pleasure and problems to National Golf Club during its 12-year existence. Pleasure came from the potential this Jack Nicklaus-designed layout offers. Problems came from a legal battle with Pinehurst Resorts Inc., to use Pinehurst in its name.

As the course formally known as Pinehurst National prepares to become a teen-ager, all signs point to a bright future. Ownership stability, a dedicated staff, worldwide membership, and the only Nicklaus-designed course in this golfing Mecca has National on the verge of reaching its potential as an upscale facility.

"I like the new name," said Tom Parsons, National's director of golf. "It's short and sweet. I think the course is certainly of the quality that it can stand by itself."

"We've always been a great golf course," Parsons said. "But we've always had that word 'potential' there. I think we're acting on that potential. Our image is changing."

The course design is true Nicklaus. Doglegs favor the player who works the ball left to right off the tee. The bentgrass greens are undulated, but fair. Nicklaus always talks about course management, and National is a prime example of how the "Golden Bear" wants you to think before you swing.

"It's the way Jack likes it," said Parsons, who came to National three years ago. "Short shots and putting are very critical. Aesthetically, it's one of the best golf courses in the state and the country, although I'm a little biased."

Natural lakes and stream beds not only gave Nicklaus the opportunity to make golfers ponder course management, but also allowed English stonemason Charlie Batten to add beauty to the course. Batten spent six weeks hand building stone walls supporting the 5th, 9th, 10th and 18th greens.

No. 5, a rolling 439-yard dogleg right -- what else did you expect? -- is considered the signature hole, although Parsons says, "We probably have about five signature holes." The view from about 150 yards away from the green looks down onto Batten's artistry and is a breathtaking scene. It's also a not-so-subtle reminder to make sure your approach shot doesn't land short.

National has four sets of tees, ranging from a monstrous 7,122 yards to a challenging 5,378 yards from the reds. If you play from the tees that best suit your game, you're almost assured of an enjoyable round. Wide fairways provide plenty of landing area off the tee. It's a very playable course.

Ironically, Nicklaus chose to start with a hole that doglegs slightly left. Your approach shot is to an elevated green that features pot bunkers to the right. Depending on the pin placement, only the brave or foolhardy try to play over the bunkers.

Completing the front nine is "Cornerstone," a 160-yard par 3. There's water to the left and back, but a well struck tee shot can easily result in par.

Course management is put to the test at the start of the back nine. The "Fortress" is a 510-yard par 5. Water comes into play on your second shot as a stream runs through the fairway. The green is guarded on the left by a lake. However, there aren't any bunkers around the green, so you can be rewarded for a less-than-perfect shot.

"Bear's Valley," a winding 460-yard par 4 completes the round. There's water on the left starting about halfway down the fairway.

National features a fully stocked pro shop, practice range, with a sand trap/chipping green, and a 6,000 square foot putting green. The 32,000 square foot clubhouse will be redesigned inside this year.

Also on site is men's and ladies' locker rooms, 5 tennis courts, stadium tennis court with 200 seating capacity, tennis pro shop, junior Olympic size pool, swim and tennis clubhouse, a formal dining room and ballroom, conference room, and private dining and banquet rooms.

National offers limited outside play, but caters to its upscale membership first. A round with a National member will cost about $55. Expect to pay a little more than $200 if you're not playing with a member.

National is located 1/2 mile from the 15-501 traffic circle, just off Midland Road, at One Royal Troon Drive.


Conditions: A
Layout: A
Service: A
Practice Fac.: A
Club House/Pro Shop: A
Pace of Play: A
Overall Rating: A

Sonny Jones, Contributor

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