When my husband, the Golfer, learned that I was to be the guest of Pinehurst Resort for a few days of exploring their facilities and services, he then declared that I had to go to the driving range immediately. “You haven’t been near a golf course in years,” he cried. “You can’t just walk out there and expect to play.”
“Nobody expects me to play,” I shot back. “They know I’m a travel writer not a golfer. I’m there for the Experience.”
“But this is Pinehurst!” he persisted. However, I managed to avoid the driving range and was thus fresh and completely clueless when I set foot on The Cradle that misty, North Carolina Piedmont morning.
Now before we address the ball, let’s take a moment here for a little background. The Cradle is one of Pinehurst Resort’s newest—and I think rather clever—creations. It is a par 3, 9-hole course located on the same ten-acre site where, in 1898, Dr. Leroy Culver laid out the first nine holes of what later became known as the “Cradle of American Golf.”
Opened in September 2017, The Cradle is a Gil Hanse designed short course that incorporates the natural vegetation and rolling terrain of the area. No water comes into play (more on that later), and there are only a few pine trees and a couple of ancient oaks to get in your way.
My kind of golf.
The little course had been booked for a corporate outing the day before, but on this day the threat of rain had driven away a lot of potential players. A few of us hearty souls gathered at the first tee, a couple of young men and me. As they waited for their third player to arrive, they invited me to play ahead of them. “Don’t watch us,” they laughed.
I stepped to the tee box, placed my short tee in the ground, and balanced my golf ball on top of it. I assessed the distance, 113 yards, and took my long iron out of the vintage-style canvas bag the starter had provided to make it easier for me to carry my four clubs. I tried to remember everything I’d ever been taught about making the tee shot. I drew back and hit the ball. It soared skyward, straight and true, and landed smack on the green. On in one!
The gentlemen applauded and I smiled and called out, “That’s my one shot of the day,” as I scooped up my little bag and trudged toward the number one green. It took me three putts, and I finished the hole with a four.
I turned to the second hole, and although I’d been told there was no water on the course, what I saw in front of me was a body of water the size of Lake Pontchartrain. In reality, it was a beautifully designed, well-manicured, and creatively placed rough. Grasses, sand, and a carefully sculptured bunker stood between my ball and the cup.
I drew back my short iron and topped it. The ball landed in the sand between two thick tufts of grass. At this point all I wanted was out, so I whacked it again. The ball dribbled over the grass into the next line of sand. I stared at it and made a quick decision. Better to not play the hole than to be thoroughly frustrated, so, I picked up the ball.