The Pit Golf Links
The Pit Golf Links by Dan Maples opened in 1985 to rave reviews and has
been styled "one of the most remarkable courses anywhere." The Pit’s phenomenal
reputation has attracted enthusiastic golfers from all over the world. The Pit
is currently ranked 4 1/2 Stars by Golf Digest and at one time ranked in the Top
50 Courses in America open to the public by Golf Digest. The Pit has also been
ranked by both Golf Digest and Golfweek as one of North Carolina's Ten Best. The
eighth hole was ranked by Golf Magazine as one of the Best 50 holes open to the
public. The SUN NEWS (Myrtle Beach) says "Not another one like it in the
world...an unbelievably masterful golf course."
Opened in 1985,
and creatively sculpted out from a reclaimed 230-acre sand
quarry, this Dan Maples original is certainly one-of-a-kind and an undisputedly
great golf course, presenting golfers of all levels with as testing a tract of
holes as can be found anywhere in Pinehurst, North Carolina. The Pit Golf Links,
featuring dramatic elevation changes and sculpted mounds, provides as much visual
stimulation as any course in the Sandhills NC area.
The course’s creatively unique design will impress even the most discriminating of
golf connoisseurs, and after playing the 6,103-yard, par-72 layout, golfers of
all levels will leave satisfied that they have tested their games and stood up
to the challenge that is The Pit Golf Links.
They say you either love or hate The Pit. Head golf
professional Ray Perry says this isn't true - he loves it and hates
it. To be more accurate, Perry hated the course once upon a time and has grown
to dearly love this masterpiece.
That time was when The Pit Golf Links first opened in 1985. The Pinehurst area had never seen anything like it back
then, and if it wasn't for Mike Strantz's
recently opened Tobacco Road golf course outside Sanford,
this Dan Maples masterpiece would still be the
local stick in the mud today.
Perry, and a good number of players that played The Pit in the months after it
opened, were upset about the cabbage patch-like rough. They were upset that
something so quirky, so penal and so devious could have been built in this, the
Home of Golf.
"I played it after it first opened and I said I would never, never come back
again," Perry says. "The next time I played it, though, it was so much more
playable. One tenth of one percent of the people that play this course hate it
now. And if that percentile comes back to play again, they love it then. If you
hit out of the fairway back then, the ball was lost. That is where the hate part
Love and hate are pretty strong emotions, normally
reserved for movies, novels and in-laws, so why all the fuss about a golf
course? You see, The Pit Golf Links, as the name suggests, isn't your average tree lined, love
grassed, gently rolling Sandhills layout. The course is routed through, over
and around an old sand quarry that closed back in 1935. The sand was lifted to
mix with the concrete that eventually became the Blue Ridge Parkway. What
remained, after the last load was lifted and sent on its way to the mountains,
was a landscape that didn't exactly scream "golf course!"
Dozens of sand mounds, laden with scrap pines and craggy brush were the
property's most dramatic feature, and only a lake that now sits in the middle of
the back nine lent some form of natural order to the site.
But what Dan Maples saw was a chance to do something different in a region where
different is about as welcome as George O'Leary at a Notre Dame mixer. By the
early 1980's, the scrap pines had turned into the majestic, long leaf version,
and the soil was loamy, workable and drained like a bathtub on speed.
Maples took the front nine and routed it like a links course, each hole strung
together like an unhitched necklace and no two holes playing parallel to each
other. On the back nine, he molded holes No. 11, 12, and 13 into one of the best
par 4, par 3, par 4 combinations in the state by routing them around the
quarry's lake front property.
No. 11 plays 360 yards from the middle tees, and features a downhill tee shot
and an approach shot over the lake. The 137-yard par 3 12th hole is one of the
best one-shotters in the Sandhills with its island green and view out over the
lake. The 348-yard 13th completes the stretch with a challenging, 200 plus yard
carry over the lake to a fairway that gradually doglegs left.
Maples left the old sand mounds in tact throughout the entire course, creating
one of the truly unique golfing experiences in North Carolina.
"Maples really wanted the course to be more of a links style golf course. For
example we don't have colored pins identifying pin placements like you have on
most modern courses," Perry says. "Its not a wide open course, but its more of a
what you see is what you get golf course."
a golfer, plunk him down on The Pit Golf Links par 3 fourth hole with its
surreal mounding, and tell him that he's playing a Dan Maples designed golf
course. Chances are he'll politely let you know that you're out of your mind.
After all, Maples designed the Golf Club at Longleaf, one of the most
straightforward, traditional courses in Pinehurst.
Yet, Perry says that The Pit's surroundings belie the fact that it is a fair,
playable golf course that actually receives as much repeat play as any course in
"If you focus on the golf course here, you will realize that it is not tricked
up," he says. "If you miss the fairways, there is not a lot of room to recover,
but some of the landing areas are so big, you should be penalized if you miss
If you'd prefer to play The Pit from the back tees, you'll be teeing up from the
course's "Screw Tees," which will put you at about 6600 yards. Move down to the
"Spike Tees," where most mid-handicappers should be playing, and you'll get 6138
yards that play a great deal longer. The Pit also offers the "Half Rail Anchor
Tees," ideal for senior and high handicappers at 5690 yards, and the "Rail
Anchor Tees" (4759 yards) for the ladies.
"Like any other course, if you choose the right tees, you'll enjoy the course
more," Perry says. "At 6600 yards, its not one of your 7000 plus yard
championship courses, but it's plenty of test from the Screw Tees if you want to
take it on."
The toughest test, as No. 1 handicap rating suggests, might be the par 5 15th,
which plays to 550 yards from the Screw Tees. Some locals claim that the
elevated tee box is the highest point in the Sandhills, and the hole is almost
birdie proof, with its double doglegging fairway.
There are three par 4's at The Pit Golf Links that play over 400 yards from the back tees, and the
par 5's average well over 500 yards. Still, Perry says that The Pit is a shot makers course at heart.
"I think it is more of a finesse golf course," he says. "There are a couple of
holes, like the par 5's on the front, that longer hitters would have an
advantage on. But most of the par 4's, with good drives, are accessible with
If for some reason you end up in the growing minority of golfers that hates The
Pit, it won't be because of the conditions. Even during the winter months, the
course is tightly manicured with a rye grass overseed and the bentgrass greens
are closely cropped and true rolling.
In it’s second decade of existence, The Pit Golf Links
continues to rank among the top courses, not only in the popular Pinehurst and
Sandhills area of North Carolina, but also among the top layouts in the entire
country. As it attracts players from all parts of the world, its reputation
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