PINEHURST, N.C (Aug. 10, 2017) — There’s little doubt that the Pinehurst Resort, with nine distinctive courses designed by the likes of Donald Ross, Ellis Maples, George Fazio, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus, is the premier destination in the country – if not the world – for public access to the game of golf.
But a private club with two courses designed by the younger, and more celebrated, Fazio just a few miles down the road – Forest Creek Golf Club – might offer the best golf experience in the region, if a golfer is lucky enough to be invited to play.
Forest Creek GC’s two Tom Fazio-designed golf layouts have earned universal acclaim from professional course raters and golf enthusiasts alike. It’s the only golf community in the country with two courses ranked in the Top 100 of Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses. In that magazine’s 2017 ranking of the ‘Best 100 Residential Courses.’ Forest Creek’s North Course came in at No. 45 and the South Course at No. 74 in America.
Pinehurst Magazine named the South Course, the older of the club’s two tracks, as the second best golf experience in the Pinehurst area, trailing only Pinehurst No. 2 based on the votes of area head golf professionals.
Fazio was given carte blanche as to where he wanted to locate the golf courses on the property’s 1,265 acres as there was no pre-determined idea as to where real estate was going to be built. And it show, as the best ground here is reserved for the golf.
“At Forest Creek, the underlying ground formations – the sand, soil structure, and the pine trees – allowed us to create a distinctive style and two courses that have separate personalities,” Fazio said. “The elevations are about the same and the vegetation’s the same and the soil is the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something different.”
The two courses look like they came from two different states and play differently as well. The South Course is more of a parkland layout, with the North Course incorporating more of a Pine Valley-style look.
The South Course, opened in 1996, has big bowls and grassy runoff areas around the putting surfaces that give it special character while the North Course, which debuted nine years later, features sprawling sandy waste areas filled with native sand along with deeper and more penal bunkering. The South Course’s greens are also a little gentler than the North’s, though neither would rate as extreme or unfair.
The South’s championship tees (called “The Cones” because of their pinecone tee markers) allow the course to be played at 7,095 yards and to rating of 73.7 and slope of 139 but it will tend to play somewhat shorter because of its wide driving corridors and a handful of elevated tee shots.
The North Course, which plays at 7,209 from the back set of five tees, also differs from the South in that water plays a more prominent role on the younger layout – especially on holes 15-17, which wind around a large lake.
The experience at Forest Creek GC is simply world-class. From the time one drives through the gates, to the warm-up on a practice range stocked with Titleist Pro V1s embossed with the club logo, to the courses themselves, to an after-round shower or change of shoes in the stable-themed locker room and to the last toast at the facility’s understated but primo clubhouse, there is nothing better anywhere.
That, and the Pinehurst feel, is what makes Forest Creek GC a premier club and a facility that must be added to any discerning golfer’s bucket list. If you can wrangle an invite to play here (and your club pro may be able to arrange a round), consider it akin to winning the lottery and drop everything to make the trip.
Away from the courses, Forest Creek Golf Club is located up just up the road from the charming Village of Pinehurst, which is one of only two towns in the nation to be designated a National Historic Landmark. The Village of Pinehurst offers a quaint array of shops, boutiques, restaurants and art galleries and is a quiet and lovely place to spend the day.
Just east of Pinehurst is the charming town of Southern Pines, which also boasts a substantial golf pedigree. Southern Pines is also well-known as a major equestrian community, hosting show jumping, carriage driving and numerous other such events. The town’s tree-lined main street is home to cafes, pubs and gourmet restaurants, as well as boutiques, a wine-tasting room, galleries and an old-time theater.