PINEHURST, N.C. – As much as St. Andrews, Scotland, is the undisputed cradle of golf in the United Kingdom, the Village of Pinehurst – a cozy enclave of about 14,000 – is the game’s epicenter in America.
The storied No. 2 course, home of this week’s U.S. Open, frames the village to the south and sits just a few blocks away from the city center.
Just down Dogwood Road, around the corner from the venerable Carolina Hotel, sits the Pine Crest Inn, a watering hole that dates back nearly a century and caters to a distinctly golf-centric crowd.
The walls are dotted with weathered photos from Pinehurst’s various courses, signed snapshots from previous champions (including 2005 U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell) and even a golf ball washer mounted on the wall of the men’s bathroom (fill in your own punch line).
On the eve of Thursday’s first round the Pine Crest dining room was surprisingly quiet; perhaps it was little more than the calm before the championship storm, with an assortment of industry executives, media types and fans milling about.
There were two patrons, however, who stood out late Wednesday.
Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore gathered with family and friends for an early dinner, notable only because of the duo’s dramatic makeover of Pinehurst’s No. 2 course.
Crenshaw and Coore nip/tucked the layout back to Donald Ross’ original blueprint in 2011, complete with wide fairways and sprawling natural areas that are dotted with love grass.
That the two would be dining at the Pine Crest was notable because the inn was once owned by Ross. From 1921 to ’48 the Scot was in charge and a regular during the decades he spent tinkering the No. 2 course to perfection.
The meal had the feel of a metaphorical salute to the man the two architects will now be forever associated with. Eating at the inn Ross made famous only made sense.