Opinion: Exploring King-Collins Proposal For Pinehurst Resort

Golf is, at its very core, like every art form, with those who explore the unknown—the innovators—and those who comfortably live within the expected, either knowingly or unknowingly holding up that standard. Not everything is black or white: there are certainly people, like Tom Doak, who have one foot in and one foot out. His architecture has become synonymous with the “standard” of today, though I think that is unfair to label him solely as “upholding the standard” with some daring concepts at The Loop, Sedge Valley, Lido, his proposed course at Maha, and more.

By now, the firm of Tad King and Rob Collins have comfortably established themselves as innovators, pushing the boundaries of golf architecture to the edge of our understanding. Sweetens Cove is, by most accounts, a massive success: the nine hole golf course near Chattanooga is an ambitious renovation of a rather nondescript original property, to something well-known and well-thought of, ranking inside Golf Magazine‘s Top 10 nine hole golf courses in the world.

In 2022, the duos first eighteen hole golf course opened in Homer, Nebraska. Looking to get a tee time at Landmand in 2023? Good luck. The craze is there; the hype is high, and those looking to get some of the public-access tee times will struggle to do so. That is the power of innovation, or at the very least, something aesthetically different from the general run-of-the-mill look we see at the big-name resorts of today. It is also the power of social media, where the firm has developed a cult-like following of supporters.

On a late-January 2023 podcast, Rob Collins joined Andy Andrew Johnson of The Fried Egg to discuss all things golf, but the topic people gravitated towards is the news of the firm’s proposal for Pinehurst No. 10, recently awarded to Tom Doak. The online reactions to the news of Doak were rather unusual, at least from my perspective. Rather than a celebration of one of the greatest golf resorts in the world finally adding a new course from a notable architect within the past 15 years (and no, No. 4 does not count; it is a renovation), chirps of Pinehurst playing it “safe” from King-Collins fan section, or those who wanted to see a Keith Rhebb & Riley Johns design after the success of Winter Park 9, a very enjoyable community renovation in an upscale suburb of Orlando, filled the comments section. Of course, there were the normal people who understood why Pinehurst would pick Tom Doak: beginning in 1907 with Donald Ross and continuing until Gil Hanse’s addition of The Cradle and renovation of No. 4, the resort has championed those who have been notable names: Rees Jones, Tom Fazio, George Fazio, again, Donald Ross. Those who sought the Mike Keiser Sr. & David McLay Kidd moment at Bandon Dunes were not reading the signs.

Truthfully, Pinehurst Resort is more than established enough to seek out the best of the best: they can go get that Drake or Beyoncé feature. Who would fault DJ Khaled for seeking out Kendrick Lamar, JAY Z, Drake, or anyone else of similar fame for his collaboration albums, when they are the pinnacle of music sales right now? DJ Khaled is no Dr. Dre, who is known for putting on new artists like Snoop Dogg for The Chronic, Eminem for The Chronic 2001, or Anderson .Paak for Compton. If this metaphor is a little too hip-hop for you, in this scenario, Pinehurst is DJ Khaled: they are here to seek out the best and have them under their umbrella, and Dream Golf is Dr. Dre: David McLay Kidd at Bandon Dunes, Rod Whitman at Cabot Links, the rebirth of David McLay Kidd at Sand Valley, Jim Craig at Rodeo Dunes, Kyle Franz and Mike Nuzzo (and would have been Keith Rhebb & Riley Johns, but alas) at Cabot Citrus Farms.

With all that said, King-Collins shared light of their proposal to Pinehurst, cleverly titled as “The Spoils” for, as they put it on Instagram, “we nicknamed it ‘The Spoils’ after the erratic and artful pines of sand left over from a long ago sand mining operation of the property.” The concept is rather daring: five eighteen hole routings on a single 140 acre property, with the resort being able to rotate between each routing.

The vision for the property? Best to let the architects describe that:

Borrowing from one of the key elements of Pinehurst’s Scottish cousin, The Old Course at Saint Andrews, the ever-changing face of The Spoils guarantees a new experience for the golfer each and every day.

Five seperate eighteen hole routings allows guests to play an entirely new course throughout a week’s stay, while leaving open the possibility for The Resort to rent the course to a small number of players on any given day, thereby giving the select few the feeling of owning their own private golf course!

Meant to be an exploratory and immersive experience, golf at The Spoils is unlike any other Resort offering anywhere in the world. In line with the world’s greatest golf courses, it is our intention to build into the landscape an extremely wide variety of potential golfing scenarios and outcomes, a foundation which will take a lifetime to unlock and fully understand.

Firm and fast conditions from tee to green will force players to consider the slope and speed of the turf in order to achieve the best possible result, and clearing will open up views across the property, revealing a sprawling, artistically rendered Sandhills golfing landscape.

Red Course

  1. 575, 5
  2. 270, 4
  3. 620, 5
  4. 680, 5
  5. 310, 4
  6. 415, 4
  1. 540, 5
  2. 400, 4
  3. 150, 3
  4. 185, 3
  5. 350, 4
  6. 330, 4
  1. 500, 5
  2. 313, 4
  3. 290, 4
  4. 360, 4
  5. 235, 3
  6. 435, 4

A rather unusual start, with three par 5’s, ranging from 575 to 680, getting the golfer from the far southeast corner of the property all the way to the northeast via a scenic route. In total, the Red Routing is 6,590 yards, par 74.

Purple Course

  1. 460, 4
  2. 335, 4
  3. 235, 3
  4. 150, 3
  5. 365, 4
  6. 650, 5
  1. 135, 3
  2. 265, 3
  3. 520, 5
  4. 95, 3
  5. 585, 5
  6. 580, 5
  1. 315, 4
  2. 385, 4
  3. 320, 4
  4. 365, 4
  5. 165, 3
  6. 295, 4

Beginning at the first green of the Red Course, the Purple course has quite a bit more one-shot holes, with a whopping five in the first ten holes, but slows to six by the end. In total, the Purple plays about 300 yards shorter than the Red at 6,220 yards, par 70.

Black Course

  1. 385, 4
  2. 300, 4
  3. 390, 4
  4. 335, 4
  5. 165, 3
  6. 225, 3
  1. 635, 5
  2. 285, 4
  3. 585, 5
  4. 95, 3
  5. 600, 5
  6. 500, 5
  1. 550, 5
  2. 135, 3
  3. 385, 4
  4. 330, 4
  5. 220, 3
  6. 415, 4

If there ever is a “main loop” in such a thing like this, my guess is the Black would be it because the conventional par of 72 and the standard-ish yardage of 6,535, or at the very least, the first routing drawn. Five par 3’s and five par 5’s comprise the Black routing, which starts at the 5th/18th green on the Purple and the 1st/17th green on the Red.

Green Course

  1. 435, 4
  2. 270, 4
  3. 350, 4
  4. 330, 4
  5. 320, 4
  6. 535, 5
  1. 340, 4
  2. 385, 4
  3. 200, 3
  4. 135, 3
  5. 610, 5
  6. 300, 4
  1. 250, 3
  2. 535, 5
  3. 550, 5
  4. 665, 5
  5. 200, 3
  6. 595, 5

Like the Red Course, the Green begins in the southeast corner of the property, which helps logistics of beginning and ending two routings in the same place. Like the Red, the Green clocks in at a par 74, and is the longest of the five at five yards over 7,000. I sure do not want to play the finishing stretch with four par 5’s in the final five holes totalling 2,345 yards and 33% of the entire course’s length in just 22% of the golf course.

  1. 330, 4
  2. 165, 3
  3. 565, 5
  4. 585, 5
  5. 185, 3
  6. 285, 4
  1. 235, 3
  2. 465, 4
  3. 215, 3
  4. 335, 4
  5. 200, 3
  6. 350, 4
  1. 100, 3
  2. 365, 4
  3. 500, 5
  4. 280, 4
  5. 450, 4
  6. 510, 5

The Blue Course also begins in the southeast corner of the property alongside the Red and Green, which likely implies that is where the clubhouse/general starting position would be. At 6,090 yards and a par 70, this is the shortest of the five, but perhaps the most attractive to my eye: the variety is a little higher, with par 3’s from 100 yards all the way to 235, par 4’s between 280 and 465, and par 5’s between 500 and 585.

Could This Work?

I think the short answer is no, it couldn’t, not at a massive US resort like Pinehurst, but it is not that simple, really. The concept could absolutely work on a private club with a smaller amount of rounds, but for a large-scale resort, the logistics of having five routings would likely be abandoned rather quickly: that is five scorecards you have to produce, five times the signage, confusion for the grounds crew, more greens to maintain, higher budget, more fairway, and a bunch of additional headaches like starting from three different positions, and some weird crossover moments to make it work that create liability risks.

For example, on the Red, the 7th & 12th cross as well as the 8th & 11th (and I know The Old Course does this as well, but we can agree liability is a whole different animal in the United States, which has the highest number of civil suits per capita in the world). On the Purple, the 8th & 15th and the 9th/14th cross. On the Black, 7/18, 12/16, and 13/15 intersect. You get the point: there are crossing holes on the Green (7/15 + 8/14), but not the Blue. I have no issues with crossing holes – in fact I enjoy them -, but having multiple crossing points on all except one routing is not only confusing to the mass consumer, but a potential headache for the operations staff to deal with complaints. Not to mention playing over numerous greens from other routings and the pain that could cause the grounds crew with casual resort guests taking divots out of the greens and not knowing, or passionate golfers getting frustrated with always having to move their ball off a green for the routing they aren’t playing.

My assumption is that two of the routings would be scrapped right away: with the Black and the Purple being the most likely victims as they start far enough away from the other three to create a bit of a headache operations wise, even if they do both start relatively in the same area. This is, of course, a disservice to the artist’s intentions and the creativity to put forth such a concept. Rather, a private club model would be able to facilitate the crossover holes much easier: you could get away with less signage because members play the golf course more than resort guests, and with less rounds brings less concern for safety points of interest.

Holes Of Interest

Five routings can be tough to dive into, but here we go. Holes I would most want to see built on each course: The 310 yard par 4, 5th on the Red with its almost Knoll/Volcano style green perched above the short grass surroundings seems like a blast. Likewise for the drive & pitch 11th with its Road style green.

On the Purple, the tee shot on the 5th looks cool in the 3D model above, beautifully curated by Joe McDonne, while the back right tongue on the short 7th would be enjoyable to hit a wedge to.

For the Black, it gets off to a hot start with a fun drivable par 4, 2nd, as well as a strong long par 3 at the 6th. I especially like the look of the 15th, with trouble up the left but the ideal line being up the right to open up the green, although this is the same hole as the 11th on the Red, just a bit longer.

On the Blue, the pot bunker short of the 10th green on the drive & pitch hole seems to rather cleverly hid itself into the landscape, which could be fun to figure out over time. Immediately following, the 11th, with its shared bunker complex alongside the 14th is beautiful, which is another rather good hole it seems. The 15th seems like a nightmare, but the centreline bunker on the 17th, a rare long par 4 on this property, is wonderfully utilized.

To finish off, the Green’s highlights, at least from a computer 3D rendering, include the opening par 4, the short 3rd, the par 3, 9th to its domed green, the drivable 12th playing back to the Red 5th (and the best green on the course in the rendering), the long 13th, and navigating the bunkering on the 14th.

Conclusion

Did Pinehurst make the wrong decision? Not particularly, in my view, although Doak’s vision has yet to see the light of day. However, I can imagine Pinehurst’s pure confusion of this plan and how they would make it work, though I have to applaud King-Collins for their creativity here. Regardless, Bandon had this concept already somewhat ready to go at Sheep Ranch before ultimately deciding to go to a conventional eighteen hole routing from Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, rather than keeping Tom Doak’s 13 green concept from the original Sheep Ranch.

Photo credit: Renaissance Golf Design

Either way, I hope an innovative developer who wants a funky, cool private club sees this proposal and looks to recreate this concept, because as a member, having a “five in one” deal sounds pretty awesome. For now, though, I would consider myself more excited to see Tad King & Rob Collins vision realized at Red Feather and Palmetto Bluff before campaigning for this to be in the cards at Pinehurst.

Author

  • Andrew Harvie

    Based in Toronto, but having lived in Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Arizona, and Texas, I have been lucky enough to see over 400 golf courses and counting!

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