Pinehurst's Forest Creek Golf Club a Welcome Retreat

By: Rob Duca

It's a long and winding road into the gated community at Forest Creek Golf Club in Pinehurst, N.C. The two-mile entrance takes you past an authentic log cabin that serves as the gatehouse, setting an understated tone of Southern charm that features stunning, long-leaf 100-foot-tall pines indigenous only to the Sandhills of North Carolina. You'll glimpse a hole or two along the way, but any homes that come into view are tucked deep into the woods.

The 9th Hole on Forest Creek's South Course

Carved from nearly 1,300 acres of rolling terrain, Forest Creek features two championship golf courses and a par-3 19th hole called the "Hog Hole" that is located within view of the back patio of the Southern manor-style clubhouse. This is where golfers go when bets must be settled.

Forest Creek was created in the early 1990s by Terry and Louis Meyer Brown on land they inherited from their grandfather, Charles Louis Meyer.

There were 65 founders and 85 charter members, and membership was built entirely through friends and word-of-mouth. Forest Creek has never spent a nickel on advertising. It is conveniently located a mile from the local airport, and Pinehurst Village is about five minutes away.

Both courses were designed by Tom Fazio, who owns one of the 11 suites located above the clubhouse. The South Course was built in 1996, with the North Course following nine years later. Both layouts are ranked in the top 100 of Golfweek's Best Modern Courses, and local area head professionals have voted Forest Creek the second best golfing experience in the Sandhills, trailing only iconic Pinehurst No. 2.

No. 15 on North

"All I had to do was cut down some trees and throw out some grass seed. The rest was here," Fazio said. "[The Forest Creek developers] said to us, 'Tell us where to put the golf courses and we'll work the housing around that.' Golf was the highest priority. That's not always the case, but it's ideal from the architect's standpoint. The great terrain, the tree cover, the elevation changes, the sandy soils, the golf history of the area - you're talking about an ideal situation from Day One."

The property has 150 feet of elevation change, an unusual topographical feature in the Sandhills. Private homes of stacked stone and cedar siding line some of the holes, but they are barely visible through the trees. Homes range from $700,000 to $3 million, with one massive property including eight bedrooms and 8 baths.

Among Forest Creek's prominent members are Michael Jordan, who has locker No. 23, and North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams.

The 7,067-yard South Course meanders around creeks, ponds and enormous sand bunkers, while the North Course has been called the "Pine Valley of the South" due to the native grasses and massive waste bunkers lining its fairways.

The South Course's Closing Hole

The South measures 7,209 yards, with a pair of formidable par-3s on the inward nine of approximately 215 yards. The North's most memorable stretch is holes 15 through 17 that wind around a large lake.

The 17th on South requires a tee shot over water and plays 195 yards slightly downhill to a narrow green surrounded by bunkers. It has been compared by some to the famous 12th hole at Augusta National. Back-top-back par-5s on nine and 10 offer a unique feature.

The par-3 second demands a full 190-yard carry over wetlands and features a plaque dedicated to the memory of Louis Meyer Brown.

The North is more visually intimidating, and many consider it more difficult. There are waste bunkers everywhere, although you can ground your club in each one, even those that are greenside, which helps a little.

Forest Creek's Lockerroom

Fazio built North in stages, beginning with the first, second and 17th holes. As the property was developed, four more holes were designed, providing members with a seven-hole loop that took them back to the clubhouse. The course was completed in 2005, just as the U.S. Open was coming to Pinehurst.

The dogleg-right par-5 third is a demanding 560 yards, with a massive bunker lurking on the right side if you elect to go for the green in two. The 387-yard par-4 sixth has a wide fairway guarded right by a waste bunker, and a well-protected green with bunkers left and right. Yes, bunkers are a theme here.

Forest Creek did not take any shortcuts on amenities. The elegant clubhouse includes a library, private dining quarters, a wine cellar, a ballroom and grille room, with outdoor seating and fire pits for chilly evenings. The pro shop is a log cabin, built from two cabins retrieved from the hills of Tennessee.

The entire Forest Creek property is gated with 24-hour security. There is a large pool complex, a modern fitness center, tennis courts, and an elaborate golf practice facility with an extensive short-game area.

The men's locker room is spectacular. Built from reclaimed tobacco barn timber, it is designed in the style of a horse barn, its rows of heart-of-pine lockers resembling horse stalls. A massive fireplace of Pennsylvania fieldstone serves as the centerpiece, surrounded by Italian leather seating.

No wonder Air Jordan hangs out here.

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Rob Duca is an award-winning sports columnist who wrote for the Cape Cod Times for 25 years, covering golf, the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins. He is the editor of New England Golf & Leisure magazine and has written for a variety of other publications, including Sports Illustrated, the Boston Globe, Yankee magazine and Cape Cod Life.