Simply put, there was no surprise of the top golf course in North Carolina according to Golfweek Magazine.
Legendary Pinehurst No. 2 was the top vote-getter for the state of North Carolina and was ranked 13th in the nation. The Donald Ross designed course will host the US Open for the men and women back-to-back for the first time in history.
Yet, Pinehurst No. 2 wasn’t the biggest newsmaker in this year’s rankings. That honor was bestowed an hour-and-a-half northwest of Pinehurst in Winston-Salem, NC, where Old Town Club returned to national prominence as one of the most highly regarded venues in golf following Coore & Crenshaw’s restoration of its 1939 Perry Maxwell classic.
Much of Old Town’s recent acclaim actually dates back to 2008 when the golf course debuted at No. 86 on Golfweek’s list of America’s 100 best classics. Then, four years later, Old Town reached another plateau when it climbed 16 spots to the 70th position in Golfweek’s 2012 rankings.
This year, however, the jump was historic as Old Town catapulted an unprecedented 43 places up the chart to the 29th spot — out of roughly 6,500 classic layouts in the country.
At No. 29 in the country, Old Town is ensconced as the second-ranked classic course in North Carolina. Charlotte Country Club (No. 72), newcomer Mid-Pines Inn and Golf Club (No. 77) and Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club (No. 85) — all Ross creations — are the only other three classic courses in the state recognized on the list. In addition, Old Town is now ranked alongside many early American treasures such as Olympic Club’s Lake Course (No. 27) and Southern Hills Country Club (No. 26), which are celebrated U.S. Open venues.
Old Town’s reclamation focused on recapturing the size, shape and character of Maxwell’s original bunkers, which often contained jagged-laced edges, exposed dirt faces and tall stalks of native grasses.
The restoration also featured the redesign of Old Town’s double green at holes 8 and 17. Here, Coore enlarged the dual putting surface from 8,200 to 16,700 square feet to more closely resemble its source of inspiration at The Old Course at St. Andrews — home to seven double greens. In the same spirit, Coore also ushered in a new joint tee for holes 9 and 18, where golfers tee off between the same two tee markers when playing both holes.
Like Pinehurst, Coore also eradicated more than 25 acres of Bermuda rough at Old Town in favor of re-establishing expansive outstretched fairways. Now, in more old-school tradition one single swath of fairway connects holes 4, 7, 17, 8, 9 and 18 successively without interruption of rough.
Perhaps no other improvement contributed more toward Old Town’s visual transformation than the removal of hundreds of overgrown trees and secondary tree plantings. As a result, turf quality improved and breathtaking panoramas were rediscovered from most every vantage point on the property.
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