Plans for the U.S. Golf Association’s second headquarters will move ahead to Pinehurst’s Village Council with the endorsement of Pinehurst’s planning and zoning board.

The planning board has unanimously agreed to recommend that the village approve a proposed rezoning of 6.3 acres off of Carolina Vista Drive for the Golf House Pinehurst project. The area is part of the current Pinehurst Country Club campus and currently home to six tennis courts and a gravel parking area.

Most of the area is currently zoned for Recreation Development, with small areas zoned for the Hotel and Office Professional districts. The application from Bob Koontz of Koontz Jones Design, on behalf of the USGA, seeks a rezoning to a Village Mixed Use conditional district.

Advancing the mission

The project involves a pair of two-story buildings totaling 40,500 square feet: a combination welcome center and museum as well as a testing facility for golf equipment.

Last September the USGA announced it would develop a second headquarters in Pinehurst in an effort to champion and advance the game. Pinehurst Country Club will also serve as the USGA’s first “anchor” site for the U.S. Open, with championships scheduled in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.

“This project is about more than championships. We all know how important the U.S. Open’s been in the past but this is much more than championships, It’s about creating a permanent home for the important work that the USGA does to lead our game forward,” said Rand Jerris, the USGA’s senior management director of public services.

“It’s home for our scientific experts, our technical experts that serve our governance and sustainability functions. It’s also a place where we can connect golfers with our museum collections, our incredibly rich historical collections, and share those rich assets that really demonstrate our love for the game.”

The project represents a partial relocation of the U.S. Golf Association’s base operations from its current headquarters in Liberty Corner, New Jersey. That shift will bring the USGA Foundation and championships team as well as its management of its turfgrass agronomy section to Pinehurst.

Designs from the Raleigh architectural firm Clearscapes draw inspiration from the village itself. The welcome center pays homage to Pinehurst’s 1903 clubhouse, and the testing facility takes stylistic cues from the Carolina Hotel. Beyond a covered walkway connecting the two buildings, paths lead to a pollinator garden evoking the undergrowth of a longleaf pine forest.

Golf House Pinehurst will employ 50 people full-time. The larger of the two buildings will house an indoor test range where staff will ensure that golf balls, clubs and other equipment being produced complies with the organization’s specifications.

The USGA anticipates that a museum in Pinehurst could draw up to 10 times as many visitors as its current museum in New Jersey. Jerris said they anticipate 300 museum visitors daily in a best-case scenario. That estimate is based on the visitor count at the Pebble Beach Visitor Center in California, which draws about 10 percent of the area’s tourists.

Relocating part of its operation to Pinehurst will position the USGA to interact with a larger sample of the golf community and enhance the organization’s visibility.

“We know we can do great things for the game: we can expand the reach of our programs, we can expand the knowledge that we deliver to the game so that golf can continue to thrive long into the future,” said Jerris.

“Importantly for us, we know that locating these important mission-critical activities in Pinehurst will make them better. They’re going to make us stronger as an organization because we understand and appreciate just how much this community, and its soul and its heart are connected to the game.”

Golf House Pinehurst is slated to begin construction in mid-2022, with a 14-month timeline for buildout.

Ultimately the planning board voted to recommend seven conditions, including potential variances from Pinehurst’s development ordinances, along with the rezoning. Those include adding golf equipment research, development and testing, offices, and a welcome center to the uses allowed in the Village Mixed Use district as well as expended setbacks beyond the maximums listed in the PDO.

(Original story by Mary Kate Murphy, The Pilot)