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USGA’s Vision for Pinehurst Coming into Fuller View

Nestled between stands of longleaf pines and bustling traffic on N.C. 5, the future site of “Golf House Pinehurst” will soon take shape.

Clearscapes, a Raleigh-based architectural firm, has been selected by the United States Golf Association to design a second headquarters on the Pinehurst Resort campus.

Conceptual plans call for two buildings at the corner of Cherokee Road and Carolina Vista Drive, within view of the Pinehurst Country Club, where USGA will shift its research and testing center for golf equipment, as well as establish offices for the organization’s turfgrass agronomy and management section, the USGA Foundation and championships team. There will also be a combined museum and welcome center.

Rand Jerris, USGA’s senior management director of public services, is overseeing the project. He said Clearscapes was chosen because it showed a keen understanding of the USGA and Pinehurst, their histories and evolution, and what it means to be architecturally relevant.

“USGA and Pinehurst Resort have a strong grounding in the past and an eye to the future. What Pinehurst has done to establish itself as a leader, that is important. For us with Clearscapes, there is a sensitivity to the environment, the history, sustainability, and they create beautiful buildings,” Jerris said.

That duality speaks to the work of the USGA, which sponsors the nation’s oldest sports museum and also funds leading agronomy and sustainability research across the nation.

“We hope to have plans ready to formally submit to the village in March or April. The next month and a half are critical and the architectural design is very much a work in progress,” Jerris said. “The way the spaces fit together, the color, the textures will then follow. Right now, we are very much looking at the context of the building and how their architecture will be expressed.”

Last fall the USGA announced it would develop what it calls Golf House Pinehurst in an effort to expand its impact in golf and extend its mission to champion and advance the game. Pinehurst Country Club will also serve as USGA’s first “anchor” site for the U.S. Open, with championships scheduled in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.

The total $25 million investment over the next several years includes the construction of the two buildings to be located near the clubhouse, which will house 50 full-time USGA staff members. Pinehurst Resort has since announced a proposed $16.2 million 36-room boutique hotel that is a second component of the overall USGA vision.

Both projects benefited from economic incentive packages, and independent studies estimate the total economic impact of the USGA’s long-term presence will exceed $2 billion to the state. More than 1 million visitors are projected to travel to Pinehurst annually.

USGA hopes to break ground in early 2022, and the new facility is projected for completion by the end of 2023.

“Since the announcement (last fall) we came out of the gates running. There has been tremendous energy and enthusiasm in the golf community and broader Sandhills. We wanted to convert that energy into momentum for the project and pulled together the core elements of our design team and construction management team,” Jerris said. “Now that we have a good team in place, we are working to advance the conceptual design for both buildings.

“Golf House Pinehurst is so important for the USGA and the game. We are excited to put the visuals in place that will define what that experience will look like.”

Clearscapes architect Brandy Thompson said their shared vision is a facility that is “rooted in the past but looking forward.”

Porches and columns that speak to the Pinehurst aesthetic and also USGA’s main campus at Liberty Corner, N.J., will figure prominently on multiple facades of each building. The goal is to bring a welcoming and inviting expression to the design.

“We are creating a destination that is sharable and distinct. We will tie everything we do into the architectural language of the village,” Thompson said.

The combined welcome center and USGA golf museum building will be positioned on the northeast corner of the site, closest to the village center. Inside, the exhibits will include a rotating display of artifacts from the association’s premier collection.

“We made the decision from the beginning to call it a welcome center,” said Janeen Driscoll, public relations director for the USGA. “We really want this space to be open to the public and allow people to take a journey to understand the USGA.”

Established in 1895, the same year Pinehurst was founded by James Walker Tufts, the USGA sponsors more than a dozen championship events annually. But also, importantly, the association governs the rules and equipment standards for golf and operates an extensive greens section for turfgrass research, education and management.

“What we do goes much further than championships. We are very intent on creating gathering spaces in the welcome center that will be part of the community and will allow us to host events, like discussions and art exhibits,” Driscoll said. “In these spaces we can start conversations about golf in a much broader way. This is where the values of the USGA will come to life in the physical plant.”

Likewise the outdoor landscape around the two new buildings will further the USGA story, in particular its sustainability efforts. The new testing and administrative building will be less public-focused, but will have elements that are integral to the visitor experience.

Jerris said through signage and actual landscape features, visitors will have the chance to learn about turfgrass management, USGA’s work with restoring pollinators on golf courses, and resource conservation.

“It is important that our campus shares and lives the same values that we advocate for golf courses. Those best practices to maintain the environment in the most responsible way,” he said. “Pinehurst is an important way that we can put that work in front of millions of visitors, to educate them on the work we do.

Thompson agreed, “You will be able to engage in the history of the game and mission of the USGA in the welcome center, then see some of that in practice in the testing center. And all of this will work within the context of Pinehurst, and that it really is a very historically interesting village.”

(Original story by Laura Douglass, The Pilot)

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