Bill Fields takes an in-depth look at one of the more unusual battles over an abandoned golf course—the Little Nine of Southern Pines Golf Club, a still wonderful but defaced Donald Ross gem in greater Pinehurst run by the Elks Lodge. The course has sat dormant since 2004 with Ross ties and facing a possible sale by the Elks in the heart of Southern Pines.
But as Fields notes, a conservancy is trying to prevent redevelopment with an eye on green space or even golf returning some day. Given the quality of the land and the game’s popularity in the area, that shouldn’t be tough, right?
The Little Nine opened in time for the 1924 winter season, 18 years after the first holes were constructed at SPGC (then called Southern Pines Country Club) and a decade after Ross revamped the original 18 into the well-regarded layout that exists today.
“I’m long on record on Golf Club Atlas saying the main 18 at the Elks occupies the best land in Moore County [for golf], and people parrot that back to me in agreement,” says Ran Morrissett, founder of the website for golf architecture aficionados, and a Southern Pines resident and Elks Club member since 2000. “The detail work, the bones of the Ross routing, the fact that you only see homes on a couple of holes — it’s such a compelling environment.”
The third nine, to accommodate a growing tourist business, was built south and east of the clubhouse. Before the 1920s were over, it had been joined by a fourth nine. In a 1930 promotional pamphlet, Ross noted 36 holes at Southern Pines. In accounts during the 1930s, local newspapers credited Ross’ engineer and draftsman, Walter Irving Johnson, with having drawn up the plans.