Mid Pines Come and Gone, Franz Tackles Pine Needles
By Lee Pace
Kyle Franz grew up playing golf in Oregon, and when it came time to pick a college, he knew what he wanted: Oregon State’s turf management program. One summer he landed an internship working for architect Tom Doak on Pacific Dunes, the second of five courses created at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and later he met Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who were designing another course there named Bandon Trails.
“Being an Oregonian, it was a really special experience,” Franz says. “Just being able to work on a piece of land like that was really cool. It got me interested in links-style architecture, and I had always been a fan of classical courses.”
Franz, now 35, set off on a golf construction and design odyssey that has taken him to Scotland, Australia, California, Pinehurst and Rio de Janeiro, among other locales. He first came to the Sandhills area in the summer of 2010 to work with Coore & Crenshaw on the restoration of Pinehurst No. 2.
“I’m a total golf design nerd, for lack of a better term—so I’m in heaven here,” he said at the time.
During his off-hours in 2010-11, Franz asked the locals about other vintage Donald Ross designs in the area and was told of Mid Pines and Pine Needles. He was particularly intrigued by Mid Pines and struck up a deal with Kelly Miller in 2012 to direct the greens conversion and restore the bunkers, fairway dimensions and native roughs more to the rugged look from the course’s early days. The project turned out so well that Mid Pines was cited by GOLF Magazine as the Best Resort Renovation of 2013.
Franz then spent two years working for Gil Hanse on the design and construction of the new course in Rio that was used for the 2016 Olympics. The course will now be used as a public course.
“This really is a cool time to bring golf back to the Olympics,” Franz says. “They haven’t had it for so long, and we have the chance to further the interest of golf in Brazil, where there are no public courses for the people to play. For us, it’s about getting people to love the game and getting them an ability to play.”
And then it was back to Southern Pines in the summer of 2016 to assist in the greens rebuilding and bunker reconfiguration at Pine Needles.
“They did a nice job with the restoration 10 years ago,” Franz says of the John Fought-directed work in 2003-04. “We’re trying to maximize the hole locations and trying to get a few more of the smaller-scale elements, the horse-and-blade detailing like you see at Mid Pines. It’s hard to get those nuances and flairs with a dozer.”