Mid Pines Keeps Getting Better
By Lee Pace
The accolades began flowing as soon as Mid Pines reopened in September 2013 following a greens conversion to bermuda and complete restoration of the fairway lines, natural sandy rough areas and bunker configurations under the auspices of architect Kyle Franz.
Gone were the straight and smooth dimensions of the course’s features. In their place as they had been when the course opened in the 1920s were the rugged and natural outlines, the width of the holes and the authenticity of a vintage Donald Ross-designed course.
GOLF Magazine pegged the project its Top Resort Restoration of 2013.
“Franz replaced fairway rough with hardpan sand speckled with wire grass,” the magazine said. “Bunkers regained both their menace and their beauty. Fairway corridors remain the same, but otherwise, the course sports a look not seen since our grandfathers were children.”
John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College and a member of GOLF Magazine’s course rating panel, has a broad inventory of golf course experiences.
“Except for lacking the Pacific Ocean, it almost has the visual appeal of Cypress Point,” Dempsey noted. “It almost looks like the old pictures you see of Mid Pines of people wearing coats and ties and watching a match finish on 18. I can’t say enough about it. Going out and playing nine holes in the last of the winter sunlight in late afternoon, the visuals are fabulous.”
Architect Tom Doak had some interesting thoughts in his most recent book Confidential Guide to Golf Courses: “Kyle’s new chipping areas and bunkering work give the course an old-fashioned feel that is strangely lacking on other courses in the area. The property’s elevation change provides variety, making a series of memorable holes including the drive-and-pitch 4th with its narrow, angled green. Its strong three-hole finish—with each dogleg rewarding a properly shaped tee ball—cemented Mid Pines as our second favorite in the area.”
Mid Pines management was on the cusp of closing the course down in 2011 to replace the greens, which had grown in after decades of mowing and had been infiltrated with all manner of sundry grass strains. Quite by accident, Kelly Miller and Franz met at a cocktail reception and began talking golf design—Miller introducing himself with the ownership family of Mid Pines and Pine Needles and Franz saying how much he liked both vintage Ross designs.
One thing led to another and soon they had struck a deal for Franz to supervise not only the greens remodeling but an entire course restoration.
“Kyle came in and quite honestly wowed me,” Miller says. “We started talking about greens restoration and that we needed to take them back out to where they used to be. But Kyle had also spent a lot of time researching the course. I’ll give him a lot of credit, because it was a surprise. We literally started walking the course and he would say, ‘This is what Ross would have done.’
“He’s a huge student of Ross. I kind of became enamored with his knowledge and what he wanted to do. So, I said ‘OK, let’s give him a shot.’”
The result was a course far more visually stimulating than the previous landscape of smooth green lines and stark white bunker sand.
“What struck me looking at a lot of Sandhills golf courses was the beautiful sweep of the landscape, the sandy soils and the potpourri of colors you get,” Franz says. “The burnt orange of the sand and the pine needles and the sunlight at certain times of day is a dynamic you don’t get anywhere in the world.”