Jerry West comes from the West Coast in Los Angeles, Roy Williams from just an hour up the road in Chapel Hill. In any given year, those two—along with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Larry Brown, John Calipari, Chuck Daly, Doc Rivers, and other avid golfers from the world of basketball—descend on the Village of Pinehurst for the annual “Moesmith Tournament,” named in honor of founders Doug Moe and Dean Smith.
Their headquarters is the Pine Crest Inn, a 32-room facility that is about to celebrate its 100th birthday.
The group started in 1990 and has been to Las Vegas and Castle Pines, but have nixed the idea of any further globe-trotting and happily return late each summer to Dogwood Road and the comfortable little lodge with its white siding, green roof, and orange cat Marmaduke prowling the premises.
“We’ve been offered nice homes right in Pinehurst, free of charge,” says Ted Seagroves, an old golf buddy of Williams, the University of North Carolina head coach. “This group could go anywhere it wants. But our choice is the Pine Crest Inn. It’s comfortable, it’s laid back, they take good care of us. Our feeling is, why go anywhere else?”
Emma Bliss, Donald Ross, and Bob Barrett, among late-lamented proprietors of the Pine Crest, would be happy to hear that.
“The Pine Crest is certainly a throwback,” says resident manager Drew Gross, a long-time friend of the Barrett family, which has owned the inn since 1961. “People say all the time, ‘It’s like going to your grandmother’s house.’ One thing I love about it is, the locals and the guests blend easily. There are no strangers at the Pine Crest.”
Emma Bliss and husband John had managed a hotel in Myrtle Beach and moved to Pinehurst in 1903 to operate the Lexington Hotel. Ten years later, she saw a demand for more hotel rooms and purchased a lot across the street from the Lexington. Ground was broken on February 13, 1913, for the Pine Crest Inn, and the inn opened nine months later.
“It comes as a delightful addition to the list of hotels; its comfort is suggested by the charm of the exterior—radiant with fresh air, sunshine, good charm, and hominess,” The Pinehurst Outlook reported.
Donald Ross, the architect of four Pinehurst golf courses by 1919, and friend Jim MacNab bought the inn from Mrs. Bliss in 1921 and ran it for 25 years, until leasing it to the Arthur Roberts Hotel Co. of Minneapolis in 1946. In a 1939 letter to a prospective buyer of the inn, Ross noted the “attractive and cheerful lobby” and the outdoor porch that is “much enjoyed on pleasant days.” He noted he had rejected one potential suitor because he “wasn’t favorably impressed” with the individual.
Bob Barrett was a newspaperman in Erie, Pennsylvania, who had visited Pinehurst regularly over the years: “At the beginning for two days, then for a week, then for two weeks,” he said. He learned the Pine Crest was for sale in 1961, and he and wife Betty used money she’d inherited from her father to buy the inn for $125,000. It’s been in the Barrett family since, with sons Bobby and Peter running it since their father’s death in 2005.
From its comfortable but understated rooms to its convivial bar with piano music on weekends to its signature pork chop dinner, the Pine Crest has developed a loyal and broad following while “Mr. B’s Old South Bar” has become a Sand Hills institution as traveling golfers and locals converge to imbibe the 45,000 cocktails poured annually and practice their chipping into the wooden frame target conceived years ago by Barrett and Lionel Callaway, a pro on the staff at Pinehurst.
“There’s one common denominator at the Pine Crest—golf,” says Gene Desvernine of Richmond, Virginia, who brings two different groups to the Pine Crest each year. “It’s like an old fraternity house. Everyone has fun. We have traveled the world and can stay in five-star hotels if we want, but we’ve never had a bad experience. There’s nothing like the Pine Crest Inn.”
Lee Pace is the author of The Golden Age of Pinehurst.