Golf is too hard, too expensive, and too time-consuming. These preconceptions about the game are exactly what Gil Hanse and Pinehurst owner Bob Dedman are looking to shatter with the resort’s new short course, The Cradle. The nine-hole, 789-yard layout is the latest in a string of fun-loving short courses to be built in the U.S. in the last decade.
What sets The Cradle apart? It’s truly a short course: the longest hole is 127 yards and two holes are under 60 yards each. All nine sit on just 10 acres (about the land necessary for two holes on a regular course), meaning rounds are quick, the walks are short, and the pressure is off. Players cheer for one another from Adirondack chairs strategically placed around the course. So from start to finish, the atmosphere is laid-back and the emphasis is on having a good time, an attitude reinforced by “The Pinecone,” a staffed drink cart that helps keep the party rolling.
Which isn’t to say Gil Hanse and partner Jim Wagner left out the challenge. Take the 3rd hole, which is uphill, semi-blind, and has an extremely deep bunker guarding the front. But it’s only 66 yards and has a classic “Punchbowl” green, its raised sides funneling shots to the middle of the putting surface. On the day I played the course with other members of the media, two holes-in-one were jarred within two minutes, one on No. 3.
The green fee is small, too: $50 allows unlimited play for an entire day. Also, kids under 18 are free with a paying adult. “This is Pinehurst’s grow-the-game initiative,” says resort President Tom Pashley. The Cradle is the perfect accompaniment to Thistle Dhu, the resort’s 75,000-square-foot putting course, which encourages play by non-golfers and shares the short course’s relaxed vibe (drink holders mark the start of each hole). The two tracks are side by side in front of the Pinehurst clubhouse.
A quote from Donald Ross adorns The Cradle’s scorecard: “Golf should be a pleasure and not a penance.” Hanse and the folks at Pinehurst definitely agree. Let’s hope others continue to see the light.