Little River Proud of Top 100 Listing
Exciting things just keep happening for Little River Golf Club and Resort.
Dramatic improvements in the golf course and facilities over the past two years have created a startling new image for the resort, which is on U.S. 15-501 between Pinehurst and Carthage.
From the entrance to the clubhouse to the villas to the course itself, these changes have resulted in a makeover that has brought new pride and prestige to the property.
The latest proof of this amazing progress comes in the Dan Maples-designed layout being ranked in the state's Top 100 Courses by the North Carolina Golf Panel, an accomplishment that has Director of Golf Marvin Waters and Course Superintendent Chris Lassiter ecstatic.
Although Waters isn't exactly sure yet where Little River is ranked among the Top 100, he isn't waiting to celebrate the good news. The rankings are scheduled to be published in April.
"We're anxious to see the rankings, but wherever we're ranked, we're delighted," Waters said. "This is a huge step for us in accomplishing our goal of being one of the best resorts anywhere.
"Our goal was to be ranked as one of the Top 100 in the state and one of the Top 10 in the Sandhills. It's probably easier to be in the Top 100 in the state than it is to make the Top 10 here."
That's probably an accurate statement because of the quality of the local courses. Pinehurst No. 2 has been ranked the No. 1 course since the rankings began. Also listed among the elite --not necessarily in this order -- are Pine Needles, both Country Club of North Carolina courses, both Forest Creek courses, National Golf Club, Mid South Club, Pinehurst No. 8, No. 4, and No. 7, Mid Pines, both Pinewild courses, The Pit and Legacy Golf Links.
That's a tough lineup, but one that Waters feels can be broken into.
"I don't know where we are on the list," he said, "I'd guess probably in the 90s somewhere. But we couldn't be happier, and we know we're going to climb because we're doing things to make us better all the time."
There's no question that the new clubhouse and villas played major roles in the ranking. But player-friendly changes on the course, including the redesign of some holes and an emphasis on conditioning under the new ownership has been just as important.
"Chris gets all the credit for the course," Waters said of the only superintendent Little River has had. "He's been here since day one, and he's kept the course in good shape when he had no money and no people to work with. What you see now is proof that all he needed was resources.
"For that, we give all the credit to the new owners for giving us what we needed to get the job done."
Lassiter couldn't agree more concerning the commitment of the owners.
"They've given us the equipment we needed and more staff to work with," he said. "This allows us to focus more on details and this is showing in the way the course looks and plays. It's allowing us to have more cuts such as collars and definition with greens, fairways and tees. We're going to have walking paths from the tees to the fairways and we're trying to get back to more of a traditional look.
"It's been a long road for us to get into the Top 100 and there have been quite a few bumps along the road."
"We're not 100 percent traditional," Waters added, "because we're the only course in the area with GPS on our carts. This has been tremendous help to both the golf staff and maintenance staff because it allows us to monitor everything from where the carts are at any given time to how many rounds they've been used during a period of time."
Although it's early in the year, the course is in great shape and play is heavy.
"Our greens are excellent right now," Lassiter said. "We're far ahead of where we normally are for this time of year.
"There's a real feeling of optimism here that wasn't before. We were on the cusp of being a really good course for several years, but we just needed a little boost to get there. We're finally over the hump."
Waters is looking forward to March 26 when Little River hosts the Sandhills Hospitality Association Pro-Am.
"We're really proud of this tournament," Waters said, "because it mirrors our progress here. When we got here two years ago, the pro-am was canceled because there was no interest. Last year we had 104 golfers, and this year we're going to have 128.
"We had John Derr for our awards luncheon speaker last year and we're having (best-selling author) James Dodson this time. He'll be talking about his new book.
"We're looking forward to having a lot of new events and I want to hold a U.S. Open Qualifier. We'll certainly have the course for that within two years when it has the definition that Chris is talking about."
Waters is very much aware of some less than positive experiences for golfers in the past, but promises those days are over.
"It's comparing apples and bananas," he said. "We already have 17 outside events planned for this year, and we're getting enough play on weekends that we're treating those days like outings with outdoor grilling at the turn.
"We want the players to feel at home. By going that extra step, it makes them want to come back."
"If someone has had a negative experience here in the past," he said, "they owe it to themselves and Little River to try it again."
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