Pinehurst No. 4

The par-4 5th Hole of Gil Hanse’s new design of Pinehurst No. 4

(Pinehurst Resort photo)

A group calling itself the Pinehurst No. 4 Action Committee has filed a formal complaint against Pinehurst Country Club alleging its cart policy at its No. 4 course violates the American with Disabilities Act.

According to paperwork submitted Wednesday to the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the group states it has discussed its concerns with resort management, “but they have refused to comply with the law.”

The Pilot, seeking a response from Pinehurst Country Club, notified club officials of the complaint Thursday. On Friday, spokesman Alex Podlogar issued a statement saying the club was not aware of any formal ADA complaints.

“To the best of our knowledge,” the statement said, “we are compliant with all ADA requirements." The club did not amplify its comment.

A Donald Ross-designed course, Pinehurst No. 4 was updated by Tom Fazio in 1999, before a complete overhaul to align the layout completed by architects Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner that was unveiled in 2018.

The course reopened to rave reviews for its rolling topography and natural ridge lines, with exposed sandy areas, cross bunkers and native wire grasses that provide a natural ‘Sandhills aesthetic” similar to Pinehurst No. 2.

In fact, the N.C. Golf Panel recently ranked the top courses in North Carolina in the April issue of Business North Carolina. Pinehurst No. 2 secured the top slot, with No. 4 also in the Top 10.

Brandon Wu

Brandon Wu, 22,  set a course record for Pinehurst No. 4 with a five-under-par 65 during an early round of the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship last August.

The basis for the ADA complaint, according to several members of PCC, is that play on No. 4 is restricted to cart-path use only. If a person of limited mobility wants to take their cart onto the fairway, they must hire a resort caddie to drive the vehicle.

This requirement did not exist before the course was redesigned.

According to the resort’s website, caddies are highly encouraged on Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4. It further states that golf carts are required to stay on the cart paths of both courses and that “Golfers riding these courses experience a considerable amount of walking due to the distances from the path to the course.”

Since Pinehurst No. 4 is available to both PCC members and the general public on a fee-for-play basis, the action committee believes it is defined as a “place of public accommodation” and, therefore, must adhere to ADA laws.

In addition, amended standards that went into effect in 2012 are required on newly constructed or altered golf courses including public, municipal and private courses open to play by the general public.

Donald Tortorice, a PCC member who spoke on behalf of the action committee, said the added requirement that carts must be driven by caddies on No. 4 “constitutes an obviously discriminatory obstacle to every round of golf played by disabled golfers.”

“For people in their 70s or 80s, riding in a cart and walking back and forth for 18 holes is disabling. You figure they are taking three or four shots at each hole. They cannot do it,” he said.

Tortorice estimated the added cost per round to hire a caddie ran $60 to $100.

The committee developed an informal poll and surveyed approximately 300 PCC members who participate in organized golfing groups. Of those players, over two-thirds indicated the cart policy on No. 4 limited the number of times a year they visited that course. The vast majority of respondents also felt the decrease in member play on No. 4 made it more difficult to secure tee times on other PCC courses.

PCC member John Hamblen said committee members had made suggestions to Pinehurst Resort for alternative solutions without success.

“Point blank, they’ve said no,” he said. “They said they want this to be a prestigious course without carts on the fairways.”

According to Tortorice, approximately 80 percent of the Top 100 courses ranked in the U.S. allow golf carts on their fairways.

“Having No. 4 as a walk-only course is not what makes it an elite course,” he said, adding it is not the group’s intent to hurt Pinecrest Country Club.

Tortorice and Hamblen said they have spoken to PCC about the cart path policy for more than a year.

The PCC Board of Governors, a member-led advisory board, is also aware of the situation. In an email to the action committee members, president Steve Griswold said the issue of restricted use of carts on No. 4 was discussed in October 2019, and the PCC Golf Committee, at the time, agreed they should be permitted on the fairways. However, the board acknowledged and accepted the authority of resort management to make the final decision about cart use.

“We felt comfortable after reading Pinehurst’s response that they, at least in their opinion, were meeting ADA requirements. If these members wanted to file a complaint that they were not being accommodated, that is fine,” Griswold said, in a brief telephone interview with The Pilot. “But, bottom line, we were not going to support a lawsuit against Pinehurst. We were not on-board with that.”

Hamblen said the decision to file an ADA complaint with the Department of Justice was made “out of desperation,” after the resort failed to respond to what the action committee felt were reasonable alternatives.

“If you ask the resort why they require carts to be kept on the path, they can’t complete that sentence. In our opinion, it does not besmirch the course and it does not damage the fairways,” said Tortorice. “We have beseeched them to change and given them our reasons, but they have remained intransigent to our reasoning.”

(15) comments

Tom Hollingsworth

Unfortunately this subject brings out unneeded deviceness. We are blessed with golf courses that have been modified to bring out superior maintenance condition. We have Club Management that produces great financial returns for the owner. What we appear to lack is the knowledge that golf interest has been steadily declining resulting in golf courses closing. Some of the cause is loss of play by senior enthusiasts who no longer can manage walking 18 holes or adding the extra mileage that goes with carts on path play. Some say golf was made for walking. That’s right, but the courses are no longer designed and built for walking. There’s a world of difference between the layout of #2 and #4 as it relates to distances from greens to tees which affects the walking.

There are many first rate public and private courses that have found that carts on fairways does not create maintenance issues. For those that hold PGA and USGA tournaments carts are disallowed several weeks in advance of the event.

I’m one of the senior golfers who would love to play #4 but can’t do the walking routine. How many more resort guests would come to play if their physical handicap received the understanding of the need for a cart that could access the fairway?

Bradley Kahtz

Thank you Tom! I don't think I couldn't have said it better if I had wfitten your response my self. Including the #2 vs #4 comment. It is like comparing apples and oranges.

charles showalter

Very well said. Tom

Raymond Lundgren

No. 2 was cart path only when many of us joined. No. 4 was not restricted to cart path only until the recent redo. It has been taken away from a large number of older members

buck smith

Will this group also be suing for access to courses that are cart path only due to weather issues as well or are they part of the large group who consistently ignore the club's request for cart path only under said weather conditions?

Jim Tomashoff

Conrad, I'm not a lawyer so I'm not really qualified to answer your question regarding why 4 and not 2. I read the letter that the referred to committee sent to management and the response from Matt Messie sent through the Board of Governors, and they might explain this better than I can. I was emailed them by a friend, and I don't feel right passing his email address to others without his authority. See if you can track them down. I really don't understand the attitude of others who seem critical of the committee's action. I guess my attitude is that if one is supportive of the managements decision, then demonstrate your support and don'[t take a cart onto the fairway, by why oppose other's need to do so for medical reasons? I don't get it, frankly.

Walter B Bull

No- Mr Tomashoff you and your group should be ashamed since its is you who are petty and mean spirited- especially during these times when there are far more serious issues than golf carts under discussion. You were not here during the last member driven complaints and law suits about starting times- almost completely rumor driven and based on so called promises from a prior management that put the facility into bankruptcy. You have the least expensive first class golf experience in the nation with a delightful weather friendly environment and you should thank PCC ownership for their performance every day. WBBJr

Jim Tomashoff

I believe in noted that I had thanked PCC "ownership" and was well aware what a great value PCC is, and I concur that we live in a beautiful environment. But I totally disagree that we must deal with Corona the best we can to the exclusion of all other activities or issues that are unrelated to Corona. The situation regarding carts on No.4 has been an issue between many members and management for close to three years. Management had ample time to avoid this situation, they chose not to.

Marc Riggsbee

Golf is a walking sport.

Jim Tomashoff

Golf is a sport than seniors can enjoy, save that many of us have orthopedic problems that come with aging. Learn to have a bit of empathy.

Tam Torr

I watch outside of my window everyday the abuse to the golf course with people driving golf carts right up to the putting green or onto the tee box! I’ve had people get mad at us when we were remodeling our home and drive their golf cart into my back yard to tell me we are making too much noise!?

There has to be more respect when driving these carts on the course. Can’t blame PCC for wanting to preserve their investment and keep the turf beautiful.

Jim Tomashoff

Pinehurst management should be ashamed. I've also had numerous conversations with senior management while I was on the Golf Committee before, during, and after No, 4 reopened. And my experiences are exactly as portrayed in the Article. They simply cannot come up with a plausible reason for this policy, a policy they know keeps, by their own admission, upwards of 30% of the Club's membership (that's well over 300 people) from being able to play the course. Pinehurst management justly deserves many kudos, which I have provided to them many times. The playing conditions on all the courses have improved substantially since I came here in 2006. New greens, better fairway and rough conditions, and a cost structure that makes Pinehurst Country Club a true value. Nonetheless, this policy regarding carts on No. 4 is, in the final analysis, mean spirited, petty, and wholly disrespectful of members with disabilities.

Nancy Kilpatrick

There are nine golf courses for members to play, only two of which have restrictions. Play the other seven. There comes a time in our lives when we have to realize that there are some things we can no longer do.

Jim Tomashoff

Nancy, I have the basic golf membership, which you may know includes Member's access to courses 1 - 6. It was another $10,000 to add course No. 7 when I joined in 2006. I chose not to add this course as it was not a favorite of mine having played it a few times on vacations to Pinehurst. The vast majority of Members do not have access to course No. 8 unless they pay the same green fee ($200+) as the general public. Pinehurst purchased No. 9 quite recently, and together with No. 7 is being offered to the Membership for several thousand dollars initiation and $100 or more per month for dues. So Members in my situation really only have access to four courses, not nine. No. 2 has been path only for decades, it was path only when I joined, I knew that beforehand. No.4 has now been made unplayable for me and hundreds of other Members who had access to it for decades or several years. Now, for medical reasons, it has been made unavailable for much of the Membership. Have they reduced our monthly dues? No they haven't. Golf is not something that I/we can no longer do. Walking over three miles is something I/we can no longer do. Big difference, no?

Conrad Meyer

Jim, I think we all understand your position.

I agree that the premiums for 7, 8, and 9 are not worth it - I wouldn't sign up either.

Many here disagree with suit regarding the restrictions on 4 - I have not played it since it has been "fixed". I think the track is a great one, but would not walk it.

But I have to wonder why the ADA complaint does not include both 2 and 4. They both do not allow carts. What is the difference to a physically challenged player?

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