Fresh off its success from this past week’s U.S. Women’s Open a few miles away at Pine Needles, the U.S. Golf Association held another celebration Monday marking the start of its permanent presence in Pinehurst.
In the shade of an old pine grove steps from the Pinehurst Members Club, USGA, state and local officials and business leaders celebrated a groundbreaking for the organization’s second headquarters.
Called Golf House Pinehurst, the new project will consolidate a few operations and move some people from the USGA’s headquarters in New Jersey. Chief among the new operations in Pinehurst will be a new equipment-testing facility, a museum and visitor center and offices for the USGA’s agronomy office.
Agronomy, or the science of soil and turf management, has importance for the USGA, because one of its many goals in the years ahead is working with golf courses on improving their environmental “friendliness” in using less water and managing acreage more effectively and efficiently.
USGA CEO Mike Whan on Monday enthusiastically greeted about 200 local business leaders and officials with a hearty, "Hello Neighbors!"
“The USGA, along with our many partners who helped make this project a reality, share a bold vision for Golf House Pinehurst and the impact it will have on this community and the game of golf,” Whan said. “We love being a part of the Home of American Golf, and bringing this vision to life, starting today.”
Whan and several others, including State Sen Tom McInnis and Pinehurst Resort and Country Club president and owner Bob Dedman Jr. spoke beneath a temporary tent erected next to tennis courts that are still in the process of coming down to make way for the new construction.
Whan said the USGA plans to grow roots in Pinehurst — he joked at one point over his having signed a 99-year lease for the property — and said the organization’s goal is to fit into the community.
And he also teased the crowd with, "We're not done yet,” indicating more yet could be on the horizon for the USGA locally.
North Carolina Deputy of Commerce Chief Deputy Secretary Jordan
McInnis and State Rep. Jamie Boles also spoke, reflecting on that first time a couple years ago they were asked to attend a meeting at Dedman’s Pinehurst home. It was there where the USGA pitched the idea to the two officials and asked for their support.
McInnis said he offered a 30-second response to a 15-minute presentation: "When can we break ground? And when can we get started?"
The state will provide an incentives package to the USGA totalling up to $18 million. That funding will come through the state’s Site Infrastructure Development Fund and includes a transfer of $3.5 million from the One North Carolina Fund and $100,000 from the Job Development Investment Grant fund. It is also the intent of the General Assembly to appropriate an additional $14.4 million over four consecutive fiscal years, in equal installments.
Moore County and Pinehurst will also offer incentives, largely in the form of property tax breaks.
“This,” McInnis said in the booming voice he normally reserves for his role as an auctioneer, “will go down as one of the biggest days in North Carolina — from Manteo to Murphy — and in Moore County."
McInnis and others believe the USGA’s biggest impact could be in helping to recruit golf equipment manufacturers and others to locate manufacturing facilities here.
The campus will feature the USGA’s Equipment Standards Test Center — a laboratory dedicated to testing golf balls and clubs for conformance to the Rules of Golf. No club or ball is authorized until it meets USGA standards, and local officials say having that operation in Pinehurst could support efforts to lure those companies. McInnis, in particular, said the state has the right tax climate to entire those businesses.
Currently, the USGA has its testing facility at its headquarters in New Jersey.
Natalie Hawkins, CEO of the Moore County economic development agency Partners in Progress, thanked all of the business and county leaders in the audience for their "collective commitment" to "strengthening the spirit of innovation, collaboration, and imagination."
Quoting golf legend Arnold Palmer, Hawkins said, “The road to success is always under construction" and she "couldn't be any happier to see this construction."
USGA President-elect Fred Perpall began and ended his remarks with “When you fit, you feel it,” tying together the connection of the local community, the golf community and the future community to this endeavor.
When finished, the USGA campus will also include a golf museum, giving visitors a chance to delve into the association’s premier collection of golf artifacts and connect them more deeply with the game’s rich history.
USGA staffers based in Pinehurst will include members of the championship operations, Research and Test Center and Green Section teams. The number represents approximately 15 percent of the USGA’s current workforce and will include some of the game’s foremost scientific and golf management experts.
Independent studies estimate that the total economic impact of the USGA’s long-term presence will exceed $2 billion to the state of North Carolina. More than 1 million visitors travel to Pinehurst annually.
“Both the USGA and Pinehurst have embraced innovation in golf course architecture, agronomy, equipment design, player development and the rules of the game,” Bob Dedman Jr., said on behalf of the Dedman family, which owns Pinehurst Resort. “We’re excited to work with the USGA as they create leading edge equipment and training facilities to advance the game, as well as a new visitor center to link the past to the present and future.”
In addition to the new faciliity the USGA has committed to maintain a significant presence in the area with its premier Open championships. Its inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open Championship — for golfers with disabilities — will be played at Pinehurst No. 6 July 18-20. The 2023 U.S. Adaptive Open will also be held here as well. The U.S. Adaptive Open Championship will serve as the association’s 15th national championship.
The prestigious U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 in 2024. As the USGA’s first announced “anchor” site for that championship, Pinehurst will also host the Open in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. That 2029 Open will also feature the second back-to-back production of the Open and U.S. Women’s Open. The first one, in 2014, was also hosted in Pinehurst.
The USGA expects its new campus to be done by December 2023.
"We are looking forward,” Whan said, “to being your neighbor.”