Talamore Golf Club -- Uncovering the Land of Great Value

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Kevin Gaydosh

PINEHURST, NC – “Talamore is a Gaelic word that means ‘land of great value,’” explained John McDougald, Director of Golf at the resort of the same name.

Great value indeed, because if you’ve got a Rees Jones-designed golf course with a lot of money invested into a great piece of property, than you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s valuable.


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Talamore is known for llamas - why not have one on your mailbox?

Catchy name aside, Talamore is a fun and challenging course for members, resort guests and golf aficionados alike, a fitting part of the Pinehurst area and unique in its own way. The resort is probably best known for its llama caddies (more on that later), but that novelty from the animal kingdom is only one attribute of the place.

Opening in 1991, Talamore instantly set itself apart from the vast majority of courses around Pinehurst because of its sometimes dramatic changes in elevation. The stereotypical Pinehurst course has some rolling terrain, but not quite to the degree you’ll see at this resort – and Rees Jones was just the man to take advantage of it.

“Mr. Tufts went to Pinehurst because the land was ideal for golf – and natural golf,” Jones expounded. “And I think that’s why the Sandhills have so many good golf courses. I was lucky to have done Pinehurst #7 before I did Talamore – and that’s probably the most rugged piece of land for any of the eight courses at Pinehurst Resort.”


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The par four 6th hole is short enough from the forward sets of tees for some people to go for the green.

It’s true, Jones’s #7 is also somewhat of an up-and-down adventure, similar to Talamore, though with 150 feet of total elevation change on the property, the latter may have a bit more to speak of. There are some rather flat holes at Talamore, but the ones that change are certainly memorable.

As far as “natural” goes, Jones said the Talamore property had it in spades. “It was great to work at Talamore because Bob Levy (the owner) allowed me to route the holes first in order to find the best locations for golf. The rest kind of just flowed from that, as the site was so natural and gifted that we really didn’t have to move much dirt.”

“We just basically pushed it from one hole to the next,” Jones recalled, in reference to the dirt needed to shape the tees and greens and line the holes in some spots. “And because of the elevation changes, we were able to get a lot of different kinds of holes. One of my favorites is the 18th hole, which is a really strong finishing hole.”


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Rees Jones typically offers a memorable set of par threes. Talamore is no different. Here, the par three 15th hole.

“They say a great golf course should have a great finishing hole,” Jones added.

No problem there. The eighteenth is what Jones calls a “cape” hole, a dogleg left that includes a monstrous carry over a lake off the tee. McDougald put the carry at 270-yards from the back tees, but you can cut off some of the distance by hitting towards the right side – but then you’d be leaving a very long second shot.

McDougald said it could be the strongest finishing hole in the Pinehurst area – and from what we’ve seen, he may be right.


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The bunkers on the par three 2nd hole lead you to the green, but the vast majority of tee shots will avoid them.

That’s probably how Bob Levy wanted it. Levy is a golf enthusiast from Philadelphia who happened to love the Pinehurst area. And golf wasn’t the only unique thing that he brought to the Talamore property. Yes, the llamas still draw attention – lots of it.

McDougald takes the story from here. “When Mr. Levy was in high school, Golf Digest ran an article that had a Chi Chi Rodriguez look-alike using a donkey as a caddy. It stuck in his brain ever since then, and he really opened this golf course thinking he was going to use donkeys.”

He continues, “Being from Pennsylvania, somebody convinced him that llamas would make better pack animals than donkeys, just because of their more amenable personalities. So, he met Lars Garrison (a llama farmer in Vermont) and brought some llamas down to Pinehurst, taught ‘em how to carry bags instead of packs, and away they went.”


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Rees Jones always lets you know what type of shot to play from the tee. Here, fade it off the 10th tee.

Indeed, but where they took the club was completely unexpected. What seemed like an interesting and original idea turned out to be a worldwide sensation, as over 300 newspapers came out to “take a look” the first weekend (which amounted to over $3 million in free advertising in a 10-day span).

Of course, Talamore still has the llamas, but don’t expect to have one carry your bags (you will get a look at them, however, next to the 14th tee, which is now their permanent home). “The llamas do their job very well,” McDougald said. “But the hard part is when they’re out, play basically stops.”

“If there’s a group on the 8th hole, and the llamas are on the 1st hole, then everybody will literally stop what they’re doing, drive over and get pictures taken with the animals. It sounds funny until you realize that you’ve been out there seven hours because no one’s playing golf – everybody’s taking a photo op,” McDougald observed.


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The Talamore llamas may not be out on the course every day, but their presence is still definitely felt.

The llamas still make an appearance during special events, but they mostly spend their days in the shade in their own private abode. (They do an excellent job of caddying when they do go out, according to McDougald, who likened them to living, breathing, grass-eating pull-carts.)

Seeing llamas along a golf course is quite a different experience, though again, it shouldn’t take away from the quality of the Talamore golf experience. When talking about the game, Jones said Talamore kind of represents a bit of a “Back to the Future” experience, because there are some holes there that were just ahead of their time.

He particularly liked the par four 17th hole, because it’s potentially drivable – and now it seems like there’s a drivable par four on just about every course. “People love those, because you can either make up ground or get smashed,” Jones said.


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Morning shadows obscure the first tee, but even in low light you see that there is a lot of yardage between you and the hole.

“We built a golf course where length isn’t a factor, a par 71 at 6800 yards. We just let the lay of the land dictate it. Take for example the 16th hole. It was going to be a par five, but it turned out to be the strongest par four on the course – so we changed it,” Jones lectured.

6800-yards doesn’t sound like a lot these days, but McDougald thinks the course is hardly outdated. “With the elevation changes and the fact we have 119 bunkers, this course is still all you can handle from the back tees. It’s very friendly for the average golfer because more hazards come into play the farther you go back off the tee.”

The greatest challenge may be mental – as the layout looks a lot harder than it plays. With all the bunkers and some carries over wetlands (again, not too daunting from the forward sets of tees), you’ll need to convince yourself that the shot is easier than it looks. You won’t lose many golf balls here, either, unless you’re really hitting it sideways.


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The presence of sand practically encircling the par three 5th hole strongly suggests that you hit the green with your tee shot.

As is true with most Pinehurst-area courses, shots are usually playable off the pine straw in amongst the trees, even if those skinny-looking trunks catch more than their fair share of recovery shots. And the ever-present Jones signature mounding on the sides of the fairway will help in containing the ball – always comforting to know that.

Jones also did a terrific job of presenting the type of shot that you need to hit. Nothing’s more frustrating than blind shots and tricked-up gimmicks – and there’s nothing resembling that at Talamore. Not bad, considering the topsy-turvy nature of the ground.

As far as the highlight holes, McDougald said there are many. “In the early days, we did a survey, asking players which hole was their favorite. We actually got fifteen different responses. Every hole is attractive, every hole is enticing, so it’s just enjoyable to play.”


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John McDougald says the 14th hole should be known for something more than llamas -- and we agree.

The first hole no doubt captured some votes. At 623-yards in length, you’d better come ready to play (and don’t let it be your first swing of the day, McDougald counsels). “The reason that’s such a good par five is that it’s really a three-shot hole,” Jones said. “So it gets the players out quickly. A long par five is a very good starting hole (especially for a public golf course) because it gets three groups on the hole at one time.”

You’ll remember it because it seems to go on forever, yet still requires great positioning on each shot.

The extreme contrast to the lengthy opening par five is the short par four sixth hole, which plays 354-yards and is slightly uphill. From the forward sets of tees, it’s drivable for some people, making it a great risk-reward chance for those who’d challenge the well bunkered green (which is also invitingly open in front).


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It is hard to tell from this view, but the second shot on the par four 9th hole is noticeably uphill.

The back nine provides quite a few potential “favorites,” but we particularly liked the par four 14th hole – and not just because of the llamas. “It’s a beautiful drive over natural wetlands and then a second-shot to a unique green that has three different positions,” McDougald described. “Mis-location on that green is an obvious three-putt. It’s one of those holes that’s kind of lost because of the friends that live on the 14th tee. But that’s truly one of the better holes on the golf course.”

And we’ve already talked about the daunting 18th. This is the one you’ll probably remember most from playing Talamore, though it might take a few different tries to get it right. Just because you’re able to make the carry over the lake doesn’t mean you’re done, as the second shot will be long into again, a well-protected green.

And that’s essentially what you’ll take away from a visit to Talamore. “If you’re going on a golf vacation, the word is golf – and that’s what we offer. You’re going to remember more than one hole. You’re going to remember every hole. There’s nothing forgettable – there’s nothing routine about the round of golf. Everyone in your group’s going to like different holes, everybody’s going to like it for different reasons,” McDougald added.


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The beautiful and memorable tee of the difficult par four 18th hole.

“The golf course rewards long hitters, and at the same time, it rewards people who play position golf. It’s not a one-dimensional golf course,” he said.

Sounds like something you’ll truly value, which fits right in with the name. Talamore is a definite must-play on your next visit to Pinehurst.

Where We Stayed – The Lodges at Mid South

Golf isn’t the only thing at Talamore/Mid South, as the good folks there offer accommodations that have all the comforts of home – and a darn nice home at that.


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The view from the deck of the Mid South Lodges is as beautiful as the inside.

John McDougald explains the thinking behind the Lodges at Mid South – which were just about the complete package when it comes to taking golf “on the road.”

“Talamore Golf partners… when we came to the area in the early 90’s, one thing we didn’t want to do was impact our neighbors. We didn’t want to try and challenge what Pinehurst does, because they do it extremely well. We didn’t want to do what Pine Needles does – they do a wonderful job.

“We wanted to have our own niche. And we found our niche to be condos as opposed to hotel rooms. We found our niche to be, people staying with us, cooking their own food or going to dinner, making it more of a longer term, more permanent, kind of a ‘stay.’

“It’s a wonderful thing, and some of our greatest growth of late has been long-term stays. As we get into the fall, it’s Canadians and people in the northeast who aren’t able to retire for whatever reason and are taking the opportunity to come down for month at a time, and enjoy the area and have accommodations that are comfortable to the point where you can live in them without concern.”

Without concern is an understatement. The condos are extremely well appointed with Jacuzzi tubs, full kitchens (with stainless steel appliances, no less), more-than-generous living areas and tiled floors.

You won’t want to go home. As if the golf wasn’t great enough, the Lodges at Mid South will make you love the Pinehurst area even more.

For more information on the Lodges at Mid South, consult the website: http://www.talamoregolfresort.com/


Details:

 

Talamore Resort Course
48 Talamore Drive - Southern Pines, NC 28387
P.O Box 1646 - Pinehurst, NC 28374
Email: tag@talamore.com

Website: www.talamoregolfresort.com

Talamore Golf Shop: (910) 692-5884 option 1

Golf Packages: (800) 552-6292

Course Designer: Rees Jones
Director of Golf: John McDougald
Owner and Visionary: Bob Levy

Tees/Yardage/Slope/Rating

Gold    6840    140/73.2
Blue     6354    131/70.9
White 6025    126/68.7          135/74.0 (W)
Green 5470    113/68.9          126/71.2 (W)
Red     4977    120/68.7

Rates

Rates vary by season $75 to $125 per player

Here is a link to various packages: www.talamoregolfresort.com/golfpackages.html

 



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E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor:
jrendall@golftheunitedstates.com