Forest Creek Golf Club (North Course) -- Golf at its best, down on The Farm

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Kevin Gaydosh

PINEHURST, NC – It’s often said that going first is never easy, but then again, going second is no picnic either – especially when the first bite at the apple turns out to be a smashing success.

That was the task Tom Fazio and the good people at Forest Creek Golf Club faced in designing and building the club’s North Course, which was finished nine years (2005) after the opening of the award-winning South Course in the beautiful golf haven of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

The beautiful par three 14th hole.

The parkland-style South Course was completed first simply because of its close proximity to the property’s entrance, but the founders’ plan all along was to devote 1265 out of a total of 3000 acres to constructing two golf courses.

No problem in making the second course distinct, Fazio remembered – you just take the job and run with it.

“I think the word ‘challenge’ becomes – the definition of that word usually means it has some difficulties to it relative to solving an issue. ‘Challenge’ is just another thought process on how you design it,” Fazio said.

He continues, “I didn’t see going second (in designing the North Course) as a difficult factor. To me, it was a logical, practical deal of, why not have two distinctive golf courses on the same property? Even though the elevations are about the same and the vegetation’s the same. The soil is the same. But just because you have that doesn’t mean you can’t do something different.”

As usual, Tom Fazio gives plenty of choices on how to play the par fives on the North Course. Here, the 10th hole.

Fazio said they took a practical, logical approach to laying out the North Course – the same type of practicality they’d use for a third course, if there was to be one.

Nothing seems to faze Fazio, and why should it? Tom and his uncle George have several designs in the Pinehurst area, including three at Pinehurst Resort. Fazio knows the land, and he knows the tradition involved.

Knowledge of the topography and environment has its benefits, and Fazio sought to take full advantage of both at Forest Creek.

The North Course differs somewhat from the South in that water plays a more prominent role on the second layout – and there are also the course’s distinctive waste areas.

The difficult uphill par four 12th almost seems to be one big bunker for the second half of the hole -- and there is a deep one in front of the green, too.

Fazio explains how he used the different elements: “The large lake on the back nine was a man-made feature that was added to the property during construction – so it became part of the process. And then we added another lake for storage and water conservation.”

“And then with the elevations and some of the natural areas and open space – if for no other reason, you want those kind of varieties because it gives you a different feel and different look and different style of environments that create interest for golf and hence makes the holes memorable, just having that variety,” Fazio added.

To Fazio, wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas are positives, because they add uniqueness to a golf course. Where others might see limitations, Fazio sees opportunity.

“To me, they’re not a constraint, they’re positives because they’re design elements and features that you then can traverse golf around and creates the setting and the feel of golf. So that also makes it a little distinct and individual, because no two pieces of land are alike. No matter where the environmentally sensitive areas may be, the different plants and vegetation and moisture levels and settings and vegetation in it… those are good things.”

If you want to reach the par five 3rd in two, you will have to fly the enormous bunker.

Most of us don’t like being told what we can’t do – or how to use land -- but Fazio makes a good point. Instead of worrying about restrictions, focus on the abundance of positives all around.

And there are many at Forest Creek. Chuck Cordell, the club’s Director of Marketing, indicated that the “can do” attitude was prevalent from the beginning. “Our membership was built entirely through friends and word-of-mouth – we never spent a dime on advertising. There were 65 founders and 85 charter members, all devoted to the idea of creating a world-class golf club.”

There was already a good nucleus of members when the South Course opened in 1996, so adding the North Course after made real sense. Members could play the South Course whenever they desired, so there wasn’t a rush to finish the North.

Perhaps for that reason, the North Course evolved in stages.

A lake carry? Yet another unique view on the North Course. Here, the par four 15th hole.

“Tom Fazio first built the first, second and eighteenth holes of the North Course, a par three, par four and par five which worked out really well because you could play those holes and then come back to the clubhouse that way. And then as we developed the property, another four holes were built, so we had a 7-hole loop. Then four more holes were built, so an 11-hole loop…” Cordell said.

“The remaining holes were finished in early ’05 before the ’05 Open was here in Pinehurst.”

Nothing like the country’s national championship to add some notoriety to the opening of the club’s second golf course – which also coincided with the completion of the new men’s locker room, which is one of the finest in the country, for sure.

But was the North Course really different? Cordell adds an emphatic “yes.”

Even the Championship tee markers leave an impression on the North Course.

“With the South Course having more of an August-like look, Fazio decided on a Pine Valley-ish expression for the North Course. Tom Fazio and (Co-founder) Terry Brown are members at Pine Valley, and the terrain is similar, so it would work.”

“Fazio left in a lot of the natural grasses – the wiregrasses, the straw grasses, love grasses… And he wanted to use the indigenous sand to the area. It’s a completely different texture of sand than we have on the South Course.”

“And every bunker is a waste bunker, so you can ground your club, take a practice swing, etc... You can’t do that on the South Course. Finally, the North Course is a little more visually intimidating off the tee. Maybe not intimidating, but there’s more hazard prevalence in sight off the tee,” Cordell added.

True, the North Course looks tighter – but looks are deceiving. The tee landing areas are just as generous as they are on the South Course.

The par three 16th comes in between two demanding par fours, but can be a real challenge on its own.

Lower handicappers tend to migrate towards the North Course, and Cordell believes the newer layout plays a little harder.

And despite the North’s similarity in appearance to Pine Valley, there was no attempt to replicate any of the holes at that famous golf course. Ditto for Pinehurst #2.

Fazio expounds: “Obviously, you look at a person coming to Pinehurst -- what would they expect? I’m a fan of Pinehurst #2, but I also wouldn’t design a golf course that severe. I think it fits, I think it’s practical, logical and sensational, but I think it has its own style.”

“But that particular golf course is not as hilly or as rolling as Forest Creek. So, the feature that’s needed on Pinehurst #2, which Donald Ross created, was green structures and greens elevations and contours that had the challenge of golf in that phase of the game. It’s a second-shot golf course.”

Grasp the Pinehurst feel on the par three 2nd hole.

On the North Course, the challenge is in managing the tee shots – playing to the right side of the fairway, avoiding the waste bunkers and setting up reasonable approaches to the greens.

Cordell says the North’s putting surfaces are a little more sloped than the South’s, though the differences are subtle and the movement is gradual.

The bunkers are (or appear to be) somewhat larger, and going along with the waste bunker theme, are not sculpted. The longer grasses in the bunkers can add additional challenge, but chances are you’ll find a pretty good lie waiting for you when you reach the ball.

At just over 7200 yards from the back tee, the North Course is a little longer than the South Course as well. Only three of the par fours are longer than 440-yards, however, so there aren’t any that are practically unreachable even if your drive finds the fairway.

From the fairway of the par four 17th - right is not an option.

Fazio will require longer irons into the greens on those holes (7, 8 and 11), fair challenge for even long-hitting mid-handicappers.

The course tames considerably from the shorter sets, taking the severity of the waste bunkers away off the tee. You’ll only take a course-induced beating if your ego is bigger than your common sense.

As previously alluded to above, the North Course actually offers a few different looks – primarily due to the large lake that defines holes fifteen through seventeen. Make no mistake, having to clear water from the tee of the fifteenth hole adds a whole new element to the layout, and comes as a little bit of a shock when you get there.

It’s just part of that variety Fazio spoke of earlier.

Get as close as you dare to the huge bunker to the right side of the par four 6th - it will greatly improve your angle to the green.

Favorite holes on the North Course include the par five third hole, measuring 560-yards from the back tees and doglegging slightly right from the tee shot landing area.

If you cut off enough of the leg off the tee you may have a manageable distance to the green for your second – but a huge bunker awaits to the front-right. Unless you can fly it high and long, the smart play is a lay-up and a wedge into the green.

The view from the tee of the par four sixth offers a good summation of the North Course’s features on the front side, complete with a wide fairway and an enormous waste bunker guarding the right side of the hole. There’s plenty of room to bail left off the tee, but you’ll increase the distance on your second shot to a green protected amply by bunkers left and right.

Again, plenty of room to play your ball, but choices and shot-execution are mandatory to beat the hole.

The relatively short par four 13th offers several options on how to play it from the tee.

Yet another unique aspect of the North Course is back-to-back par fives for the ninth and tenth holes. We just don’t see that often – a nice touch.

The par three fourteenth hole can be as difficult as it is beautiful. Playing slightly downhill to the green, you must avoid three bunkers waiting to swallow shots left, right and short (though there is an apron that will allow for near misses short).

Long isn’t really an option either, as the slope behind the green will probably make for a more difficult up-and-down than being in the bunker.

The lake holes – fifteen through seventeen – are highlights onto themselves. All play long due to the water and require strategic choices that will reward daring and well placed shots – and punish the wayward.

The waste bunkers are mostly just for show off the tee of the par three 4th.

The par five eighteenth could provide a decent birdie opportunity if you manage to avoid the bunkers off the tee and nearer the green. Reachable with a good drive, the hole will likely leave you with a favorable impression of the course and the club.

The North Course is a wonderful complement to the slightly older South Course, offering a distinctly different look while still providing an exceptional golf experience. With the recent restoration of Pinehurst #2 – together with its prominent waste bunkers – the North Course fits even better into the Pinehurst theme.

And that Pinehurst feel is what makes Forest Creek a premier club. Cordell sums it up: “We want the overall presentation -- from the time members and guests reach the front gate to the time they leave -- to be a world-class experience. It’s all about how they’re greeted at the front gate to how their bags are handled, to the brand new Titleist Pro V1’s that are logo’d when they hit on the range.”

“That includes the course conditions and playing experiences as well as the apres-golf experience in the locker room or new clubhouse bar. It’s world-class, all the way.”

Wiry grasses in the waste bunkers can add an additional burden on the North Course. Here, the par five 18th.

When it comes to Forest Creek, we wouldn’t expect anything less.

Click here for more background on Forest Creek Club, and for an in-depth look at the South Course.



Forest Creek Golf Club (North Course)
200 Meyer Farm Drive
Pinehurst, NC 28374

Office: 910-295-9000
Fax: 910-693-1680

Click here for the Forest Creek Club website

Course Designer: Tom Fazio
Club Co-Founders: Terry Brown and Louis Meyer Brown
Director of Marketing: Chuck Cordell


Champion        7209    144/74.7         
Long                6695    138/72.1
Intermediate    6240    133/70.0
Medium           5945    129/69.1          140/75.3 (L)
Short               4938    114/64.6          126/69.6 (L)

Membership Information:

Forest Creek Golf Club is a totally private, 100% equity club and one must own property to be a member. The membership may be attached to Forest Creek available forest and fairway lots or homes as well as 11 club house suites located above the newly completed clubhouse. The current initiation fee is $75,000 and dues are structured according to the member’s permanent home location. The membership will be closed at 750 members and there are presently approx. 525 members which include local, state, national and international members.

Consult the club’s website for more information.


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