USGA to create campus at Pinehurst; No. 2 gets four more Opens

Published 10:21 am Thursday, September 10, 2020

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By Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press

The United States Golf Association announced Wednesday it will move its equipment testing center and other offices to North Carolina as part of a $36 million investment within the iconic golfing village of Pinehurst.

The USGA Research & Testing Center, along with the association’s foundation and turfgrass management agency, will relocate from New Jersey to Pinehurst, 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Raleigh. USGA headquarters will remain in Liberty Corner, New Jersey.

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As part of the agreement, the association also announced it had awarded four additional men’s U.S. Opens to the Pinehurst No. 2 course in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047. The dates are described as an acceleration of the USGA’s strategy to stage the championship event more often at a handful of prestigious anchor courses. USGA CEO Mike Davis said other anchor sites will be released later.

A visitor center and USGA satellite museum also will be built on what’s being called a “Golf House Pinehurst” campus in the village, which already has hosted three men’s U.S. Opens, the first in 1999 at No. 2. Another is already scheduled in 2024 at No. 2, which was crafted by Donald Ross in 1907.

Pinehurst has grown up with the development of golf in the United States in large part due to Ross and the Tufts family, which bought land 125 years ago that became the village. Descendant Richard Tufts is a former USGA president known in part for developing the handicap scoring system.

“The way that we look at it is that we truly are coming to the home of American golf,” Davis said in announcing the agreement at the Pinehurst Resort, which will provide land for the campus. Groundbreaking should begin in spring 2022, with the opening expected for 2023.

While the majority of the association’s staff will remain at its main campus in New Jersey, the “Golf House” in North Carolina’s Sandhills will have at least 50 employees. Fifteen association employees already work in Pinehurst.

The Research & Test Center was originally built in 1984. Staff workers determine which clubs, balls and other equipment conform to the rules of golf. The USGA governs play in the U.S. and Mexico, while the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews governs the rest of the world. Golf officials have been looking recently for ways to limit striking distances, which among PGA Tour players has increased on average by 30 yards in the last 25 years.

Through legislation approved last week and a state government committee’s award earlier Wednesday, the state has agreed to give up to $18 million in taxpayer funds to help the USGA offset project costs. The association also will benefit from $3.4 million in local and other state incentives.

North Carolina commerce officials estimate the relocation and related championship events will result in $2 billion of economic impact for the state over the next 25 years.

“Pinehurst has a tradition of creating world-class moments right here in our state,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a recorded video message played at the event, recalling Payne Stewart’s putt to win the 1999 Open.

The agreement also stipulates that the U.S. Women’s Open also will return to the Pinehurst area at least every 10 years over the next 20 years. Pinehurst No. 2 also hosted the women’s championship in 2014, the week after the men’s U.S. Open was played on the same course. At least 13 USGA championship events also will be held in North Carolina within 25 years as part of the agreement, according to documents.

The USGA met with Cooper and other state officials about the project in August 2019, when the U.S. Amateur was held at Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4.