Southern Pines, North Carolina– The Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club to host its fourth U.S. Women’s Open the week of June 2-4, 2022.
The previous winners at Pine Needles are Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam in 1996, Aussie Karrie Webb in 2001, and American and future Hall of Famer Cristie Kerr in 2007. All three champions will be teeing it up this weekend where a total of 7 USGA Championships have been held.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Pine Needles President Kelly Miller. “The course has produced some great champions. I think it is a tribute to the original designer Donald Ross who lived nearby at Pinehurst, the course strategy, the shot integrity and everything else.”
Miller is the son-in-law of the late Peggy Kirk Bell and her husband Warren “Bullet” Bell, who purchased the property in 1953. Margaret Anne “Peggy” Kirk Bell was an outstanding amateur golfer from Findley. Ohio who graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. The Bells took the Pine Needles and transformed it into one of the finest golf resorts in the country known for their ‘Golfaris, combining instruction, fun and golf into a vacation atmosphere.
“The course is a lot different than it was in the previous Opens,” added Miller. “First of all, the new Bermuda greens are firmer and have a lot more contours than the old bentgrass greens.” Kyle Franz did a major renovation in 2017. Last year’s Open at Olympic Club had very deep rough, but Franz replaced the rough at Pine Needles with wiregrass and waste areas similar to Pinehurst #2 to give it a more rugged look. The course will play very wide and hopefully very fast. Whoever wins in 2022 will have to be a great thinker and execute their shots.
Course superintendent David Fruchte has been at Pine Needles for 32 years and believes accuracy could be more important than distance in winning the 77th U.S. Women’s Open. “The most challenging thing for the women will be their second shots coming into the greens,” he said. “These Bermuda greens seem to be firmer than what we had before with bentgrass. Coming in at the right angle and getting the ball to stop is key.”
Surprisingly, the course will play slightly shorter than it did in 2007. Still a par 71, the yardage this year is 6,638 yards compared to 6,664. Advances in ball and club technology have helped players hit the ball farther than 15 years ago, forcing most courses to stretch out, not get shorter. it is a testament to the strategy required to score well at Pine Needles.
Annika won by six shots in 1996 with an 8-under par score. “The course is challenging but it’s fair,” she said. “It has a variety of holes and it may look straightforward but it isn’t as wide as you think. You have to have accuracy on top of distance.”
“The biggest thing is we got rid of the rough by bringing in a lot of wiregrass which can make it play tougher,” said Fruchte. “There could be some difficult lies. We have also narrowed the fairways. Before we had 28 to 32-yard-wide fairways and three inches of rough. It is a Donald Ross designed golf course that has stood the test of time. We’ll see how it stands up now!”
John Bodenhamer, the Chief Championship Officer of the USGA, said USGA includes Pine Needles on a list of courses it calls “cathedrals of the game.” Other courses on that list include future U.S. Women’s Open venues such as Pebble Beach, Riviera, Inverness, Oakmont and Pinehurst.
“We are going to the game’s greatest places,” said Bodenhamer. “It’s the litmus test the USGA uses for the Women’s Open. It’s just an amazing lineup that we are proud of. But Pine Needles will rank at the top of the list by hosting its fourth Women’s Open Championship. We like to think of Pine Needles as an incredibly special place. Just think about the honor roll of past champions here. Great Courses produce great winners.”
For more information about the Open or Pine Needles please visit www.PineNeedlesLodge.com