Later this summer, the best golfers in the world will descend on the Sandhills of North Carolina for the biggest event in women’s golf — the U.S. Women’s Open. Pinehurst No. 2 is the crown jewel of the region, but this year, another Donald Ross gem will take center stage.
Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, a 1927 Ross design that received a recent restoration from Kyle Franz, is set to host the USWO for a record fourth time, opening its doors to the ladies for the first time since 2007. GOLF.com recently got a sneak peek at the course ahead of the championship, and afterwards, we caught up with Pine Needles Director of Golf Course Maintenance David Fruchte to get an inside look at what it takes to get a course in tournament-ready shape.
Ed. note: This Q and A has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Zephyr Melton: So tell me, what’s the most challenging part about getting a course ready for the best players in the world?
David Fruchte: Well, we’re just a small resort here. It’s not like a lot of other courses that host prestigious tournaments — such as Oakmont — we’re just a small, family-owned golf course. And all of a sudden, we’re hosting the best in the world here. It’s very challenging. We’re not major-championship conditions every day out here. We have to take it up quite a few notches. It’s definitely a challenge.
ZM: How do you get the course to peak at the correct time?
DF: You kind of work backwards from the tournament. You want to do what you can agronomically to max it out right at the start of the tournament. It’s just about working back from the start date, make sure you hit your marks with your fertility and your growth regulators and all your mowing.
ZM: Were you working out here the last time the USWO was hosted here?
DF: I’ve actually been out here the last four times, but it’s totally different this time around.
ZM: So what have you learned in the previous three go-arounds?
DF: I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. In ’96, the weather was perfect, had no problems. In ’01, we had a big storm come in on a Friday night and got about 2 inches and had a lot of wash outs. And then in ’07, we also had a lot of rain delays. You’ve just got to plan for everything and roll with the punches.
ZM: As we get closer to the championship, how much sleep do you get each night?
DF: Well, I’m doing ok for now. I get enough. It feels like the older I get, the less I need. I get a good five or six hours per night right now.
ZM: And then championship week, how hectic is your life?
DF: It’s pretty hectic, but it all depends on the weather. If we get some good weather and it all goes smoothly, I should get a decent night’s sleep each night. But if the weather gets dicey, it can be a long week.
ZM: So we’ll just hope for sunshine?
DF: Hope for sunshine. That’s the key. No rain delays and we’ll be golden.
ZM: Maybe next time they play it out here they’ll build a dome over the course for you.
DF: [Laughs] That would be nice.