Behind the gates that lead to a substantial 1,200-acre residential site at Forest Creek Golf Club, are 37 holes that were laid out over the rolling sand hills of North Carolina by Tom Fazio.
The South course was the first to open in 1997 to immediate critical acclaim, which is no small feat for a layout that lies just a few miles along the road from the world-famous, attention-grabbing, Pinehurst Golf Resort.
Indeed, a number of other new courses in the area with blue chip architectural credentials have not exactly found favour with the critics, including designs by Jack Nicklaus and Rees Jones.
Fazio, however, managed to pull off the toughest of all golfing tricks, which was to fit the holes into the existing landscape with as little earth movement as possible, keeping as natural an appearance as possible to fairways that weave through pine trees. And, to cap it all off, Fazio built a second Sandhills course at Forest Creek, the North, which opened for play in 2005. This new Pine Valley look-alike has scooped all the accolades and pushed the gently winding parkland South course into the shadows.
The North course is a brute, measuring 7,139 yards from the tips. Huge, raggedy, waste bunkers give the course that Pine Valley look and while it may not be in the same league as the Clementon course, the North can stand up for itself in the toughness department. According to Golfweek, “Tom Fazio evokes a Pine Barrens look with lots of over-the-hill shots and interesting angles. The last four holes are more linear and conventional, but the first 14 are scratchy, raw and compelling.”Interestingly, Forest Creek has an extra par three 37th hole in front of the clubhouse and it’s been put to good use over the years in settling a few small wagers when match play bounce games have ended all square after a regulation round.
The considerable shadow that hangs over the greater Pinehurst area is one that cannot be minimized. Unmistakably, the primary center point for attention goes quite rightly to the illustrious #2 course. You also have plenty of fanfare tied to other nearby layouts and while much of the fanfare is legitimate there's also a bit of blindness from those who have been in the area and seemed to have forgotten another gem that truly shines in a big-time manner.
Tom Fazio is often pilloried by devotees of classical era architecture in creating courses appealing more to the "eye" than in actual substance. There's ample enough evidence to back-up the preceding comment, however, Fazio has been able to clearly demonstrate the wherewithal to hit the home run ball with quite a few of his efforts.
The North Course provides an engaging 18-hole journey. Yes, there's adjacent housing at different points in the round, but it has little of a role in disrupting the overall experience. Some have opined about a Pine Valley "look" when playing the North and I see that as being a bit overplayed. The land is much gentler in its movements but the intersection with the native scrub brush, pine barrens and the eye-catching ragged bunkers works extremely well. Make no mistake when playing the North -- the ambiance is complimented with holes that work well in tandem with one another and will not yield to anything but consistent high quality shotmaking.
Forest Creek stands out because of the totality of what it provides on the golf side -- the older South Course is very good although I believe the younger North is more beguiling and tenacious.
During my lifetime I have played nearly 100 Tom Fazio courses and while I would not place the North in the upper echelon with the likes of Gozzer Ranch, Martis Camp, Karsten Creek, Wade Hampton, Victoria National, I can easily make a strong case it's not too far below the ones mentioned.
So much of the general Pinehurst golf scene is available to the masses and the mystery of Forest Creek since it's a private club may have caused the qualities of the golf to be underestimated through sheer absence of familiarity. Those coming to Pinehurst have a slew of quality layouts to play but if one can somehow gain access to visit Forest Creek then one's sand hills golf experience will certainly be all the richer for it.
M. James Ward
Once you step foot inside the gates at Forest Creek, you immediately realize it's a special place. I've played the North twice now and both times, the fairways were lush, the greens ran true, and the course in general was in perfect condition. If you have the opportunity to play either course at Forest Creek, I highly recommend doing so - I guarantee it'll be an unforgettable experience.
I know this is a golf course review site and I agree completely with my fellow reviewers, when it comes to the (North) at Forest Creek. So there isn't much I can add other than neither reviewer mentioned the men's golf locker room. It ranks 13th (out of 50) on Golf Digest best golf locker rooms - never knew there was such a list. I pulled this down from the Forest Creek website.
"The equestrian motif men’s locker room, built from reclaimed tobacco barn timber with heart of pine lockers designed to resemble horse stalls, is a standout favorite for Members and their guests. Large chandeliers, Italian leather seating and a double sided fireplace laid with Pennsylvania fieldstone are just a few of the details that make this 9,000+ sq. ft. locker room the perfect spot after a rewarding day of golf."
When you play Forest Creek be sure to allow time before and definitely after your round to take it all in.
My favorite of the two courses at Forest Creek. A great collection of holes with large waste areas to negotiate and excellent bunkering around the greens. The back nine runs down to a lake and the dog leg 17th is particularly memorable and difficult. This course is more open and expansive than the South course and really demands excellent ball striking to score well.