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Chris Buie

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A Closer Look at the First Hole
« Reply #75 on: November 02, 2010, 08:33:22 PM »
A Closer Look at the First Hole

The tee of the 451 yard par-5 1st hole was placed directly in front clubhouse.  Since the 9th green was right beside the 1st tee you would have a great view of the players coming in and going out while sitting on the veranda.  From the book about Overhills you can tell the tempo of the whole place was languid.  There was never any hurry - that was a major part of the ambiance.  
The tee shot goes up a gently rising hill.  Originally there was a rather fearsome, high banked bunker to catch the short right tee shot. Another bunker farther down on the left gave most players something to think about on their second shot.  The gentle hill crests some 200 yards off the tee and then the terrain descends gently - except on the left where it falls somewhat sharply into the 8th fairway.
So, as usual, Ross gave you a not terribly difficult hole to start out.  Remember, back in those days there was no practice tee.  You had to warm up on the course.  

Here is the view off the tee today.

The approach from approximately 220.  You can see the semi-famous hill of the 5th green/6th tee in the background.

The following photo from the adjacent 8th tee shows how the land on the 1st crests then falls - sharply on the left side.  Note the clubhouse in the distance on the left.  The 1st actually played slightly at an angle - bending left to right.

Looking back from the green.  You can make out where the hill crests.

The green area marks the tee.

« Last Edit: November 02, 2010, 08:40:57 PM by Chris Buie »

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills
« Reply #76 on: November 06, 2010, 12:21:39 PM »
The back 9 hasn't really received a great deal of attention in the documents I've looked at.  A cursory glance is rather eye-brow raising for me though.  It was apparently over 3,500 yards in the 1910's.  That is extremely long is it not?  Hopefully, I'll have a look at this part of the estate soon.
Until then, happy golfing

« Last Edit: July 14, 2011, 03:59:48 PM by Chris Buie »

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills
« Reply #77 on: November 26, 2010, 12:03:04 PM »
Things have been a bit too hectic lately to get out to the back nine - but I still definitely plan on visiting and photographing it soon.  In the meantime, I stumbled across the extraordinary story of a second artist - Percival Rousseau - that was part of the Overhills entourage.  (Paintings by the first artist, Ethel Peterson, were posted previously on this thread.)

Here is a passage from "Gray's Sporting Journal":
"Rosseau was already on the road to success, with patrons such as Clarence Mackay, president of the Postal Telegraph-Cable Co., and Percy Rockefeller, a director of Bethlehem Steel Corp., Remington Arms, and Western Union, to name a few. He traveled regularly from France to paint their favorite dogs at their private hunting clubs, such as Rockefeller’s Overhills Club in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the magnate eventually built Rosseau a winter home, studio, and kennels."

Percival Rousseau's life is so interesting that it bears a brief mention here.  He was born into an aristocratic, slave holding family with a large plantation in Pointe Coupée Parish, Louisiana just before the Civil War.  His father, uncle, brothers and mother died in the conflict - and Sherman destroyed the plantation.  A slave saved him and he was raised in rural Kentucky. 
Another passage from Gray's Sporting Journal picks up his extremely circuitous route:

"At 17 he struck out on his own. For the first six years he worked as a cowboy, trading and driving cattle along the Chisholm Trail from Mexico to Kansas, shooting bison to feed his men. With his earnings he got into the lumber business, but lost his timber in an unrecoverable logjam while floating it down the Mississippi River. He then went to New Orleans and started a fruit import business that he moved to New York City. At 35 he’d amassed enough to retire on his investments.
In an amazing switch, the American entrepreneur set sail in 1894 for France to study art, traveling from San Francisco via Honolulu and Hong Kong. Onboard he met another orphan, Nancy Bidwell of Los Angeles—the first white child born in the Arizona Territory. They were married in 1897 and moved to France, where they raised two sons and many hunting dogs in their country home in Rolleboise, about 45 miles northwest of Paris along the Seine River, only a few miles from Giverny, where Claude Monet had lived since 1883.
Rosseau enrolled in the private art school, the Académie Julian, which was very progressive (it accepted women, foreign students, and serious amateurs), compared with the government-sanctioned École des Beaux-Arts."

After he matriculated at Académie Julian he eventually specialized in painting the beloved hunting dogs of various wealthy patrons.  Here is a painting he did called "Two Setters In A Cooling Stream On The Grounds Of Overhills":

That is actually not one of his better ones - but I'm posting this one because it has Overhills in the title.  His work is highly prized in certain circles.  If you can believe it, one of his dog paintings sold for 120K.
Every time I get a chance to look into this place another striking element comes up.

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: The Story of Overhills
« Reply #78 on: November 27, 2010, 10:57:11 AM »
What happened to the pictures?  They seem to be lost.
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: The Story of Overhills
« Reply #79 on: November 27, 2010, 08:03:32 PM »
SOmehow the pics returned.  Great stuff.  Too bad it is a lost course.
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills
« Reply #80 on: November 28, 2010, 02:03:00 PM »
Oh, I wouldn't say it was lost just yet.   ;)

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills
« Reply #81 on: December 05, 2010, 06:36:27 AM »
So I know where I am and what I'm looking at for my upcoming visit to the inward nine I've been looking quite closely at some maps and images. I thought some of you may enjoy having a look at the imagery as well. I'm also trying to determine the quality of the inward part. It is clear that the outward nine is a very fine piece of work.  Is the back a worthy companion? It is only in looking at this that I realized I haven't played a Ross where the two halves of the course didn't really go together. I've played a lot of Ross courses and not all were high quality - but even with those courses the two sides of the course always melded together quite well. That is not the case with all architects work.
The first thing to note about the inward half is that it was abandoned (probably in the late Thirties) and was modified as well as restored by Avery Rockefeller (who succeeded his father as estate squire) in the Fifties. There were three significant alterations: the 510 yard 11th hole was divided into two holes. It became a 372 yard par-4 (the 11th) and a 140 yard par-3 (the 12th). The second major change is that the original 146 yard 14th was abandoned. The third major change is that the gargantuan 585 yard 15th was seriously shortened to become a par-4. (That 585 yard hole was designed in 1913, mind you.) Other than the abandoned 14th there was apparently no change in the routing. The rest of the holes play pretty much the same as when Ross originally designed it.
If a restoration was going to take place and it was up to me I would without a doubt go back to the original version.
Let's have a look at the images and see if we can determine the quality of the inward nine.

Here we have an early photograph of how it originally played.  The 14th is just out of range at the top.  As you can see the 15th was practically joined to the polo field.

Here is a look at the 423 yard 10th as it was - with the tee bottom right.

10th tee today: As usual, photography doesn't convey the drama of the contours because I clearly remember being struck by the dip in the fairway being more striking than it appears here.

(I didn't know what it was on my first visit - and it is the only photo of the back thus far.)

An old view of the 510 yard 11th.

Most of the interesting terrain of the 11th is short right of the green. That ground would catch the ball that rolls too closely and take it down the hill a ways.

As you can see from this comparison of the original 411 yard 12th to the more modern version, it plays pretty much the same. That is, disregarding the unappealing tree growth.  That is largely the story of the entire back nine.

Here is a look at the 12th from a short distance in front of the tee. That land really moves.

It is 264 yards from the tee to the front edge of the water on the 338 yard 13th. It is a straight away tee shot but the land falls sharply about 200 yards out.

A view from off the left side gives you an idea of the land of the 13th moves.

Looking back from the 13th green.

From the original 1913 map below you can see where the 14th was in relation to the 13th. It seems uncharacteristic of Ross to have you walk a distance from the green to the next tee. The 14th was abandoned in the Fifties when they chopped the 11th into two holes. Note that as with the 4th hole it was originally a stream rather than a pond.

At 585 yards the original 15th had to be one of the longest holes in the world for 1913 - perhaps even the longest? It doesn't appear that Ross put much serious challenge in the hole other than pure distance. Below is a view looking back from the 15th green. I bet the land moves more than it appears here. I'll find out soon.

The 395 yard 16th hole. Modern view.

Looking back from the 16th green you can see that there are yet more interesting twists and turns on the inward land.

Modern aerial of the 371 yard 17th.

Look how much more open it was originally. More fun, more strategy. Green bottom right.

View from the 17th tee - seriously undulating land here.

Not only does the 17th cant dramatically right to left - it also goes up and down the hills. View from off the left side of fairway.

The 338 yard 18th - green at top.

Early overview of the 18th.

View from the 18th tee. Remarkable terrain. From the tee the land falls then rises - canting significantly right to left. An interesting hole to be sure.

Looking back from the 18th green.

And so...from looking at the above images it appears to me that the inward nine is a worthy companion to the outward half. The inward clearly does not have a lack of compelling terrain - and Ross appears to have fashioned an interesting loop from that land.
In reading about the course it was not apparent that the back had the merit that the front did. It seemed that if there was a restoration that it may perhaps be best just to save the celebrated front. However, after studying the inward nine closely I would have to recommend preserving that as well.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 09:56:51 AM by Chris Buie »

Chris Buie

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The Story of Overhills (Feb. 2011 Back 9 Photos)
« Reply #82 on: February 14, 2011, 02:56:34 PM »
Here are the photos from today's little trip out to see the Overhills back 9 for the first time.  I'll comment on it later when I have time.

12 fairway toward the green.  This is one of the two main areas I wanted to see due to the fact that the terrain looked particularly nice on the maps.  You can tell how the fairway dips down and to the left before reaching the green.  There were people working around the green with the prescribed burn - so I didn't go up there.

The fairway of the 1913 hole that was 585 yards long - #15.

15 green - it really drops off over the back.

16 fairway.  The hole bends to the right then dips down to a pond with a green on the hill beyond.  Trees are in front of the pond in this photo.

16 bunker.

16 pond.

About 80 yards in front of the 17 tee looking toward the green.  This was the other area I was interested in.  The fairway is fabulous.  This hole bends right to left and your tee shot finds terrain tilting right to left as well.  Nice routing with the last hole bending the opposite way.

Looking back from 17 fairway toward the tee.  The terrain really turns so well out there.

This was the biggest surprise.  With the exception of a few holes, most of the Overhills drama is in the fairways.  However, the 18th tee shot is quite something.  The photo doesn't convey the actual thing.  Hit over a pond to a seriously canting right to left fairway.

I really was impressed with the 18th tee shot.

The terrain of this course is most likely the best in the NC Sandhills.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2011, 02:58:58 PM by Chris Buie »

Ed Oden

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Re: The Story of Overhills (Feb. 2011 Back 9 Photos)
« Reply #83 on: February 14, 2011, 09:38:33 PM »
Chris, very cool pictures.  The burn seems to have opened up some of the corridors so that you can really envision the holes.

By sheer coincidence, I was flipping through Wexler's "Missing Links" book tonight and noticed a reference to a 1917 Golf Illustrated article on Overhills.  I found the article in the USGA's archives.  Here is a link (it takes awhile to download)...   I wasn't sure if this has been posted before so I thought I would do so just in case.  The article is on pages 19-20.



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Re: The Story of Overhills (Feb. 2011 Back 9 Photos)
« Reply #84 on: February 15, 2011, 08:24:17 AM »
Very cool Chris! Thanks for the extra pictures... :)

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (Feb. 2011 Back 9 Photos)
« Reply #85 on: February 15, 2011, 08:51:52 AM »
Once again we have another valuable contribution from Ed Oden.  Although I'd come across references, I hadn't read that article before. So thanks again Ed.
Nice to hear from you as well Pat!
It is somewhat interesting because the photo above the title in the 1917 article is the same shot I took yesterday.  The antiquarian photo is much better though.  (BTW, what is that white area short left of the green?)

I was asked privately if the prescribed burn might have to do with possibly restoring the course.  The answer is: not yet. 
Overhills is clearly an upper tier Ross.  Could we put it in his top twenty?  Others on the board here would do a better job of assessing the matter along those lines. 
When you combine the unique historic nature of the estate with such a fabulous course it is a compelling case for restoration.  Would this course not be the dream course for a restoration expert?  You can't restore #1 or #3 Course exactly how they were because houses were plopped down on the handiwork.  That is not the case with Overhills.  It could be restored exactly as Ross had it.  If it was and you were out there one sunny afternoon you would be staggered.  Since it has hardwoods as well as pines there would be lovely hues going on in the autumn as well as the spring.
It is possible. 
You may be surprised.

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (A Few More Photos)
« Reply #86 on: February 16, 2011, 01:15:19 PM »
The approach to 7 is significantly uphill.

Looking up toward the 8th tee.  A seriously downhill tee shot followed by a seriously uphill approach.  The hole bends significantly to the left - with the terrain tilting left to right. 

This angle from right of the 8th fairway give you an idea of the great contour of the hole.

The approach to 8 - with the Croatan Lodge in the background.

The 8th bunker and green.

If you were to slice your tee shot on the 10th, this is where you would be.

11th fairway.  The burn did a really good job of clearing the land.

12th tee.  One of the best holes on the course.  As you can see, the land goes straight for about 240 yards before turning down and to the left.  So it is a bit of a speed slot if you could carry your tee shot to the descending area. 

A closer look at the 12 fairway.

Andy Hughes

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Re: The Story of Overhills (A Few More Photos)
« Reply #87 on: April 12, 2011, 02:30:59 PM »
Missed this thread the first time around, and thought maybe others would want to see it.  What a fascinating series--thanks Chris.
"Perhaps I'm incorrect..."--P. Mucci 6/7/2007

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (Streams and Ponds)
« Reply #88 on: April 13, 2011, 07:38:28 PM »

The most notable aspect of the Kent-Jordan map is the way the streams run across the course. Those streams were quite important in the way Ross chose to route the course. To explain why they were important lets have a look at a quote from the 1917 Golf Illustrated magazine by one of the original owners:

"Here, Mr. Ross, you have 3,500 acres of property to choose from.  I want a golf course that will have no superior - you are the doctor and do anything you want to - and do not consider expense when making your plans, you have an absolutely free hand."

With those marching orders you can be sure that Ross really thought through how this course would play.  The man from Dornoch would have undoubtedly given great consideration to each element. Hence the importance of how he worked with the natural streams there. They were an important strategic part of the course.
A totally free rein with 3,500 acres of ideal rolling, sandy loam golfing land - with cost not being an issue?  A very talented architect pointedly told to create the best course in the land?  That is a dream project is it not?  You can see why it turned out to be such a special course. Couple that with the fascinating historical dimension - the beautiful remaining buildings - and the fact that the land is entirely in tact...
I think you can see why I've been advocating a proper restoration.  

Consider the 15th hole (above).  At 585 yards in 1913 it was easily one of the longest holes in the world - if not the longest. And originally it had a stream not too far from the green - perhaps 40 yards.  The stream running across the hole gave the 15th a significantly different complexion as far as strategy and aesthetics go than it later had without it.

On holes 4 and 13 there are ponds where the streams were. The strategy of the holes would remain essentially the same with either form of water.  So, here we are talking about aesthetics rather than strategy - native areas vs. areas not so artfully fashioned by the hands of man. The importance of golfers communing with native areas vs. unnatural man made elements is a very large topic but I will mercifully spare you my thoughts on that topic for now.

The 14th:

The 14th is an interesting topic for a few reasons. I don't ever recall seeing a hole with a stream running vertically up the middle from the tee all the way up to the green. Standing on the tee of this 146.3 yard hole the water would dominate your thinking.  And you would have to be artful with that stroke to keep the guttie dry. You couldn't really run it up to the green - you had to carry it the full distance - slightly uphill.  It wasn't a mere connecting hole before tackling (probably) the longest hole in the world.  
In fact, for a couple of reasons it is very likely Ross was particularly keen on 14. First, the tee is not right beside the 13th green.  You had to walk back (over a stream) a little more than Ross liked to have you do to reach the 14th tee.  The second reason is that the 15th may have ended up being such a mammoth hole to accommodate where he wanted #14.  A 585 yard hole was way out of character for that time. It may have ended up being such an unusually long hole so he could have the 14th as it was.  So for these two reasons I think he particularly liked the way 14 set up.  It appears he went out of his way to put it there.
A little before WWII the back 9 was shut down.  In the 1950's Percy Rockefeller decided to resurrect the back 9.  They made the long 11th hole into two holes - and got rid of the 14th altogether.  The 15th was seriously shortened, as well.  A proper restoration would absolutely need to put the original 14th back.
It would be much preferable to have it reinstated with a stream rather than one of those unnatural RTJ type bass fishing ponds.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2011, 05:55:26 PM by Chris Buie »

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (Streams and Ponds)
« Reply #89 on: April 22, 2011, 06:14:47 PM »
The natural streams were not the only part of Overhills that changed a great deal over time.  The bunkers went through an even more radical transformation. Ross meticulously chose the placement of some rather fearsome hazards to give a real challenge for those attempting to play ambitious shots.  As with many of the great early courses these distinctive bunkers have not fared well at all over time.
The top right bunker in the photo of the first hole below is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, you can see from the vintage photo that it was a truly formidable element to contend with.  Look how high it was mounded! If you put it in there you were going to have to do be quite artful to retain a par - or even bogey really.  The hole plays quite a bit differently in the 1993 satellite photo because - well, that bunker is not there at all!
The second aspect of that bunker that I find interesting is that Ross is very well known for allowing the golfer a chance to warm up a bit before giving him/her some really trying scenarios.  As you can see that was not the case with this course.  On your very first shot you had this sinister little monster leering at you. And that wasn't the only difficult element for the first shot to contend with.  The hole turns curiously to the right a bit - but the land slopes sharply down to the left just off the fairway.  
In other words, if you attempted to play safely left of the bunker and did not pull the shot off it would bound down the hill to a very troublesome position.  That is a very uncharacteristic opening hole for Ross.  Right away the player is informed that this particular 18 hole journey is going to be filled with all sorts of multi-faceted dramas.

Moving on, you can see another example of how Overhills bunkering changed greatly on the 8th fairway below.

The vintage photo above again shows a dramatic element for the golfer to contend with while the latter image shows this tepid little sandy affair with no personality or distinctive characteristics at all. Very bland.

Lets have a look at one more example.  Did you notice it in the first image?  In the foreground - beneath where the first fairway starts is the green of the 156 yard 9th hole.  As you can see it has a serious bunker short right (from the players perspective). And as with the fairway bunker on the first was entirely removed by the later custodians.  Obviously this is a major change in the architecture, strategy and emotion for the player facing such a hazard.

We are all quite familiar with the theme of a master architects work being modified over time.  As I've said elsewhere I don't think there was any bad intent on the part of the custodians.  I think they didn't understand what they had on their hands.  In his day Bach was, to a large extent, viewed as a mere craftsman - not as a genius who was turning out transcendent works of profound lasting value.  I think perhaps there is something of a similarity with a few of the earlier golf architects.  In the eyes of the majority they were viewed as craftsmen - gifted perhaps - but the lofty art of some of the works were clearly not fully appreciated by the majority.  That is all too evident from the way so many of the major works have been blithely reworked.  There was little if any hesitation in changing some of the masterpieces - although I do think that has changed to a degree now.
In any case, as you can see from how this thread has evolved, the closer I've looked at this particular work the more I've come to really appreciate what a surprisingly wonderful exposition it is.  This is in large part due to the fact that Ross was given a huge amount of ideal golfing land to choose from - with no demands whatsoever except that it have no superior.  What came out of this scenario is one of the most compelling courses he ever designed.  The fairways in particular were brilliantly worked through those hills.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2011, 06:21:10 PM by Chris Buie »

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (That Diabolical 3rd Hole)
« Reply #90 on: April 27, 2011, 02:52:35 PM »
See any magic in this aerial? No?

Well, lets have a closer look at this hole that hasn't been examined here yet - the 3rd.

What exactly do we have going on here?
At the original distance of 207.7 yards (much later shortened) it was a pretty strong par-3. was not a par-3. Ross laid it out as a 2 shot hole. What par number is assigned to a hole doesn't really concern me - the way a hole plays is the real matter of interest. I bring up the fact that this 208 yard hole was deemed a par-4 simply because it indicates something uncommon.

Actually, what it really is is a drivable par-4 - or a half par hole. Yet another unexpectedly intriguing twist. Most architects would have just dialed in a standard linking hole - a pro forma 3-par - maybe cover their lack of vision and talent with some flowers or a nice bass fishing pond?
That is not what he went for. Why? Because when presented with a viable scenario (time, funds, terrain, etc.) this Scotsman was not content with mere competence. On a much earlier entry on this thread I said that genius has the person much more than the person has genius. In the case of Mr. Ross at Overhills his inherent nature propelled him to forge a set of holes with an unusually high caliber of playing interest. That Ross brought the entire weight of his creative powers to bear on this course is evident. That was not the case with all of his courses.
As you can see from the following image, with it's significant incline it played longer that 207.7 - and, of course, that was quite a distance in 1913.

The way the double incline plays on this hole is not something you often see - deliberately so. It is nice to see a well laid out hole that doesn't immediately remind you a a style you've seen a thousand times before. That can be good as well, but not as impressive. From the tee you could make out the rising terrain just in front of the green - but there was another hill directly in front of the teeing area - obscuring much of the hole.

As you can see, beyond this first hill the terrain drops down a considerable amount before a fairly sharp rise to the green. You weren't able to see what fiendish elements awaited the short or mis-hit effort. Even if you knew from previous playings or were bright enough to scope the hole while playing the 2nd (definitely a recommended practice for playing this course) - you were none-the-less vexed with the approaching tee shot. I've said on other threads that half-par holes tend to be more interesting than standard length holes. The player is required to exercise a measure of creativity. The way of playing is not entirely dictated to the player - a much more interesting proposition. As far as I'm concerned every course should have at least one half par hole.
So, what exactly did Mr. Ross have waiting for you in that short fairway? As you can see from the first image above the area was dominated by a sandy native area. That adds yet more interest to the little hole because you could not just poke it over the hill and end up with a nice little pitch. As you know, a sandy natural area is unpredictable. You may or may not get a good lie. Who wants golfing predictability all day long? What's interesting about that? But even a good lie on such an area requires more skill and nerve than a shot from the manicured fairway.

The majority of players at the time were not going to reach a 208 yard uphill hole in one shot. Most of them would simply attempt to drive it over the waste area - perhaps a 150 yard carry - which would be a pretty good stroke at the time. If your ball came to rest on that considerably uphill area between the sandy part and the green then you were left with a challenging pitch - a fairly blind one - especially with the short flagsticks they originally had. To complicate the hole a bit more there wasn't really any bail out room left or right. That is a little unusual. I'm surprised there wasn't more room left of the waste area - considering the challenge level of the hole. There was a tree right of the native area to complicate bailing right.

So, that is my take on the 3rd. A hole with no shortage of interest and certainly very worthy of being included on this exceptional course. Yet again I didn't expect to find something so intriguing. I just picked this hole at random to examine in my spare time. And looking very closely found yet more remarkable playability woven through those mysterious hills.

« Last Edit: May 08, 2011, 08:15:18 PM by Chris Buie »


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Re: The Story of Overhills (That Diabolical 3rd Hole)
« Reply #91 on: April 28, 2011, 02:21:39 AM »

I was looking at this excellent thread the earlier today and then just happened to stumble across the following article in the February 1917 Golf Illustrated.  You may already have it, but if not it may fill in some details on the early history and development of the course.   

Sorry about the blur.  I can only guess who they had working the camera the day the USGA digitized those pages.
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (That Diabolical 3rd Hole)
« Reply #92 on: April 28, 2011, 11:55:38 AM »
Mr. Moriarty, nice to hear from you - and yes, that is a particularly illuminating article.  Ed Oden was kind enough to point it out to me a bit earlier but I'm glad to see it posted here - so thank you for taking the time to put that up for people to read. I have the magazine in a .pdf format and should be able to transpose it to regular text.  I'll try to get around to that soon.
By the way, I'm told that if a restoration were to take place it would have to be privately funded. 


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Re: The Story of Overhills (That Diabolical 3rd Hole)
« Reply #93 on: April 28, 2011, 05:37:56 PM »
Please call me David and I hope you don't mind if I continue to call you Chris.

Out of curiosity I took a look at some old newspaper articles which may shed some further light on the subject of the golf course and development.  I don't want to reinvent the wheel or step on your presentation, so I will provide a brief synopsis of what I could glean and post just one article relating to the golf course.

So far as I can tell, Mr. Jordan was the major driving force behind the project and I get the strong impression that, going back to 1911 or before, his interest was in developing the land.  He and another partner, Paul Lindley, reportedly had planned a model town ("Pinewild") on part of the land and agriculture on portions of the rest.  As you can see by the article below, it looks as if the clubhouse had been built in 1913 and the golf course was being built.  I also found a report of golfers who traveled to play the course if February 1914 but were snowed out.  

Around 1916 or before it looks as is Jordan was focused on making the project into a Pinehurst style resort, and their are reports of the golf course being build and/or improved during this time period, and multiple reports from the spring of 1916 that Mr. Jordan had a 200 room hotel planned for the property.  

The development was reportedly being backed by New York money, and this may be where Rockefeller and friends became involved.   On November 25, 1916 the Greensboro Daily News reported that Mr. and Mrs. Jordan were entertaining Percy Rockefeller,  V. Everett Macy, Frederick P. Delafield, Eugene Mawkins, Mr. Whitman, and Mr. Holter, and they they would spend their time hunting and golfing.   On March 31, 1917 the Greensboro Daily Record reported that, according to Mr. Jordan, he had bought out Kent's interest in the land and in Buckthorn Lodge Assn, Inc. and had taken on as partners Rockefeller, Macy, and Harriman, and others, but that Mr. Jordan had an interest equal to any of his partners and would continue to direct the projects.

Sorry if this is all review for you, but I don't recall seeing much on this early period in the thread although I could be misremembering.  

Here is one article concerning the development of the clubhouse, the golf course, and the change of name of the project.

Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (That Diabolical 3rd Hole)
« Reply #94 on: April 28, 2011, 06:35:14 PM »
David, I'm glad to have your input and feel free to put forth any facts you stumble upon.  And, of course, please do call me Chris.  What you are saying is correct - except it is even more complicated than that.  It is a very, very intricate story especially those early years when it was being formed - and even before that. In fact, Leonard Tufts - owner of Pinehurst and son of its founder was briefly attached. Apparently he considered connecting what was to become Overhills all the way over to Pinehurst! Here is a paragraph straight from OVERHILLS ORAL HISTORY by Jeffrey D. Irwin and Kaitlin O’Shea:

The Croatan Club began to transition to a new era in 1910. James Woodward died in 1910 and General John Gill’s interest in the estate seemed to have waned. Replacing the Croatan founders were proprietors James F. Jordan and, at least briefly, Leonard Tufts, owner of the nearby Pinehurst resort. Tufts, who managed a 40,000 acre shooting preserve in Pinehurst, apparently entertained the notion of connecting Croatan Club with Pinehurst and developing a game preserve and resort. His commitment was fleeting however, as he sold his interest only two months following his and Jordan’s acquisition proposal to the Croatan Club. Tufts was quickly replaced by William Kent, at the time a newly elected California congressman. By the spring of 1911, Kent and Jordan created the Kent-Jordan Company and acquired the Croatan Club.

I've been learning the details of the whole affair as I've gone along.  It has always been known in the area as the Rockefeller estate - and their family lived there for the better part of a century. But clearly it would be incorrect to say that they initiated it. 
David, I'll send you the information I have so you can have a look at that era if you care to.  As you can see I've been looking mainly at the playability of the course - but the business relationships are fascinating as well.  I just haven't gotten around to going through that material just yet.  I would be quite happy to have you do the analysis of that aspect if you are interested.
There are even more intricate dimensions to the story that would make worthy topics of study - like what went on when the Army purchased it - what they say they need it for.  A lot of information worth looking at there as well.  This entry has been a little rushed and I've got to run now but would enjoy discussing it further and seeing what you come up with.


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Re: The Story of Overhills (That Diabolical 3rd Hole)
« Reply #95 on: April 28, 2011, 07:35:32 PM »

I've emailed you a few of the articles for you to do with what you see fit.   

One thing I find interesting is that that course was apparently intended to be a resort course and before that perhaps part of a planned community. One of the articles I sent did reference the "Overhills Country Club" but I do not think it was unusual for resort courses to double as private country clubs.   In fact something about this whole scenario reminds me of ANGC's history, with the early intentions of development and a hotel, but with a drastically different ultimate outcome.  The course itself looks like it was very interesting.   I'd love to know what was there in 1913-1914 and what was added later. 
Golf history can be quite interesting if you just let your favorite legends go and allow the truth to take you where it will.
--Tom MacWood (1958-2012)

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills (A Visit in the Month of May)
« Reply #96 on: May 15, 2011, 10:58:33 AM »
I gave a friend that is knowledgable about GCA a tour out there last Saturday. Upon finishing a look at the whole course I asked him if I had been overstating the quality. He said 'no' rather definitively. After digesting the course for a day he said it was, in fact, "the real deal".

It was remarkable to see how quickly the turf (common bermuda) and other plant life has grown back since the prescribed burn a little less than 3 months ago. Looking toward the 1st green:

Another example of rapid regrowth from the 16th:

This visit gave me a chance to view the only corner of the course I had yet to visit: the 12th green area and the 13th hole. Looking from behind the 12th green toward the fairway:

Here is an antiquarian photo (from Golf Illustrated) of the same area from the opposite perspective:

The 338 yard 13th is a solid hole with terrain that ascends mildly...

...then decends significantly to a pond (originally a stream). The green is perhaps 40 yards up another hill past the pond. Looking back from near the green:

As you can (sort of) see a good drive would leave a downhill lie - with a shot to an uphill green. Although 13 (which originally was something of a cape) is not the best hole on the course, it is a good example of the essential nature of Overhills. As you know, the original course featured sand greens - so there were no examples (to my knowledge) of that exquisite green contouring Ross later developed. The magic of this course is in the way the rolling land turns - and the precise way he chose to work with it. I don't think the Ross magic is the kind that is entirely obvious. Stand on, say, the 16th hole of Cypress Point and you won't have to have the keenest powers of perception to greatly appreciate the matter before you. Ross in general and Overhills in particular don't elicit that level of automatic wonderment. Although there is more than a measure of obvious charm you would have to spend a considerable amount of time on sight to properly absorb how the combination of elements play into an overall picture which ultimately recommend Overhills as a place somewhere in that group of courses which should be kept for succeeding generations of golfers to experience. It's not my contention that it is one of the worlds best courses - although, properly presented, it would be a very, very good course. But I would place it on a not entirely long list of American courses which do merit a special effort to be preserved by the golfing architecture community.  It almost seems like a duty - like it would not be ok to let this remarkable place just fade away.
Something along those lines.

Moving back from tangential thoughts, one of things that struck the my friend was the reddish plant which grows there naturally in abundance. It does add a nice dimension to the color pallet. (The color in the photo is not enhanced)

I think it is called sorghum - could be wrong about that. I'm not sure if that has ever intentionally been included on a golf course - not to my knowledge. It is an appealing color and looks like a properly nettlesome element for the wayward drive to contend with. Does it not remind you of the heather adjacent to some of those storied GB/I links? Yet, native to the area. Seems like it could possibly be a good thing to incorporate one way or the other.

The 15th and 16th fairways do not have an abundance of the highly compelling terrain which most of the course has. It seems possible the 16th fairway in particular was flattened at some point. (See the photo above) How can that deduction be drawn? The rumbling areas left and right of the fairway do not match up with how the terrain goes on the hole. That wasn't my insight. If the 15th and 16th fairways do not embody the fascinating turns of the rest of the course, this is more than made up for by the 371 yard 17th - which has a fabulously contouring fairway. "A 10 out of 10" according to my friend. The 18th, well, that hole has no flat area on the fairway. However, the farther you hit it the more level the lie. I didn't take any photos that would adequately convey 17 and 18. But in lieu of that I'll leave you with a photo which I think embodies the sort of F. Scott Fitzgerald spirit of the place at its height in the 1920's.

The above photo is courtsey of the North Carolina State Archives. The young ladies are both Rockefellers (Elmira and Faith). The name of the gentleman in the middle is lost to antiquity.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2011, 11:14:26 AM by Chris Buie »

Chris Buie

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The Story of Overhills (7th Hole)
« Reply #97 on: August 24, 2011, 11:02:48 AM »
Ordinarily I wouldn't bother to take an even closer look at the details of this design. However, since Overhills is a special case - on many levels - continuing the analysis of this superior design does not appear to be entirely unwarranted.
So, lets have a look at the straight away 384 yard 7th hole.

To start, it is perhaps best to look at it in the context of the holes it is placed between. The 6th and 8th are exceptionally crafted - especially the 6th. It is always interesting to see what goes on with the holes that link areas the designer is obviously keen on. Will the designer be able to conjure a worthy companion with what lies between?
The first thing that is evident about the 7th is that it is pretty sharply uphill. 384 uphill yards in the 1910's was a very formidable proposition.
Here are some images which give you an idea of how the terrain rises - and, of course, it is far more striking in person.
The first image is from below the 6th tee - with the 7th in the distance:

This Google Earth image shows how the terrain rises sharply for about 200 yards - then levels off somewhat - then rises gently toward the green.

As the 7th appears today:

The golfer has just contended with a longish, severely uphill 3-par, and a long 4-par. Now they are faced with another demanding shot. Clearly, Overhills was intended as a full blooded affair all around - not just a nice little jaunt for the landed gentry. In fact, in my opinion, it may have been calibrated a little too highly on the difficulty level for the time. It would be fabulous now - and in the years following its Twenties hey day - but at the time...a very strenuous endeavor.
A bunker was placed in the middle of the fairway to challenge and guide the tee shot. It took perhaps 120 very uphill yards to carry this bunker. So, not an extreme challenge, but you can be sure more than a few mis-hit hickory drivers found the early hazard.
Moving on, the 2nd shot is by far the most interesting part of the hole. The features which come into play at this point are the ones that make the 7th worthy of this course.
A good drive - not too much farther than 200 uphill yards was most likely going to leave you with one of the more lofted woods (cleek, baffing spoon or bulldog) to gain the green. You would want to make a very solid strike because a wayward shot at this point was going to become entangled with some rather sinister elements.
This very early image has the tee at the bottom.

As you can see in the image just above, Ross placed a second uncommon vertical bunker right in the middle of the fairway - with a very contentious native area covering the entirety of fairway right - for a considerable distance. It could possibly make for exquisite aesthetics as well as interesting playability if the naturalistic area was made up of the reddish plant which was discussed earlier. By the way I'm told that plant is most likely something commonly called "sour grass" aka Rumex Acetosella. I'm pretty sure this is the plant I saw a little bit of on Pinehurst #2 recently. I wonder if it would be a good idea to encourage that plant on #2? Picture a reddish sheen waving along in concert with the wiregrass, hillocks and towering pines...something to consider. Here is a photo of it on the 11th hole of #2 Course.

The typical American architect of the post war years would have never put in that centralized second bunker. They would probably bulldoze in one of those lovely Rees Jones bass fishing ponds where the native area was as well. Yawn. In fact, in later years that is exactly what they did - except they let huge trees grow where the wild area was. Honestly. This image below is a perfect example of how the custodians across the USA went so very far afield from from the intrinsic playing values many of the masterworks offered. The good news is the barbaric practices of these well meaning but very misguided chaps can be reversed - brilliantly - as we just saw with Overhills next door neighbor - in Pinehurst.

So, those two elements - the second vertical, centered bunker and the native area are what give this hole personality and elevated playing interest. This natural area reached all the way into the center of the fairway - not a common scenario. If these features were part of a USA members course in the post war golfing world you can be sure they would not last long at all.
In fact, that is exactly what happened to the most comparable hole I'm aware of - the original 8th on Pinehurst #3. (,44652.0.html). The hole on 3 Course had a much more artful bunker presentation than the one on Overhills. The 2nd fairway bunker on the 7th of Overhills could benefit from the efforts of one of those very talented shapers that are doing such fantastic work these days.

It's interesting to me because on here we occasionally talk about whether or not it takes time before one can fully appreciate a course. My intermittent looks into the logic behind the Overhills design has taught me that it does indeed take an in depth look to appreciate superior designs. You could breeze through and probably enjoy the ride - but you'd be missing much of the story. And a proper course does tell a story - like a book with 18 chapters.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2011, 02:16:09 PM by Chris Buie »

Chris Buie

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« Reply #98 on: November 14, 2011, 11:37:16 AM »
Just some images that haven't been posted before that I thought some of you might like to look through.

Native wiregrass

Croatan House

A mural inside Croatan

Rolling terrain on the 15th fairway.

10th tee shot.

Croatan porch

Croatan living room - with the 8th green a mere 20 yards outside the bay window.

The greenside bunker of the 15th - with the remnants of that bunker in the photo below.

The "sleeping porch" on Croatan overlooks 9 green and 1 fairway. Sleeping outside was thought to be health enhancing - and cooler in the summer.

The fireplace in the Harriman living room.

10th tee area - in front of where clubhouse was - looking toward Croatan.

Croatan side

Cactus being an indicator of the sandy loam soil.

Chris Buie

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Re: The Story of Overhills
« Reply #99 on: April 06, 2012, 09:36:29 PM »
So I was flipping around the TV the other evening and caught the latter part of this movie that could not help but put me in the mind of Overhills - quite unexpectedly. It's a slightly sappy movie but never the less does resonate on a level that movies aren't commonly crafted well enough to reach. And I had to laugh a little bit because there was some sort of sympatico with a guy going on and on about a little field in an obscure place he thought was magic on a profound level while most people could just literally walk right through without sensing much at all.

From the previous explorations which have taken place through this article you can see the exquisite convergence of elements which make up Overhills. However, there is - potentially - quite a bit more to this subject than that.

Follow along for a bit, if you would, and let me put a concept out their for your consideration.

The core of the concept is that we've been at war for about a decade. The longest in the nations history. And...not all of the guys came back ok. For several worthy individuals that went into the most extreme situations to keep your family safe it will truly require something extraordinary to help them make it all the way back. Personally, I'd find that something worth going to some lengths to do.
Maybe you think it worthwhile, as well.

I don't know a great deal of things but this is one area I do know whereof I speak. There were a few different areas I worked in during my decade as a social worker. One of them was with a special class of the most challenged men who - through no fault of their own - found themselves in a personal situation which required the services of certain state workers. A program was mandated by the court to make an effort to see what could be done with the individuals who fell within certain complex diagnostic parameters.

Frankly, given the severity of the clinical conditions with which these folks - and their loved ones - contended with every day I was not so sure that our intricate and highly specialized efforts could effect a scenario strong enough to help them progress to a quality of life that one would say was "good".

To make a long story somewhat shorter, it was eye opening to see the progress which could be made with the right sort of mufti-dimensional interaction. There were several aspects of their care which had to be calibrated very precisely, but one part which turned out to be of paramount importance was environment. There was, without a doubt, an essential correlation between their living/working environments and their progress. Some of them were able to move forward to the point where they had their own private businesses. Sure, not all of these guys attained levels far beyond where they started - but there were several who, in fact, did progress in a manner which far surpassed what I would have thought possible.

If handled properly the uniquely elevated atmosphere of the Overhills golfing and its immediately surrounding area possesses the capability to bring many wounded soldiers back to a real and proper quality of life. And let's remember that their families and loved ones often pay a very steep price for their sacrifice on the battlefield. They could also benefit enormously from progress made within this environment.
Do they not deserve that?

And that - could be - the true magic of Overhills.

Oh yeah, here's a bit of dialogue from the end of the film:

"It's so beautiful here. Well, for me, it's like a dream come true...can I ask you something?"
"Is this heaven?"
"It's Iowa."
"I could have sworn it was heaven."
"Is there a heaven?"
"Oh's the place dreams come true."

Overhills is the place where the dream of soldiers damaged in a way not so easy to heal can take place. One of the measures of any culture is the manner in which they respond to this sort of situation. There are not many places available for such efforts - and certainly not ones even close to the quality of the former Rockefeller estate. This one is gleaming in that field and practically handed to the military on a silver platter. There could be no better use for this land.

The army has a colossal amount of land for training. Adjacent to Fort Bragg is yet another large training area called Camp Mackall. The two of them combined are approximately 1/3 the size of Rhode Island.
The area necessary for Overhills is ~200 acres...
« Last Edit: May 16, 2015, 03:45:53 PM by Chris Buie »


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