I was fortunate enough to stay two nights in the clubhouse at Forest Creek Golf Club. I played both their North and South courses with the owner and two founders of the club. Forest Creek is one of two private clubs in the Pinehurst area of North Carolina. The vision for the club began in the early 90’s when the owner inherited 1,500 acres of land in Southern Pines. Over a decade later, that land contains two Fazio design courses, possibly the best facilities in the area, and around 500 members who are lucky enough to say they belong to Forest Creek.
The club was built on the exclusive private community model that commonly failed elsewhere during the 2008 financial crisis. One must be a property owner at Forest Creek in order to become a member. There is no unaccompanied guest play and the courses get fairly little play. One of the members with whom I spoke said, “Other than the golf and facilities, it is the privacy and ability to play a round without seeing another soul that I am paying for… Where else in Pinehurst could I get this?” The member has a point. Most people don’t even know Forest Creek exists and, on any given day, you most likely don’t even need a tee time to get out and play a round of golf.
The clubhouse at Forest Creek has everything a golfer could desire, from an extensive bar to beautiful accommodations upstairs. However, it is the locker room that cannot go unmentioned. Forest Creek’s locker room stands at the juncture of traditional old hardwood and leather locker rooms and the best of the modern. The locker room is a different building from the clubhouse and is built to resemble stables that would have originally been found on the property.
Huge showers, a sauna, a steam room, and a bar with large sitting area and fireplace are all found in the locker room. Locker room attendants address members and guests by name. In the morning a table of breakfast foods had been laid out for members and, during lunch hours, hot wings and other snacks were waiting for members and guests. Ornate oiled leather riding saddles line one wall, in keeping with the stable house theme. Michael Jordan is a member at Forest Creek, and I was lucky enough to use his locker during my stay.
The North Course:
A common complaint of Tom Fazio designs is that they seem to lack character. It is said a Fazio design could be “plopped down anywhere.” I have been able to play many Fazio designs and tend to somewhat agree. However, I found Forest Creek’s North Course to be unique from other Fazio courses that I have played. The course makes use of the local sandy terrain, with large “natural areas” that can also be found at Pinehurst #2, and now Mid-Pines, among other Sandhills/Southern Pines area courses. Parts of the course have a distinct Pine Valley feel, which I hope comes through in the photos.
While picturesque, the 2nd hole is a typical Fazio par 3, reminding me very strongly of the 8th hole on Pinehurst #8. The hole requires a strong and accurate shot with penal bunkers guarding the green.
Hole #3 – 522 yards
The 3rd hole is the first taste of Pine Valley at Forest Creek’s North Course. The par 5 is a double dog leg, first moving right off the tee before curving back left for the approach shot. A long and accurate drive makes the green reachable, but otherwise, the hole is a difficult 3-shorter. The upper photo shows the tee shot when the second photo shows the approach shot.
A number of holes at Forest Creek feature a semi-blind uphill tee shot followed by a downhill approach to a well guarded green. Hitting the fairway is a necessity on these holes. A driver isn’t necessary on the 6th hole, and a long straight tee shot provides a short iron or wedge into the green.
Hole #7 – 427 yards The tee shot on the 7th is similar to the tee shot on the 6th, but the approach to the green is different altogether, and much longer. A good drive on this hole left me 165 yards into the green, which plays much more downhill than the picture leads one to believe.
Hole #10 – 532 yardsThe par 5s on Forest Creek’s North Course are very strong. The 10th hole was one of my favorites. It is long enough to be just out of reach for some longer hitters, and placement of the layup is crucial, depending on the pin position. Bunkers and a large false front guard the green and shirk off any mediocre approach shots.
The 12th hole is one of the strongest on the course. To quote my host for the round, “This is where the course really starts to take off.” An uphill, dogleg left approach leaves another uphill shot to the devilishly guarded green. This was one of my favorite holes on the course. The bunkering is genius and I doubt you could find a similar hole to the 12th on another Fazio course.
The short par 4 13th would initially appear easy, and if you hit the fairway with plenty of distance, the hole should be no problem at all. A straight drive over waste areas leaves a downhill dogleg left approach to the green. Laying up short of the dogleg bend or missing the fairway turns this otherwise easy hole into a quick bogey.
Hole #15 – 403 yardsHoles 15-17 all feature a man-made lake built while developing the property. The 15th requires a long and accurate drive to clear the lake. The water then borders the right side of the green, a potentially challenging hazard, depending on the pin position.
Hole #16 – 185 yardsThe 16th hole is a long par 3. Scoring well on the hole is as simple as striking a mid to long iron into the center of the green. As with most Fazio designs, the hole is right out in front of you, but if you miss, a heavy price will be paid. Very few forced carries are to be found at Forest Creek’s North Course.
Hole #17 – 386 yards The 17th is one of the most picturesque holes on the course. A risk/reward aspect to the drive leaves golfers deciding how much of the lake they want to cut off. You can’t necessarily relax once in the fairway because the lake hugs the right side of the green. While the lake may not directly come into play with a front pin, it subconsciously affects every approach shot.
Hole #18 – 495 yardsThe round finishes on an uphill dogleg right par 5. The waste areas through the fairway are reachable for longer hitters. An uphill approach to a well bunkered green sloping back to front ends the round on a high note. If given the chance to play either course at Forest Creek, don’t turn down the opportunity. Park your car next to the Ferraris and Bentleys in the parking lot and make your way into the lavish clubhouse. Make the most of the Titleist Pro-V1 practice balls and 5 star locker room before you have to leave the property and crash back down to reality with the rest of us.