SI Vault
Fraser Smith
October 29, 1973
A former Pinehurst resident reminisces about the old golfing resort, its traditions and gracious living, and ponders what its purchase by a land developing corporation will to do it
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October 29, 1973

A Diamondhead In The Rough

A former Pinehurst resident reminisces about the old golfing resort, its traditions and gracious living, and ponders what its purchase by a land developing corporation will to do it

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James Tufts is a man of slight build, rather more narrow of face and body but about the same height as his brother Richard. Albert Tufts was the tallest but the one with the lowest profile in town operations. All wore glasses and were lightly freckled. They carried with them a tinge of the Yankee Boston accent of their forebears and they wore Ivy League styles in soft earth tones which helped to make them more a part of the gently rolling Sandhills region. They were self-effacing masters, blending in with the background like the quail.

Their grandfather, a Boston industrialist who made his fortune in the soda fountain manufacturing business, founded Pinehurst in 1895. In a climate thought to be one of the most health-assisting in the world he opened a spa for people with respiratory complaints. Tuberculosis victims were among the first patrons.

But shortly, according to James, "there were so many people coming here who didn't have TB the thinking was that those who had it should not come back anymore. After that all the deeds had a restrictive covenant [one of several]: you couldn't have TB and own land in Pinehurst.

"Father said telling people about the new rules was one of the dirtiest jobs he ever had," James recalled. Golf came shortly after this job was done.

"I don't know it for a fact," says James, "but they say the land at the country club was cleared for a peach orchard. Grandfather was involved with a divine in Boston. Edward Everett Hale, and they wanted to bring people down here to work in the peach orchards during the summers. But then we had a surge of something called San Jose scale that wiped out the peaches in the whole area. So some of the early golf nuts started hacking around out there on the cleared land."

Henson Maples and his father Frank were the only two greenkeepers the town had had since the early 1900s. Frank had been there when Donald J. Ross designed the No. 2 course. Henson was a proud, wiry man of authoritative bearing who was renowned for his devotion and near-possessiveness about the Pinehurst courses. He seemed to be indispensable, especially to newcomers unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of sandy soil.

But he was not indispensable. Disagreeing with Diamondhead over issues of golf-course maintenance, Henson left, along with more than 100 other Pinehurst employees, men and women who had worked for the Tuftses all of their lives. By the sheer number of casualties the new company appeared to court a community backlash of some proportions. Diamondhead officials said they simply could not afford employees who were so married to the old ways. They made sizable settlements with those they dismissed, and most found new enterprises. For some it was an emancipation; they found they could exist without the company.

But not everyone was fired. Mutt Frye, one of the town's full-time firemen, was named "commissioner of public safety." Diamondhead, which has a corporation's penchant for grand titles, gave him a raise and more responsibility.

Mutt says he knows why change had to come. "Some of those old folks that used to come here, they'd check in and sit down. They had boocoos of money but they wadn' turnin' any of it over," he said. Of course, anything consciously done to turn over a guest's money would have been rejected as out of keeping with good manners and grace.

It was this kind of thinking that led Richard Tufts to bar professionals and their tournaments. He had been president of the United States Golf Association and an expert on the rules of golf. But he resented what he considered a lack of decorum among the touring pros—not all of them by any means but enough to warrant his action. After the Ryder Cup matches in 1951 and the North-South Open of 1951 he slammed the door. Pinehurst was for golf and for Pinehurst's guests, not for pros on the make.

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