Pinehurst Resort

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Which resort boasts a connection to the first miniature golf course in America?

Pinehurst is well-known as world-class golf resort, but perhaps less-known is its connection to the first ever miniature golf course. Although earlier examples of what was called "garden" or "lawn" golf appeared in the United Kingdom, it wasn't until 1919 when James Wells Barber completed construction of a course on his Pinehurst estate that the game most Americans would recognize today as miniature golf came into being.

Born in England, Barber emigrated to the United States in 1887 to manage his company, Barber Steamship Lines. An avid golfer, Barber, like many of his contemporary captains of industry, chose to spend time in Pinehurst, home to one of America's premier golf resorts. In 1917 he began construction on his Pinehurst residence, contracting Edward H. Wiswell to design a miniature golf course for his estate, no doubt inspired by the spirit of the game emanating from the neighboring resort. Although an amateur architect, Wiswell’s enthusiasm for the sport led him to create a dynamic and challenging course despite its small size. Upon completion in 1919, Barber is said to have uttered, “This'll do." The words stuck and both the estate and the miniature course took on the name "Thistle Dhu."



Wiswell details the intent of the eighteen-hole course in an article he wrote for Popular Science Monthly in August of 1919: “The Thistle Dhu course was laid out to force the player to carefully study each shot and also to provide a good test for the expert golfer as well as school those new to the game.” The course certainly provided a challenge for even the most skilled golfers. A story in the May 1921 edition of Golf Illustrated relates how a golfer named Tom Kelley "in a recent tournament over Thistle Dhu ... failed in twenty-two attempts …" on a single hole.



All the elements of modern miniature golf were established at Thistle Dhu. The longest hole was only seventy-one feet; the shortest, a mere twelve. Rather than the traditional grass, the putting surfaces were made of compacted and architecturally drained sand. Each of the holes could supposedly be made in a single shot. Besides natural impediments, artificial structures such as mounds of concrete (a favorite material of miniatures to come) were positioned to obstruct the progress of the ball. The tiny greens were rimmed with bricks, and rules for penalty shots, should your ball exit the green, applied. The course contained a fountain, little walkways, shrubs and flowers. The American past time of mini-golf was born.



Thistle Dhu remained a private course throughout its existence, but its legacy is kept alive by Pinehurst Resort which named one of its own putting greens “Thistle Dhu.” A plaque detailing Barber and Wiswell’s innovation is displayed at the green, where guests of all ages can enjoy a round of golf.



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Question: Which resort boasts a connection to the first miniature golf course in America?

  1. The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa
  2. French Lick Resort
  3. Tubac Golf Resort & Spa
  4. Pinehurst Resort
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