VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Charlie Godleski tried to size up the putt, but a wry smile and condescending chuckle were all he could muster.
He stood over the putt anyway, taking one last look at the line before settling in to his stance. One last shallow breath, and Godleski swing the putter head back.
He struck the ball cleanly, sending in on a sojourn unlike he had ever seen before on a putting green. The ball ambled down the slope, quickly picking up speed. How it was ever going to stop was anyone’s guess.
Godleski turned his body straight to watch the ball’s descent. Down and down and it went, still motoring pretty good. It fell into a large bowl-like area – the antithesis of Donald Ross’s famous turtleback greens – and glided past the cup, angling up the far side of the bowl’s slope beyond the hole.
The ball finally stopped, but only for the briefest of moments.
Then it began to roll back toward the hole.
Bernie Schultz, Godleski’s playing partner at the Pinehurst Country Club Member-Guest Tournament, had strolled following the ball’s path when Godleski had struck it. But now he stopped. The ball started a second descent, this time from behind the cup, angling toward the hole. Schultz raised his right arm into the air.
Could it go?
“Back door! Back door!” yelled a fellow putter from across the green.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” yelled Schultz as the ball stopped once more, this time only inches from the cup.
“Gosh, where were you this morning?” Schultz quipped at Godleski, who could only laugh and shake his head. Then Schultz let him off the hook. “Well, we weren’t putting on greens like this.”
Welcome to Thistle Dhu.
James Barber, owner of the Barber Steamship Links of New York, built his home, Thistle Dhu, in Pinehurst in 1919. On its grounds, he constructed the first miniature golf course in America. The story goes that upon first seeing the home and course, he pronounced, “This’ll Do.” It was translated into Thistle Dhu and the name stuck.
Nearly a century later, the name returns once more, and it does so at its rightful home of Pinehurst.
While the restoration of famed Pinehurst No. 2 continues to grab the headlines as the clock counts down to the historic back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2014, everyone who has played at Pinehurst knows the legendary locale’s true identity stems from Donald Ross’ iconic turtleback greens.
At times those greens can be harrowing, but Pinehurst Resort has forged a new way to make them entertaining while paying homage to yet another note of golf history linked to Pinehurst. Near the first tee to Pinehurst No. 4, all can visit and play Thustle Dhu, a new putting course like few in the world.
Calling to mind the legendary Himalayas Course at The Old Course in St. Andrews, Thistle Dhu features 18 holes of mind-bending journeys designed to entertain everyone in the family, from the golfing beginner to the scratch player and everyone in between.
The first competitive rounds on the putting course took place on Aug. 31, following the second round of the Pinehurst Member-Guest. More than 140 two-man teams played an alternate shot format, getting their first taste of Pinehurst’s newest attraction.
“This is a ball,” said Stan Lanier. “There’ll probably be lots and lots of wagers after rounds. They’ll take it to the putting green.”
Tom Currier, a guest of Pinehurst member Larry McWayne’s from Virginia, said he had never seen anything like Thistle Dhu.
“I’ve never been on anything like this without windmills,” Currier joked. “It is a true test. And I haven’t lost a ball yet, which is great.”
The course is free to play and available for resort guest play each day. It will be closed Monday and Thursday mornings for maintenance.
Thistle Dhu is a hit already. Just ask anyone who’s played it.
“It’s miniature golf at Pinehurst,” Lanier said.
Right where it’s always been.