Course spotlight: Pinehurst Golf Club
One of my absolute favorite golf courses in the area is Pinehurst Golf Club on Route 20 in Westfield.
It was the first course at which I was a member when I was a beginner. As a result, I feel as if I really learned the game of golf at this beautiful and often challenging venue.
This April, brothers Nolan and Ryan Swanson will celebrate their 10th anniversary as course owners, though the course itself has been a staple in the community for a lot longer than that.
“The course was built in the mid-60s,” Nolan Swanson shared. “The Portman family was the original owner right up until we bought it. The designer of the Wanakah Country Club up in Hamburg actually helped the Portmans with the layout at Pinehurst, so that’s a cool little bit of trivia.”
Nolan and Ryan Swanson are local legends in their own right. As sons of the great Mel Swanson, arguably the greatest high school basketball coach Chautauqua County has ever seen, the boys have sports in their blood. Nolan is one of the most accomplished track and field stars that Wake Forest has ever produced. Ryan, meanwhile, continues to compete as one of the top golfers in Western New York. He’s also entering his fifth season as the head coach of the men’s golf team at St. Bonaventure University, his alma mater.
Their love of golf, however, was only part of the reason they decided to buy Pinehurst a decade ago.
“One of the main reasons was to stay close to our families,” Nolan noted. “Our professions were going to take us elsewhere, but both sides of our families are right here so we wanted to be here if possible. Obviously, we love golf, too.”
Both Nolan and Ryan had extensive experience working on a golf course with Nolan spending many years at Chautauqua while Ryan honed his expertise at Peek’n Peak.
“A lot of it we’ve just learned on the fly here at Pinehurst,” Nolan said. “Though I did take a few classes at a community college out west on turf management. We’ve also gotten a lot of help from knowledgeable people. My turf chemical salesman, for instance, has been very helpful.”
Of course, running any kind of small business can be a taxing experience and a family-owned golf course is certainly no exception.
“I hate to complain about anything because I really love being out there on the course,” Nolan admitted. “But the hardest part would probably be taking care of the course during drought conditions. Normal days are already extremely long with constant mowing, but when you add in the extra step of watering, it makes for some long days. We don’t have a staff, really. It’s just me and Ryan out there.”
Through all the hard work, stress and sweat, however, it’s incredibly obvious that Nolan and Ryan truly love Pinehurst Golf Club and the people who come there.
“It’s such an awesome place to be,” Nolan gushed. “I enjoy so much of it. It’s great getting to know the people in the community both in the shop and on the course.”
Every course has one, so what is Pinehurst’s signature hole?
“I’d have to say No. 6,” Nolan said. “It’s so long. It’s uphill. You can see the whole thing. From that blue tee it’s about 570 yards. That’s a big hole. You’ve got a beautiful view of the vineyards on the left. We can make the fairway look really nice with the stripes with the mower. Plus it’s probably our nicest green with the two tiers. That’s the one everyone remembers.”
Besides the sheer distance of No. 6, the other thing golfers will walk away talking about after playing at Pinehurst is those aforementioned greens. They’re strikingly beautiful and it’s obvious how much care the Swansons put into them.
“I’ll put our greens up against anyone in the area,” Nolan said proudly. “They aren’t big, but they’re nice. We do all the aerating, sanding and chemicals. I really enjoy taking care of the greens.”
Not only is Pinehurst a great place to play golf, but it’s surprisingly affordable, too. There’s usually a weekday morning rate of just $15 with a cart. New golfers interested in a membership will be glad to know that two new golfers can come together and get a buy-one-get-one-half-off membership for the year.
Another advantage to having a course owned by two great golfers is that it’s the perfect spot to take some lessons.
“Ryan is a teaching professional and a college coach,” Nolan noted. “I also run lessons and have had really nice success with people.”
The best place to stay up-to-date with all of the happenings at Pinehurst Golf Club is on Facebook. The Swansons post updates on leagues, tournaments, weather, course conditions and more. There are over 1,000 followers already, so clearly the page provides valuable information.
The Swanson brothers have made countless improvements to the course over the past 10 years. Most things, like tree trimming, go largely unnoticed despite being a critical part of keeping the course beautiful. One thing that golfers will notice this year, however, is the ever-improving bar area.
“We finally got 12 matching bar stools and we feel like we won the lottery,” Nolan said with a laugh. “They’re new. They’re comfortable. We’re ready to go for next season.”
We’re blessed to have several courses in our area, so there’s always the question of why you should choose one course over the others.
“It’s truly a course that’s for any level of player,” Nolan concluded. “What makes us stand out is the size of our course compared to others in our price range. In addition to No. 6, we also have several par 4s that are around 400 yards. You get into all your clubs.”
The final verdict is that Pinehurst is a beautiful, well-manicured, fun, challenging course. Going into the clubhouse after an enjoyable round and talking sports with whoever is behind the bar only adds to the experience. The course gets nothing short of two thumbs up.
Stefan Gestwicki is an OBSERVER contributing writer. Comments on this article can be sent to email@example.com.