The Cradle

Nine holes, 789 yards

One sitting idly in one of the clubhouse rocking chairs on the patio enjoys the marvelous spectacle of a lively golf community having fun. Families, friends and groups are scattered about the Thistle Dhu putting course, making their leisurely way through the slopes and hills. Golfers walk to and fro shouldering their bags or zipping around in carts, starting or ending their rounds, or perhaps getting in some extra practice for the next go. Those in white are over off to the side engaged in their Cricket ways.

And now there’s the Cradle, a nine hole par 3 course where all you need is a few clubs and a putter to walk the hillside and engage with a lot of fun and an occasional stubborn green or two. At the top of the ridge, there’s the drink cart fixture called the Pinecone, to get a beverage or two, confirming the casualness. Adirondack chairs are lined up on the ridge as well, for either observers or those who feel like stopping for a little bit before heading on. Music gently plays, from some where. It’s a terrific display of how communal golf can be. A large sigh, then a smile and laugh.

The Cradle helped tie this together for the Pinehurst resort. This is some where groups can congregate together for some fun, instead of the foursomes needed for the courses. The holes, though short, are to wildly heaving greens that are unapologetic in how they thrash your ball about. While I found them a lot of fun, I’m not sure how kids or neophytes to the game would find them, and whether the fun would start fading away as they wondered how to even get their ball close to the pin and groups behind them started to pile up. Yet if the holes were pushovers, that could defeat the purpose the other way, and the round could be found to be bland. As it stands, the holes are full of interest and yes, the strategy I began sharpening at Pinehurst 3 applied in large swaths. There is a lot to learn and the course is meant to remain just as engaging the first time as it is the fiftieth. Don’t expect the pars to come easy. At the same time, don’t care or even keep score. Have fun with it. That’s what this place is here for. That’s why we all play.

This review is a bit different because, quite honestly, I started on the Third and the holes come pretty quickly, so it was tough to take photos, play and have a good time all at once. It was the first time playing for all of us, so we also were trying to play the next hole correctly and at some point, we realized we had started playing in an incorrect order. That’s kind of the nature of the beast of the place. You stroll around with these interesting greens staring at you from every where and you put a tee in the ground. Lost in conversation, you forget what hole you’re on or how many you have to go. I was keen on trying for an ace, to hell with what consequences arose from attacking the pin directly. At any rate, the photos are of the holes in the proper order and I included a bit of description for each. Mostly, bear in mind the terrain moves towards the road.

The Cradle is a great experience. A casual romp where friends and strangers alike can engage in intriguingly strategic golf without getting too down on oneself, mainly because the greens are indeed pretty tough yet more importantly, if there ever was a place to realize golf is much much than a number on a card, it is here.

Looking out a the course from the clubhouse
Thistle Dhu to the left
Looking back towards the clubhouse, the Cradle in between

Speaking of score cards:

The First, 113 yards. Heading out from the starter shack to Beulah Hill Road, scrub and scraf are off to the right while mounds and movement are to the left. Punch it roll on or get it on the air, the hole sets the tone by asking for finesse and minding the tumultuous terrain.

The Second, 85 yards. A large bunker at the front right guards the green as we head back towards the clubhouse. Gently uphill, the entry point is to the left, which runs and melds into the First green below.

The Second (pin to the right at the forefront)

The Third is the Punchbowl green. The card has it at 66 yards but it played 50 yards for our round. Uphill from the tee, it is a large one, with the back side pulled up significantly. The ball will roll from back to front, so figuring out how far past the pin you need to land is a good part of the fun. In the background is the Pinecone, the drink cart stationed at the top of the ridge, which looks down on the course.

The Third

The Fourth is 127 yards and heads out towards Beulah Hill Road. The green is guarded by a large mound on the left and green on the right, so the tee shot needs to carry both of those things or some how roll over the mound and on. Yet the mound is actually a little further away from the green than it looks, so plan accordingly.

The Fourth
A lot more room after the mound

The Fifth is 56 yards. Going back up the hill, a lot of the green cannot be seen from the tee. A shorter shot that can be aerial or on the ground, get it close.

The Fifth
Looking off to the left, back up the ridge
Looking back from the green

The Sixth is 58 yards. Now heading to the corner of the property, another uphill shot with a more subtle yet deceiving green.

The Sixth

The Seventh is 92 yards. Now circling the property and at the top of the ridge, we start our way to the Pinecone. The left side of this green will pull shots way off down the hill. It would be wise to stay on the right, or even short right, to avoid that left side.

The Seventh
A look at the left side
A better look, to see that slope
And from the bottom of that slope

The Eighth is 80 yards. Things get a little muddled at this point. Stopping at the Pinecone may or may not have coincided with this. I was certainly thrown off when a guy in my group admitted he didn’t know what a Transfusion was, despite golfing for decades, so I had to buy him one immediately. We may have teed off to a different pin by mistake here, although the yardage checked out and it made sense with the routing. But the photo below is in fact the Eighth, so at some point I was able to photo it correctly. Bunkers are all over this green with a smaller entry to the left. The small pot bunker at the rear right is a nice chef’s kiss for those getting overly aggressive to the pin.

The Eighth

The Ninth is 112 yards. Sitting on the ridge, the green is on the other side of a native grass band while the hillside moves on the left side across. Some interesting yet nasty bunkers are to the left while the green is pushed up, falling off in all directions, including the left where the hillside is.

The Ninth
Looking back at the tee

Generally, the wide open nature of the course where all of the holes are together in in spot and the ridge at the top used as a gathering spot of sorts is wonderfully laid out and accomplishes its purpose of excelling as a casual communal golfing center. As a course design enthusiast, the interest of the greens make for nine extremely engaging short par 3’s that encourage all the innovation you can muster, yet allow acumen to thrive for those so inclined. With a couple clubs and a putter, I could see going round and round, stopping at the Pinecone and those chairs every now and then for a chat or two before moving on, all in an endless loop and never tire or bore of any of it. These short courses are becoming a lot more popular. The combination of engaging design in a casual social setting is something I can get all in on. A worthwhile time for anyone wanting to get in on the joy this game is about.