By Mike Stachura
The USGA appears ready to move several of its operations, including its equipment testing centre, from its headquarters in Liberty Corner, N.J., to the Village of Pinehurst in North Carolina after the village council voted unanimously to approve an economic incentive package with golf’s governing body on Tuesday evening.
The village’s package mirrors state funding that is part of the recently passed Championship NC Act, which North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has indicated he will sign. The legislation provides upwards of $42 million in economic incentive to recruit “a sports championship employer.” Based on the discussions at the village council meeting, that employer is the USGA.
Pinehurst Mayor John C. Strickland referenced the long process in an undertaking that had been labelled “Project Woodpecker.” That project is what the USGA’s chief brand officer Craig Annis called “Golf House Pinehurst,” during remarks at the council meeting.
“Where better to begin a new chapter of American golf and the USGA than from right here in the state of North Carolina and the home of American golf,” Annis told council members. “Pinehurst has always held a special appeal in the hearts of the USGA and golfers.”
The arrangement includes a commitment by the USGA to bring four additional U.S. Opens to Pinehurst, holding one every five to seven years after the already scheduled 2024 U.S. Open.
According to a presentation at the council meeting by Pat Corso, executive director of Partners in Progress, the economic development arm of Moore County where the Village of Pinehurst is located, the USGA would commit to employing 50 full-time staff members. It also would establish a combined visitor center and museum, offices for the USGA’s foundation and Green Section turfgrass agronomy group, and “a technologically advanced test center, the only one of its kind in America, to test golf balls and golf clubs.”
The association’s primary headquarters would remain in New Jersey, as would the USGA Golf Museum and the Arnold Palmer Centre for Golf History.
“We will be creating a golf museum experience for all the people that come to the Pinehurst area,” Annis said during the council meeting. “Our intent is to keep that facility [the current library and museum] and create an annexe of sorts to ensure that we can share some of that history.”
Corso said the move is “not a foregone conclusion and is subject to other funding opportunities currently under discussion.” At the meeting, Corso indicated he expected those to be finalized by Wednesday morning. “There cannot be a better-suited project for our area,” he said.
The USGA also announced that there would be a press conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Pinehurst Resort.
Corso referred to the USGA’s desire “to establish a permanent second headquarters at Pinehurst” and indicated the projected economic impact to the region could be $2 billion.
The economic incentive package entails a $25 million investment in facilities. The Village of Pinehurst would include a tax grant incentive repayment of 90 percent of property taxes over the next 10 years with the USGA.
Village council member Kevin Drum, who grew up in the area, joked at one point during the meeting: “What took you so long? You should have been here a hundred years ago. … This is a proud moment for me. Welcome.”
The construction of the USGA facilities would be designated to be completed by the end of 2023.