Peggy Kirk Bell started playing golf at the age of 17, and burst onto the amateur scene in the 1940s, winning three Ohio Women’s Amateur championships in her home state. She added North and South Women’s Amateur and Eastern Amateur titles to her resume and capped the decade off by winning the 1949 Titleholders Championship, then considered a women’s Major. She made the 1950 U.S. Curtis Cup team, and that same year became a charter member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
Soon after, she shifted her focus to growing the game in a different way.
In 1954, she and her husband, Warren “Bullet” Bell, bought and restored Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, bringing with them the unique approach to instruction that lives on in each of our programs today. Her philosophy was simple: play golf and have fun doing it. It was her enthusiasm and passion for the game that inspired her students. But she wasn’t a natural born teacher, her first lesson wasn’t one for the books.
She went on to perfect her teaching techniques, she learned a proper grip from Ben Hogan, and during her 60+ years as owner and head golf instructor of Pine Needles, Mrs. Bell introduced her signature program, Golfari (Safari of Golf.) To this day, the program has taught thousands of men, women and youths how to play golf and improve their golf game.
Bell is a member of seven Halls of Fame, including the LPGA Teacher and Club Pro Hall. In 1990, she was voted the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. She was the first woman inducted into both the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame (2002) and the PGA Golf Instructors Hall of Fame (2011).
After starting one of the country’s first golf schools at Pine Needles, Peggy Kirk Bell began running five-day group lessons she called “Golfaris” for women to learn the game. More than 20,000 women went through the program. Over the years, she expanded the Golfaris to youth and co-ed programs.
Each Golfari is built around the same guiding principle: the perfect balance between learning golf, playing golf and the relaxing in the company of friends.
An unforgettable experience for women, by women and about women.
An exhilarating week long camp for youth ages 9-16.
A six-day/five-night golf adventure designed for couples and individuals alike.
I attended Golfari for 13 years. It always amazed me that she made it a point to spend time with EVERY golfer. Even in her later years when she wasn’t as mobile, she was there on the Learning Center tee in her golf cart giving lessons to each one of us! A wonderful woman and so important to golf!
– Dianne M.
Peggy told me how she would fly low and follow highways. She also told me about having to make an emergency landing in a snow storm and that she prayed if God would let her land safely, she wouldn’t fly again. I don’t know if she did or did not, but it was fun listening to her story!
– Lisa Mickey
I will always remember her on the range during a Pine Needles Women’s camp. It was not too long ago. She would say, “take the girls with you” when we were practicing our swings! We still say it to each other today! She was a dynamo! We loved her. What an inspiration to all women.
– Kathy Adams
I visited Ms. Bell from her hometown of Findlay, Ohio and she offered to give me a lesson and then play nine holes with me. I was on the driving range when she arrived, and she quickly started my lesson. After I hit probably 20 (what I thought were perfect) balls, she says to me, “okay – do you want to know what I’d do if I were you or what you might generally do to improve your game?” Thinking we’d get to the point so I could save my good (and highly unusual for me) range shots for the nine holes we were to play, I said, “well, what would you do if you were me?” Without hesitation, she deadpanned, “I’d sell those clubs and buy a bowling ball.”
I loved her for that. That evening, she gave me the keys to her Lincoln (a convertible, if I recall correctly) and sent me into Pinehurst to a great little Irish pub. Unforgettable memory of a treasure of a lady.
Was having lunch with Mrs. Bell and Bonnie here at Kingsmill during PGA Tour Anheuser Busch Classic back in the mid 80s…her son in law, Pat had just shot a 72 to miss the cut and came in to join us for lunch–her famous comment…”1 over par, in the car”…a classic!
– Jeff Fleishman
Peggy Kirk Bell and Patty Berg pulled me out of a crowd at 5 years old in an FCA Golf Clinic at Pine Needles in 1980 and introduced me to the greatest game ever played. I played my first USGA Championship at Pine Needles ten years later in the US Girls Championship. I went on to play professionally in 1996. I am a teaching professional today and still teach things she taught me as a little girl and a grown woman. She was one special lady and I am forever indebted to her! Love you and miss you Ms. Bell!
– Wendi Patterson
Words cannot describe my love for her and her family. She changed my world more than any other person. In my early 40s, she challenged me to learn the game of golf. Golf allows me to spend time with my autistic son, who loves the game. It is one thing we can do together as a family. Pine Needles felt like home (a
nd now it is!). She was a walking history book. I would never tire of listening to her stories. She made me laugh. She made me dare to dream. She made me want to make the world a better place. She thought she could and she did.
– BethAnne Johnson Pratte
A group of us golfing ladies from Millwood Country Club in Clarke Co Va had a glorious Golfari week at Pine Needles when Peggy was running the show and I was so impressed by her wonderful joy and love of golf! And helping us all as an amazing teacher. Even at an advanced age her golf swing was a thing of beauty!! It was a wonderful experience and a great time had by all.
– Lindsay Grant Hope
She was so dedicated to teaching. It was as if she wanted every student to excel and enjoy the game as much as she did.
– Sally Stiles
I gave my husband a birthday gift of a weekend of lessons at Pine Needle. We were the only participants so basically had private lessons. On Saturday, Mrs Bell drove her auto up to the practice range and proceeded to mark my glove up with a sharpie to help me grip the club correctly (I was just trying to learn golf) I kept the glove for several years. She also was so much fun to watch with the Carolina womens basketball team were in contention. She was a very vocal fan. Much fun and great memories. Congratulations in her induction.
– Susan Painter
I am so proud to have known Peggy Kirk Bell. Throughout the summers of my teenage years, Mrs. Bell taught me how to play golf. When I was 20 years old in 1981, I had the honor and the privilege of teaching golf with her, side by side, as an instructor at her golf school in North Carolina. She was/is not only a treasure within the golfing world but also a treasure within the entire world, and my life is infinitely better for having known her, and her wonderful family, for so many years. I am certainly blessed to have had her as such a powerful and beneficial influence. I even have the rare distinction of throwing up on her. When, as a young kid attending her golf school, I got very sick. She nursed me back to health by feeding me chicken soup while I was in bed. I had had enough soup, and I told her so. She said, “One more spoonful.” I said, “OK,” but that proved to be one spoonful too many. I mention this as a testament to Mrs. Bell’s enormous heart and vast caring nature. I loved her then. I love her now and forever. Congratulations.
– Bhakta Bill Santos
My favorite memories of Mrs. Bell are her telling jokes at Golfari and seeing her come to class bombing down the course in her golf cart. Classy lady. I was lucky to have her help me with my golf swing as a young golfer and I still have a pair of gloves that she marked up for me.
– Liz Mengel
I still remember the first time i met her in about 1990. She strolled into a Donald Ross Cocktail Party and I thought, who is that stunning woman. She came over and introduced herself and I was immediately charmed. She asked if I played. I said 5 times and in my dreams. After laughing, she promised my dreams could come true. Years later when I was volunteering at one of the opens, she remembered my name and asked about my dreams. She was truly one of the most incredible women I have ever met!
– Cathryn Carlisle