Thistle Dhu is a Federal Revival–style mansion in Pinehurst, NC, built in 1919 by steamship magnate James Barber. The six-bedroom,13,035-square-foot mansion also features the nation’s first miniature golf course—or putting course—in the backyard.

Currently on the market for $2.95 million, Thistle Dhu reportedly got its name from Barber’s reaction to seeing the putting course for the first time.

“This’ll do,” he said. However, because of his accent, it was misheard as “Thistle Dhu.” While the story may be apocryphal, the name stuck. Both the course and the home kept the name Thistle Dhu.

While the putting course was never open to the public, reports about its miniaturized 18 holes piqued interest, and the concept of miniature golf as we know it today was born. Sadly, the original Thistle Dhu course no longer exists. But in 2012, Pinehurst created a new putting course that was named Thistle Dhu in honor of Barber’s innovation.

Living room with wallpapered ceiling
Living room with wallpapered

Not to be outdone, the home also has a fascinating history.

“After Mr. Barber passed, the home was sold, and the next owner donated it to the Catholic Church,” explains listing agent Jennifer Nguyen. “The locals called it ‘The Nunnery.’ There was a confessional in the basement—right next to the speak-easy.”


Yes, speak-easy. Apparently Thistle Dhu was quite the hot spot in the 1920s.

According to Nguyen, there’s a historical photo of men’s golfing fraternity the Tin Whistles standing outside the house. “All the golf legends that were here in the ’20s, that built Pinehurst, were here,” she says.

More recently, the homeowners have restored Thistle Dhu, keeping the playful spirit of the place alive.

“It’s to die for, it’s so beautiful,” says Nguyen. “They have such interesting taste.”

Bathroom with wallpaper and wainscoting
Bathroom with wallpaper and

Bunnies on the wall
Bunnies on the

Another bathroom with gorgeous wallpaper
Another bathroom with gorgeous

While keeping historical details such as the original doorknobs and upper kitchen cabinets, the new Thistle Dhu has statement wallpaper (even on the ceiling in one room), contemporary light fixtures, quirky art, a stunning white kitchen, and incredible walk-in closets.

The three-story home also has a formal dining room, original hardwood floors, a double master bath, a media room, gym and sauna, and a summerhouse with a hot tub. The original speak-easy in the basement has been restored, and there’s golf cart access to Pinehurst course No. 2.

“One of a kind” gets thrown around a lot in the real estate world, but Thistle Dhu really is a unique property. Fore!

Formal dining room
Formal dining


Walk-in closet


Summer house with hot tub
Summer house with hot