In the same vein as St Andrews, a golfer’s life isn’t complete until he has made the journey to play golf at Pinehurst. The entire experience is unique, from the lodgings to the golf and people. Bobby Jones is quoted saying, “There is something about Pinehurst that tops even the position which it naturally occupies as the St Andrews of United States golf. And that is the people that you find there, and play golf with, and exchange reminisces with – the hosts of Pinehurst, who always make you feel happily at home.”
Fredrick Law Olmstead, the designer of Central Park, laid out the village of Pinehurst. It is a unique place. I heard it described as “similar to Disneyland,” which is nearly spot on. The village is built with perfect storefronts, employees running off scripts, and shuttles moving guests from hotels to the spa and golf courses like clockwork. The only way to book tee times at Pinehurst over 24 hours in advance is to buy a package and stay at one of the resort’s four accommodation options.
I have been fortunate enough to visit Pinehurst and play Pinehurst No. 2 quite a few times while growing up in North Carolina. I was especially eager to play No. 2 on this first trip with my Dad since the 2011 restoration project by Coore & Crenshaw. The project has taken the course back to its original Donald Ross design. The project also reestablished the course’s unique connection to the St Andrews Old Course. Both designs use very large fairways and greens that shed balls into collection areas and hollows. There is no longer any rough on the course. “Natural areas” (waste bunkers full of tough grasses) now border the large fairways. The removal of the rough cut out 650 irrigation heads and exposed the sandy soil upon which the course was built.
To quote from Golf Club Atlas’s article on the course, “The intended consequence of Coore & Crenshaw’s removal of thirty-five acres of bermuda rough is that Pinehurst’s sandy floor once again shines through with No. 2 properly reflecting its environs of the Sandhills of Moore County. Predominantly found along coastlines, Pinehurst’s sandy soil is its ultimate trump card over virtually every inland course in America. Reinstating the course’s natural sandy qualities, rather than burying them beneath acres of bermuda rough, was a key objective to Coore & Crenshaw’s successful restoration project. Given that about 85% of the world’s top twenty-five courses are built on sand, overstating its virtues is impossible.”
The 1st hole on the course exhibits the wide fairways that will be found throughout the day. It also marks a golfer’s first encounter with Donald Ross’s diabolical greens. Pinehurst #2 is famous for the domed greens, and the first holes sets the tone. Hitting this green in regulation with a two putt makes for a great beginning to the round.
A smart play on the short dogleg right third hole is a hybrid or fairway wood short of the point at which the fairway narrows. This hole should be a birdie hole during the 2014 US Open, which will be played on #2. The Women’s US Open will be played the next week on the same course.
Hole #4 – 507 yards The par 5 4th has always been one of my favorites at Pinehurst. The hole has become easier since the fairway has become wider and is no longer guarded by thick rough. The green slopes from back to front, and being above the hole is dangerous in quick conditions.
Hole #5 – 436 yards The blind uphill tee shot on the 5th is difficult, but the true challenge lies in the approach to the heavily sloping green. Photos cannot do the slopes justice. The approach is an uphill shot, and, depending on the green, it can be nearly impossible to hold a shot. Large collection areas surround the green.
Hole #9 – 174 yardsThe difficult par 3 9th is visually intimidating off the tee, and would be even more so if golfers could see the extreme slope falling off the back of the green. The green is two tiered. A very difficult putt is left for those on the wrong level. If the greens are fast and firm during the 2014 US Open, this will be a very interesting hole to watch.
Hole #13 – 385 yardsThe 13th hole is unique on Pinehurst #2. It is a slight dogleg right with an elevated and heavily bunkered green. Long hitters should not hit drivers, and missing the green carries a heavy penalty.
Hole #14 – 479 yards Tee shots from the elevated 14th hole are fairly straightforward, but the green can be extremely difficult, depending on the pin position. One of the golfers in my group hit his approach shot slightly long and then found himself 5-6 feet below the green trying to flop his ball back up off a tight lie.
Hole #16 – 511 yardsThe only water found on #2 doesn’t really come into play for golfers if they choose their set of tees wisely. The 16th is a dogleg left par 5 and has always been another one of my favorite holes on the course. The hole is reachable and should create some drama during the US Open. The green is heavily bunkered, and, as with any well designed risk-reward par 5, a heavy penalty is to be paid for missing the green.
Hole #17 – 186 yardsThis hole has been the site of drama in previous US Opens played over Pinehurst #2, and it ranks as one of the stronger par 3s that I have played. The front pin seen in the photo above is one of the more inviting pins. I have to give a shout out to my Dad for a great birdie on this hole during our round.
Hole #18 – 415 yardsThe 18th is a strong uphill finishing hole. It is not unreasonably difficult, but missing the fairway leaves a tough and long shot into the sloping green. If you need to win your match on the 18th, hit the fairway and aim to have a short iron into the green. Anything over the green falls into a large collection area. This hole has its fair share of history, particularly the famous putt made by Payne Stewart to win the 1999 US Open over Phil Mickelson. His famous fist pump has lived on in infamy, not only at Pinehurst, but in all of golf. Pinehurst will always be one of my favorite golf destinations. In addition to eight green courses, the atmosphere of the village and surrounding area creates a unique and homey feeling. This quote from Tommy Armour sums up my thoughts very well. “The man who doesn’t feel emotionally stirred when he golfs at Pinehurst beneath those clear blue skies and with the pine fragrance in his nostrils is one who should be ruled out of golf for life.”