Pinehurst is one of the true meccas of golf in America and Donald Ross’s Pinehurst #2 is the signature hood mount for this place. He stands as one of the most heralded American golf course architects of his time and this course is the one all point to when they try to characterize the style of course design Ross ascribed to. Having played a number of his courses I can only agree that in this one he seemed to best orchestrate the subtle brilliance he brought to golf course design. The course is playable, challenging, and thought provoking-what more can you ask for in an afternoon’s walk.
The main facility here is also a treasure-take the time to walk the hallways and peruse the memorabilia hanging throughout. Over the last century there have been countless men’s and women’s championships played on Pinehurst #2-the North/South Amateurs, North/South Opens, PGA Championship, Ryder Cup, Tour Championship, and the U.S. Amateurs to name a few. The greatest players in play the game have won here and the plaques in the hallway outside the Donald Ross grill include names like Francis Ouimet, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III, Curtis Strange, Glenna Collett Vare, Dorothy Campbell Hurd, Louise Suggs, Babe Zaharias, Hollis Stacy and Morgan Pressel.
The course has recently hosted two men’s U.S. Open’s with great resolve-the iconic victory by Payne Stewart in 1999 and the Michael Campbell’s win in 2005-the winning scores were one under and even par respectively. Both the men’s and women’s U.S. Open will be played on this course in 2014 in a rare major doubleheader. In preparation for that event they hired Ben Crenshaw’s design team and have spent considerable dollars bringing back the original Donald Ross character of sand and scrub rough throughout course that had been replaced by thick Bermuda rough for the previous majors. This reversion gives the course a more signature look and probably plays just as difficult for most of us.
When it comes to the course itself, probably the most distinctive thing I can say is that the course is really lacks any visual distinction. Other than the crowned greens that everybody talks about, it is just another pine needle haven in the sandhills of North Carolina. There are very few holes that visually stand out-in fact, in thinking back over the round, it is often difficult to sort the holes out from one another in your mind. There is only one water hazard on the course and it is barely in play and very little out of bounds that is close to the playing area. You are likely to play the entire round with the same ball but it is likely to take plenty it’s share of verbal abuse. The brilliance of this layout is it’s stunning subtlety. It never threatens you with overt disaster but rather lulls you into submission like those Sirens whose voices seem so sweet but always lead you to dire consequences you never expected. If you do not pay attention to every detail-heed every piece of advice in the yardage book or from the caddies knowledge base you will continually pay the price and be dope slapping yourself all the way around this place.
You do get the full measure of the Donald Ross formula here-once he completed the original in 1907 he spent much of the next 50 years tinkering with it so it truly represents his tactical thinking in course architecture. The driving areas adequate but not overly generous-usually flanked by fairway bunkers you want to avoid or that combination of tall pines and sand and scrub rough. Positioning off the tee is critical-on almost every hole there is a position from which playing the shot into the green is much easier. Being macho will get you nowhere out here-being tactical will derive rewards.
The green complexes are what really hold people’s attention-raised turtle back greens with falloff shoulders tightly guarded by deep bunkering or grassy hollows below the putting surface. What makes this so unusual is that the green contours and shouldering really decrease the target area of the green considerably so you approach shots have to be very precise to stay on the putting surface. If you miss the green, that is when the real fun begins. One overall suggestion is leave the L-club in the trunk. Most of your affective plays around the green will be made with lower loft clubs keeping the ball close to the ground. Be open minded to the shots you hit around the greens because you will be amazed how creative thinking can get you much better results than the obvious one third in the air-two thirds on the ground formula. It will take a few holes to get used to this approach but by the middle of the round you should get it and you will find your percentages of up and downs improve as a result. When you get back home and pull off one of these shots in front of friends you can brag that it was just a piece of memorabilia you brought back from Number Two.
This is a course that must be walked to be totally appreciated-plus the caddie’s insight will make the course much more playable. It is well worth the premium to take this one in on the ground. Once you have played this you may not remember the details of the holes but you will never forget the Pinehurst #2 experience. Once Donald Ross gets into you head and he never leaves.
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Architect: Donald Ross (1907)
Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 72 6767 73.1 133
White 72 6298 70.9 126