There was quite a bit of anticipation when Fazio, a North Carolina favorite son, got the nod to build his first course in Pinehurst to honor the Centennial Celebration of this golfing mecca. The course he designed easily met all those expectations. It is a spectacular but playable course meandering up and down through the tall pine trees and fresh water marshes. The course is panoramic-many sweeping downhill holes where you can clearly see all the challenges in front of you. Big segmented greens with good speed and breaks that will challenge your judgment as well as your execution. This is a thinking man’s golf course-approaching each hole with the right forethought can make a big difference on the scorecard.
Bunkering is plentiful but it is not overdone. Most greens are accessible from one angle on the front-so pay attention to position your ball properly for the most advantageous approach. The landing areas are always more generous than they appear-he often uses the change in elevation to mask the landing areas from view but if you look carefully at the yardage book you will see that he gives you plenty of room to play to. The greens have significant slope-many fall off to one side or the other. The shots into the greens need to take this into account to get your ball close enough for birdie opportunities.
The course starts out kindly enough with a sweeping downhill dogleg left that reminds me of the first at Spyglass Hill. The pace remains tepid for the next few holes until you reach the fourth which is a massive dogleg left par four which will change your mindset for the day. What follows the rest of the front side are a series of very technical holes that demand you control your roll out to avoid the adjacent trouble. The ninth is the angry sister of the fourth which it parallels in the opposite direction-big dogleg right with an uphill approach into a difficult green.
The back side starts quietly but from 11 through 13 you play a series of very difficult holes in an area where they turned a sand pit into a visually intimidating series of hazards. From here in the challenge rachets up considerably. The fourteenth is your classic warf style hole with water from tee to green on the left and a putting surface that seems to be hanging precariously above the water.
The last three holes work up and down the hillside that leads to the clubhouse. In all cases you are tempted to hit it farther than you need to-like the ending of the front side it is all about controlling your ball flight and positioning. The finishing hole brings you up the hill to rediscover the view of the clubhouse perched atop the hill. The cool one that is waiting for you in the bar will be eagerly anticipated.
He designed this to be a walking course-the greens and tees are in close proximity. Make sure you arrange for a caddie ahead of time-the experience is enhanced considerably taking this one in from ground level with some local advice.
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Architect: Tom Fazio (1996)
Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 72 6698 72.3 133
White 72 6302 70.2 130
(Click to see complete Pinehurst No. 8 hole-by-hole descriptions)