1 Carolina Vista Drive,
Village of Pinehurst,
North Carolina 28374,
- +1 910 295 6811
N edge of Pinehurst
Welcome book in advance
Pinehurst Resort & Country Club played host to the 1951 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Great Britain. Team Captains were Sam Snead (US) and Arthur Lacey (GB). Sam Snead often cited Pinehurst No.2 as his favourite course and the US Captain turned the event into a rout despite a rather bizarre interlude when the competition was suspended so that both teams could attend a football game. Arthur Lees spared the British embarrassment by scoring 2 points and Jimmy Demaret retired from Ryder Cup competition with the best unbeaten record (6-0-0) in event history. USA 9 ½ - GB 2 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at Ganton in 1949 and at Wentworth in 1953.
With more than 100 years of history and nine golf courses cleverly routed through 2,000 acres of North Carolina’s sandhills, you’ll need to schedule a little more time than usual to fully absorb the incredible Pinehurst experience.
Donald J. Ross made the trip from his native Scotland to America in 1899 with the objective of introducing the royal and ancient game to a burgeoning nation. Shortly after his arrival, James W. Tufts, the visionary behind the Pinehurst Resort, commissioned Ross and he stayed on at Pinehurst for a further 48 years.
In the early days, Pinehurst had a simple rudimentary 9-hole course but that was soon to change. Ross cut his golfing teeth at Royal Dornoch and their domed greens were soon to become his hallmark. Pinehurst No.2 opened for play in 1907 and its green sites are the ultimate test, legendary and quite unique. These average sized putting surfaces have been known to reduce a grown man to tears. With wicked fall offs around the edges, these greens are actually much smaller than they look and they will hold only the best or the luckiest approach shots. Vivid imagination and the finest skill are required to negotiate these greens in regulation.
So, is Pinehurst No.2 all about the greens? The short answer is no. No.2 course has a few world-class holes (5th, 9th and 16th) and as a complete course it has to be one of the most finely balanced and most difficult courses we have ever played. It’s no wonder it was the chosen venue for the 1999, 2005 and 2014 US Opens. And we’re sure many people will recall with affection Payne Stewart’s remarkable final hole putt, which secured the 1999 title.
“Americans, unlike the British, are not given to playing in the rain,” wrote Robert Trent Jones in The Complete Golfer, “but at Pinehurst they make what is perhaps their one exception. I dare say that more people play in the rain at Pinehurst than at any other golf course in America. In fact, if you have a wind-breaker and an umbrella, it’s a rather pleasant thing to do, because the sand underfoot makes for relatively dry walking. In the rain, the pine trees seem to glisten, making each hole an individual jewel.” Maybe playing in the rain at Pinehurst is not a bad idea... the greens will be more manageable perhaps?
The design firm of Coore and Crenshaw was engaged at Pinehurst with a brief to return the No.2 course to its 1930s sandy character. The renovation work was based on old aerial photographs, which included increasing fairway widths, removal of turf in the rough with sandy waste areas and numerous bunker modifications. The work started in spring 2010 and completed in 2011. The renovated Pinehurst No.2 staged the 2014 US Open and it proved to be a formidable test for all but one player. Martin Kaymer coasted to an eight-shot victory after shooting a pair of 65s in the opening two rounds, carding a 72-hole score of 271, the second lowest in U.S. Open history. Only three players finished the tournament under par.
Pinehurst Resort is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
WOW! Pinehurst as a whole is fantastic but playing #2 on a Sunday with the Payne Stewart pin placement is incredible. Walking down the hallway towards the pro shop is one of my favorites. The members porch over looking the 18th green is so much fun (if your lucky to be with a member). The history of the game and hallowed ground feeling is unmatched in the US. The layout and conditions are top notch. Would highly recommend a trip to Pinehurst.
One of the best walks in golf. Pinehurst No. 2 has an atmosphere that not many other courses in the world can match. It feels like you are playing in a museum, it is timeless.
Ross made great use of the subtleties of the terrain and used the natural sand base of the course to create some of the most famous hazards in the world, which line every fairway. It is a shame that they were covered for decades, but with the recent Coore & Crenshaw restoration No. 2 was brought back to its Golden Age glory.
Obviously, the focus of the course is around the green complexes, which live up to the hype and all the stories told. They always run extremely fast and true, and I found that they punished approach shots more than short shots around the greens.
Favorite Hole: #4
Other Notables: #7, #16, #18
Ross masterpiece. A classic old time golf course with modern defenses. Bring your short game!! Green complexes are extreme!
Pinehurst no 2 is the flagship for Pinehurst Resort, and the most famous of its courses. It was designed by Donald Ross, but undertook a major facelift in 2011 when Coore & Crenshaw undertook a year long renovation to revert the course back to the original Donald Ross design concept. The course now looks and feels like Ross had imagined it. And it is a terrific test of golf, with the main defence being the beautifully groomed crowned greens. A shot just feet from your target can trickle off the green in positions that test even the best of short games.
I had the pleasure of playing no. 2 on the same day as the North South amateur event reached its final stages, and the course was set up with final day US Open pins and had greens running at 12-13 on the stimp. You may realise that the greens are crowned, but I can tell you that there are humps, bumps and ridges running through these greens as well, and those final day pins positions are diabolical!
As a general rule finding the fairway at no 2 is not too challenging- the real challenge begins in caressing the approach shots into central positions on the green and keeping it there, while giving you a good look at the flag. There are some challenging putts for sure, but the greens are pure and when you get the pace they are playable. But you have to be very good to hit approach shots accurately enough to keep hitting and staying on greens, and very, very good to recover when you inevitably miss a green.
And those US Open pins add another dimension in difficulty... The back left pin on hole 5 was so difficult it had us shaking our heads in disbelief. There just appeared no way for mere mortals to get near the flag and stay on the green...
Notable holes include:
- the short par 4 third hole with bunkers challenging the tee shot and a severe green demanding an accurate approach.
- the long challenging par 4 fourth hole down and up through a valley
- the par 5 fifth hole with dramatic green complex
- the par 3 ninth hole, which is picturesque but demands an accurate short/mid iron to a lovely natural green.
- the par 5 sixteenth hole, with hazards at every turn
- the par 3 seventeenth is a longer one shotter and requires the approach to carry a deep front bunker that covers the front right of the green. If the flag is on the right side of the green behind that bunker it will require a brave shot in, or a trying putt if you take the safe approach to the left of the green.
- the par 4 closing hole is well known, and a thrill to play. It requires two well executed shots and your job is done.. It's a great way to finish.
All golfers will want to play Pinehurst no 2. It is a real test of golfing skill. The good news is that you will very probably not lose a ball!. On the other hand it is also very likely that you will not score very well at all if it is your first time around.
I came away with two thoughts:
1.After playing the course 3 times over a period, I would like to play the course again fresh with a little more experience and course knowledge on my side, and
2. I am in awe of the skill level of the professionals who play this course off the back tees, and manage to put together a score day after day.
These guys are good!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
I have played Pinehurst #2 three times and every time my appreciation grows for the course. I first played it on September 30, 1989 before the restoration by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, then on December 11, 2017 and most recently on May 29. 2020.
I do believe this to be the masterpiece work of Donald Ross, edging out Seminole and a few others. Although Mr. Ross was a prolific designer, when he had good ground he made the most of it. The land that Pinehurst #2 is on is not the best land other than the 30 feet of sand for good drainage and bunkering, yet it does have areas of lower and higher ground. The highest point of the land is the location of the clubhouse, so if one is somehow able to remember where that sits in relationship to a putt on the green, it might come in handy.
When I played it in 1989 it was the day of the annual caddie tournament so there were no teeing options. One had to play the tees laid out, which were just under 7000 yards. That day I recall the light drizzle to a decent rain that was present for the entirety of our round. I was not as impressed with the parkland course at the time, other than those magnificent greens. I walked away only remembering the greens and thick rough but only a somewhat dim memory of the course other than the fabulous fifth and thirteenth holes.
I consider the greens at Pinehurst #2 to be the finest in the USA, perhaps the world. Despite their size, and they are often appear very large, there is rarely an easy putt both in break and pace. It is perhaps the hardest course to putt without the advice of a good, knowledgeable caddie. Perhaps even more difficult is hitting the greens and having a ball stay on them or release to a desired area. The greens have high fall-offs, swales, depressions, spines and breaks in all directions. Therefore, what might look like a large green is actually reduced to half of the size. It is not uncommon to putt balls off of the greens or have a relatively short pitch or chip that will go through the green or not go anywhere near where one thinks it will. Options are available to recover near the greens through putting, chipping into a bank or onto the surface, trying to get a ball to check, or get a ball to roll out. There are always options near the greens with a decision to be made and then one simply must have confidence in their game to commit and execute a recovery shot.
I know of no other course in the world where the short game is as important as it is at Pinehurst #2.
When I returned in 2017 I walked away thinking that the course designed by Mr. Ross no longer existed, that instead it had become a Coore/Crenshaw course because it looks so much like what they would do, other than some of the “taller” raised greens. But now after having played it again, and having looked at photos of how it was built from the 1940’s, I consider it to be a fairly true restoration except for one part. The greens, after decades of top-dressing, are crowned perhaps as many as two feet higher than were built. Perhaps pictures of what was built are deceiving, but many locals “swear” it to be the case.
I very much like and admire the golf course and do not completely understand why some people consider too many of the holes to look similar. I think the holes look different unless one is simply stating at a high level there is sand or taller wire grass in sandy areas right and left off the tee, and pine trees to either side. Certainly the placement of fairway bunkers, length of the hole, and the greenside bunkers make each hole look different, especially when one considers the shape and size of the bunkers.
The greens are very different to each hole.
The tall, thick rough that was present during my first round in 1989 is now gone. There is grass on the fairway and greens. The previous “rough” has been replaced by sand, pine straw, and the tall, wispy wire grass off of the fairways in the sandy areas. Mr. Coore and Mr. Crenshaw did a masterful job of returning to the course to its “roots,” where the sand is ever visible and often is where one plays from despite the wide fairways. Many times in both 2017 and 2020 either my ball or one of my playing partners, in attempting to hit a recovery shot to a certain part of the fairway, found the ball running much farther than intended ending up in the sandy ground or in a bunker. Sometimes 50 yard wide fairways need to be 60 yards.
The course also reminds me of both Merion East and the Old course at St. Andrews in that the bunkers often come into the fairway dictating the line of play. Despite those wide fairways, due to both those protruding fairway bunkers and the contours surrounding and on the greens, Pinehurst #2 becomes a course where angles are very important. The course is long, yet one’s score on this course is going to be determined by how they come into the green and then what happens once one is on the green.
We had a bad weather day this time. We were supposed to play #4 but a thunderstorm of almost biblical proportions started three hours before our tee time. We switched our days for each round as well as times. Instead of teeing off on #4 at 10:50, we went off on #2 at 1:50. There had already been two inches of rain and many bunkers had become small ponds. Once the rain stopped, there was a ninety-minute rain delay which we used to play the Cradle. Once we started our round on #2, we played three holes before the heavens opened up again with heavy rains and thunder/lightening. One of my friends gave up and went in while the remaining three joined others at a shelter at the fifth tee for a 50-minute rain delay. In total, there was just over 3 inches of rain that day. However, by the time we made our way back to the fourth tee, the rain had stopped and the sun eventually came out, leaving behind a wet course playing much longer than the yardage as well as even bigger ponds in the bunkers. Anyone hitting into a bunker with a pond was unable to find the ball given the depth of the water. Instead we declared no penalty and a free drop.
I like everything about Pinehurst #2 and do believe it is certainly a top 100 World course, as high as in the top 50.
We played the white tees given the rain after considering a set of combo tees. The U.S. Open tees are 7588 yards, par 70, and rated 76.5/138. The Blue tees are 6961 yards, par 72 and rated 73.7/133. The White tees are 6307 yards, par 72 and rated 70.7/126.
The round is slow here due to the difficulty of the greens. Expect a round between 4:20 and 5:45 (per my caddie). At 5:45 I would likely walk off the course never to return no matter how good a golf course is. There are no rangers to speed up play. The group ahead of us played the blue tees so I had a chance to watch them. Their tee shots ranged generally from 275 to 300 yards. Yes, they were slow players but thankfully only added about half a hour to our round. As is typical in a group like this, there is always one person who takes too long on the green being unprepared for their turn, and then dallying to the next green. I call these people “pros” who think “people want to be me.”
As I thought about the course changing almost 600 yards longer from the first time I played it to now, I admit to being dismayed about what this means for the future of golf. I do not yet have the answers but simply know that I feel very disconnected to the professional game except at the green site. While I marvel at the length the top professionals can hit a tee shot, especially on courses that can run firm and fast, I do worry about the cost of building and maintain these courses, as well as what it means for the length of time to play a round.
1 – par 4 402/393/376. A wide fairway greets the player with the longer hitters wanting to come in from the right side as the green is angled right to left, raised higher at the back. There is a 5 feet long, bunker on the left side. The “sandy” area begins at about 225 yards with a single bunker on the right about 30 yards short of the green. From 175 yards I hit what I thought was an excellent shot to near the center of the green with a back right pin. Once on the green I saw I was only about 15 feet on and had a 60 feet putt to a green that is also fairly narrow. I did manage to successfully two putt, making the second from 3 feet right. The first hole wakes one up immediately with regards to what to expect from future greens.
2 – par 4 507/439/411. The sandy areas and very much in play on both sides off the tee with a green angled left to right, the opposite of the first. This time one wants to play in from the right. The green has substantial fall-offs to either side and rear. There is a large, raised bunker about 70 yards from the green on the left that can come into play for the longer hitter playing too far up. On the right there are two large, deep bunkers right of the green about 15 yards short. This fairway has some wonderful contours in it, almost like little plateaus that can result in a ball ending up in an unexpected position. This is a very difficult green to hold due to the crowned nature making this green act about 1/3 its size. Shots hit either too short into the bank or slightly too long will not find the green with the right side having a longer slope off the green with the higher left side being very difficult to come back onto the green and hold it.
3 – par 4 387/350/330. Perhaps the weakest hole on the golf course, yet the sandy area of wire grass and pine straw is evident on both sides as well as the trees. There is a large, deep protruding bunker coming in from the right about 220 yards off the tee that cuts the fairway to half of its size. At the green there is a large bunker fronting it and a slightly smaller one on the right as well as one on the left. This is another crowned green that is placed off to the right making the left side of the fairway the desired side to come in. The green has a pronounced back to front and left to right slope. Going off of the back of the green will face an even higher “wall” of green to run up, chip up, or pitch onto without the ball going far past the pin.
4 – 529/474/434. The first time I played #2, I felt this to be one of the prettiest, yet weakest holes on the course as it was then a shorter, downhill par 5. Now it is a par 4. It is amazing how changing par on a hole changes one’s mindset when one tries to make a par, rather than trying to make a score. This is now one of the better holes on the golf course, due to the excellent visual of the fairway falling some 30-40 feet below you. The right side is a long waste, sandy area with staggered bunkers while a large and deep bunker awaits on the left. The hole turns to the left with additional deep, long bunkers flanking the fairway on either side. The green is angled left to right with higher ground at the back and right, yet will fall-offs here as well. The green is rumpled, tilted overall right to left and back to front. It is the most attractive green site on the course. For me, this went from one of the weakest holes on the course to possibly the best hole.
5 – 576/508/462. After my first visit, I thought this hole, then a par 4, to be the best hole on the course due to its combination of length, the location of the green set off to the left. The green is certainly one of the more terrifying as the left side is sharply sloped to take a ball into the deep bunker on the front left. One must hit the center right of the green and hopefully not miss too far to the right to a pin anywhere left center. As a par 5, the challenges remain at the green but now one has an extra shot to try to accomplish par. It makes the hole “feel” easier, even if it is the same score one might normally get. Playing the fourth and fifth in nine shots is always a good score for better players. For players of my ability, playing it in ten shots is acceptable and even eleven shots should not break one’s spirit for the remainder of the round. This hole is uphill all the way, getting back close to the higher ground of the fourth tee. Off to the left of the fairway is the widest area of waste/sand area on the course. The very wide fairway tilts to the left leading to a hook stance for many, which is the preferred line to attack the hole because I believe the ball coming into the green has a better chance of staying away from that left side of the green. While the left side of the fairway leads to a semi-blind view of the green with the right side offering what seems to be a good angle and view of the green, I think the right side can bring a more difficult approach shot. There are two bunkers right of the green that have to be avoided unless the pin is in the back right of the green. There are two bunkers left of the green, the first one beginning about 40 yards from the front and the second one being the deep one that actually is not a bad place to miss. It is a genius green complex because it is crowned throughout. About 40% of this green is what is puttable, the rest is likely going to lead to a ball going off the green. In my three rounds here, I have parred the hole each time (4,5,5) which is my biggest accomplishment on the course.
6 – 242/203/178. The first par 3 is a good one, although not the best on the course. It is defined by a green with a substantial false front, lots of undulations and large bunkers left and right with a smaller bunker as well on the right. Visually, this is a “plain” hole until you arrive at the green and you see how crowned it is.
7 – 424/393/385. This sharp dogleg right allows the biggest hitters to try to carry the dogleg although the fairway narrows at the turn. There are three raised bunkers on the right side to carry as well with a ball landing in them likely to get close to the sharply raised faces. At the green there are three bunkers left and one on the right with the one on the right being bigger than the three left combined. This is one of the easier greens on the course and one of the real opportunities for a birdie or par.
8 – 502/469/440. The fairway snakes on this long par 4 although it is essentially a straight hole. This hole has two bunkers well short of the green on the left and a single one set back from the front of the green on the right. This green is smaller at the front then widens. There is a substantial fall-off on the left side and back of the green. It is a good hole but the primary difficulty is in its length, the fall-offs, and the back to front speedy green. It other words, there is a lot of challenge to the hole.
9 – 191/174/148. From an elevated tee, one hits down over a valley to a green that is raised with a substantial penalty for being short. There is a large bunker on the front left, another front right and the most difficult bunker is back of the green. The bunker in front can lead to a blind recovery shot as it is about seven feet deep. This green tilts back to front and left to right with various shelves and depressions in it. This green is wide, but shallow. This green has tremendous breaks in it. The back left plateau has less break but is very small while the center right side has substantial slope and speed. I consider this to be the second-best par 3 on the course as it is visually attractive, challenging, yet fair.
10 – 617/580/455. We played this one at 580 as we felt 455 to be too much of a break from the intent of a challenging par 5. It is basically a straight hole yet a fairway cross bunker on the left converts it into a dogleg left. The two sets of back tees have a long, uphill forced carry. This is a narrower fairway with staggered, deep bunkers on the left and two bunkers grouped together on the right. The second bunker left changes the angle into the green making the shot into the green become a dogleg left. A mound on the right in the waste area makes a recovery shot play difficult. There are flanking bunkers at the front of the green which is sharply raised going from front to back with various spines in it. The back of the green falls off sharply due to the rise. I found this green to be one of the most difficult to read both for pace and slope. For me, this is the second best par 5 on the course.
11 – 483/455/375. This hole has another green set off to the right that is fronted by a small mound on the right. There is a single small bunker on the right and two on the left. This hole plays as a dogleg right given the location of the green. The green is slightly raised, feels large for the length of the hole, with the caddie telling me this is one of the more difficult greens on the course even if it did not look like it. The slight false front on the right is difficult to judge a putt off of the green.
12 – 484/419/360. The one bit of “sameness” I saw to the golf course is with the eleventh and twelfth holes as both have green set off to the right, even if the greens are very different. There are three bunkers down the left and then two on the left and one hard against the right side. The second set of left bunkers narrow the fairway and become a navigational issue. The green is crowned with substantial movement making the green play about half of its size. The route into the green, much like the previous hole is down the left center of the fairway but I did not find it overly difficult coming in from the left if one can hit a high approach shot. From the 419/360 tees I feel this is the weakest hole on the golf course.
13 – 385/375/358. I love this hole with its dramatically elevated green set atop a hill. This hole seems to play as a double dogleg but if one plays straight they will be fine. The right side of the fairway offers the better line into the green. There is a large bunker front left and then three narrower, bunkers set below the green on the right side. The approach shot is blind to this green which is very sloped and undulated. Missing long over the green is the preferred miss and likely as the green is not very deep. The front of the green falls off sharply. This is my favorite hole on the course.
14 – 473/433/419. The view from the elevated tee is nearly as good as the one from the fourth tee. This longer hole is a gem and for me is the second-best set of consecutive holes on the course with the fourth-fifth being the best consecutive holes. I consider this to be one of the top five holes on the course. The waste area to the right is wide. For the longer hitters, a bunker on the left narrows the fairway and leads to a difficult recovery shot. There are two bunkers left and one right, all 70-20 yards in front of the green that must be avoided. A single bunker is right of the green. This green is more crowned than it appears from the fairway and is another one that is difficult to hold unless you find the small middle of the green.
15 – 202/183/170. Large, long bunkers are on either side of this green which offers another false front and roll-offs as it is crowned. Once on the green, this is the easiest green to read and one that should not be a potential three putt.
16 – 528/513/478. We really did not get to play the hole the way we wanted given the flooding that increased the size of the pond by about 40% eating into the fairway. Normally there is about a 200 yard carry from the 513 tee but in our case it was 235 yards with only a sliver of the fairway near the tree line on the right available to an average length hitter. Following the pond is a large, deep bunker with a severe face on the left side which the longer hitters must avoid. The hole then falls downhill with another bunker coming in from the left to a valley fronting the green with three bunkers right and one left followed by one at the rear. That second left bunker is somewhat hidden as is in placed below the ground level. The three bunkers on the right snake back and forth with the farther right one is in them the lower the probability of a successful recovery. This green has tiers to it and small plateaus in it. The first two times I played the hole I dismissed it as the least of the par 5’s but I consider it a good hole.
17 – 205/185/162. This green complex has all sorts of eye candy surrounding it due to the prevalence of bunkers. The green plays as a slight redan from back right to front left with a rear bunker. It is a good hole but not in class of the other par 3’s.
18 – 451/415/366. The uphill finishing hole plays as a dogleg left with a large and very deep bunker complex on the right side. If in them, you will have a blind shot as you will be seven-eight feet below the surface. The green has a large and deep fronting bunker, a large bunker left and a small one on the right. The green has everything – a false front, a middle swale, smaller plateaus, a large fall-off left, right and back. For me, the miss is to the right side where one can putt a ball onto the green. This is a speedy green if one is above the hole. The only negative to the hole is the size of the massive clubhouse which can be distracting yet it is also fun to have others watching how one does. I got up and down with a putter to a back right pin up a steep slope from 10 yards right of the green and received some scattered applause.
I really like Pinehurst #2 and appreciate it more every time I play it. I hope to play it sometime when the weather is excellent.
Pinehurst #2 has the most interesting green complexes in the USA and the routing leads to a good variety of holes. While there are several “flat” holes, there are numerous holes with elevation changes such as #4, #5, #13, #14 and #18.
For me this is easily a top 100 golf course in the world and one that should be played regardless of the fee.
A fantastic experience that i cannot imagine anyone regretting and quite an accessible place to play. Amazing greens and a lot of places to recover from not such great shots. Clubhouse with a lot of history and great feel. I never hear this course mentioned as a Top 10-20 and I don't think of it either in the vein but i really am not sure why. Id put it up there as one of the top few places to play with a group of buddies who want great golf and a really enjoyable experience.
I could go into detail on every hole, but I won't bore you. When I played it I loved every second of it. It is fun, it is tough, but you won't lose any balls and you'll always have a shot. You can't play it expecting to shoot your handicap, but you just need to enjoy it, which it's impossible not to.
The fairways are firm but relatively flat, so you won't find your ball bouncing sideways into the sand. The greens are firm and fast, and if you don't hit the middle of the green then your ball will roll off. I have never played a course than plays so well.
My only criticism is some holes are quite similar, but that can only be said for 2 or 3 of them. It's an experience unlike any other, and the best part is, it's public! Anyone can play here, and when you're in the area, make sure you play Mid Pines, Pine Needles and Tobacco Road!
With all of the excellent information provided by reviewers below, I thought I would deviate from my normal pattern of discuss standout holes and instead elaborate on what I call the “secret sauce” at Pinehurst #2. I wholeheartedly agree with James Ward’s comment that it is unfair to rate Pinehurst #2 after just one round. The genius in the course becomes evident after a few loops.
Many writers inaccurately describe Pinehurst #2 as being “classic Ross,” when in fact, the course was unique from virtually any other of his designs. For starters, since he lived off of the third hole for large portions of the year, Ross spent significant time tinkering with the design in a way that he never could at his nearly 400+ other courses. Additionally, the course had sand greens until just a few years before his death, so the development of the greens we see today actually came later in his career. Finally, it is worth mentioning that there are far better tracts of land for golf in the Sandhills, even at Pinehurst resort. Similar to his other designs, though, Ross’ genius as a router shined through here. Pinehurst #2, in effect, has influence from the early, middle, and late Donald Ross, making it a unique architectural masterpiece.
What then, are the subtleties that make Pinehurst #2 so wonderful?
Perhaps the most important, in my opinion, is Ross’ artistry in the visualization of each hole. In theory, there are four types of golf holes. Easy holes that look easy, hard holes that look hard, easy holes that look hard, and hard holes that look easy. From an architecture standpoint, many modern architects have tended toward the prior categories, and quite frankly, this is not difficult to accomplish (think about the 18th at TPC Sawgrass – a hard hole that looks very hard). It takes true skill, however, to accomplish the latter two categories, and Ross does it exceptionally well with deceptive holes at Pinehurst #2.
Take, for example, the 3rd and 13th holes. Shorter par fours with fairly wide fairways, each of these holes seem to be relatively straightforward from the tee. This could not be farther from the truth. Going for the greens with a driver, if possible, can lead to big numbers if missed on the incorrect side. Furthermore, hitting a proper yardage is critical as each green is extremely severe. I once laid up to the middle of the 13th fairway and had roughly 145 yards into the green. Between clubs, I accidentally hit my approach just slightly off the back right. I walked away with a snowman!
Conversely, Ross actually provides wonderful options on shots that seem nearly impossible. Take for instance, the 5th hole. Though it is now played a par five, I will always consider it one of the greatest par fours in the world. A properly placed tee shot will leave a sidehill-downhill lie to a green that can devilishly reject shots. However, on this very compelling piece of the property, Ross leaves an opening to approach the green from the right side. While the approach may appear near impossible to stop on the green from the sidehill-downhill fairway lie, it actually is not so complex if you hit a low running draw (or lefty fade), the natural shot shape from the lie anyway.
The other components of the secret sauce which make this visual intimidation strategy possible, then, are width, firm playing conditions, and short grass. The game at Pinehurst is meant to be played on the ground in many places. With this in mind, having wide playing corridors to emphasize attack angle into the green is essential. Making a player think about bouncing a ball in and avoiding bunkers that cut into the putting surface is beguiling. In a world dominated by narrow fairways and lush Bermuda rough, Pinehurst #2 is a reprieve that honors the history of our sport. Even the best players must carefully consider tee shots as firm, short grass often runs off into wiregrass waste areas.
Pinehurst #2’s routing favors no one, and the variety from tee to green in terms of direction and length is simply outstanding. While one may be quick to judge the property after their first visit, I would urge anyone to give the course another chance. It may be one of, if not the most playable major venue on a day-to-day basis for amateurs out there, yet still offer incredible challenge to the world’s best. This combination, reflecting the entire lifetime of Donald Ross’ style and work, is one-of-a-kind.
What a golf course with the original Ross design being brought back to life by the talented Coore and Crenshaw partnership. the fairways are fast running and not too difficult to find and if you do run off into the pine needles you stand a good chance of having a shot into the green but that is the real test of this course hitting an upturned saucer green which is firm and fast is a real challenge and your clubbing will need to be spot on. I took a caddy and definitely benefited from his insights and green reading skills.
My No. 2 experience was probably different than many among the patrons of this site, but that unfortunately means I am rating it as such. I only played the course once, well prior to the Coore & Crenshaw reconstruction when fairways were enlarged and rough was eliminated in favor of sandy natural areas. At that time, it played like a parkland-style layout, rather than its more appropriate current state; on top of that, the rough areas weren’t fully grown in during the time of year I played, leading to some inconsistent lies. Often, balls way off line in the rough proved to be sitting better than those which barely missed the very narrow fairways. That made the course feel quite unfair, increasing the frustration throughout the round. Additionally, I was surprised at how little elevation change there was, for a course that was purported to be in the “sand hills” of North Carolina.
The only positive was that the greens were their typical selves, leading to some interesting shots thanks to the firmness of the turf. I recall putting from off the green about as much as I had anywhere to that point in my life. However, due to the lack of interest in the rest of the aspects of the course, it felt like it all bled together a bit. In fact, I only remember a handful of individual holes - #5, a par five which caused me extreme angst due to multiple good shots bouncing into thick pieces of bermuda rough less than a foot off the left side of the fairway, and #11-14, a series of solid par fours navigating the hillier portions of the site.
I look forward to someday returning to No. 2; doing so will likely change my view of it as the recent renovations look awesome. That said, to this point it’s probably the most disappointing and unmemorable course I’ve played compared to its reputation.
Played March 31, 1999
A little bothered by this writeup, Jeff. I've met many golfers who have come away disappointed from No. 2, so that's not so much the issue. But by acknowledging that you're reviewing the course as it stood during 1999—and not the acclaimed renovation you mentioned—you undercut the relevance of your argument. The rankings attached above to this course—NC, USA, World—are tied to its identity circa 2018. You're typically a well-spoken reviewer, so I wouldn't question your logic in the least if the circumstances were fair. Here instead I question the ethics of your review, not so much the content. If you decide to storm out of the house and play No. 2 tomorrow, just to spite me by confirming your 1999 thoughts, so be it!
Jeff: I read your review of Pinehurst #2 via your one time visit -- and that such a visit took place prior to the Crenshaw / Coore updating. Frankly, many proponents of #2, including myself, said as much when Pinehurst was under the control of Diamond Head then. But, that is truly old news.
I sincerely appreciate your comments at the end of your review in looking forward to returning.
You need to return and see firsthand what's there now. Candidly, people who have come to #2 and play only once or even twice cannot fathom what makes the layout so incredibly fascinating. #2 is akin to The Old Course at St. Andrews. Limited exposure likely means not fathoming all the subtle nuances that impact one's play. The simplicity that many people decry is really masking the complexity that lies at the heart of the Ross gem.
Appreciate the feedback, guys. Admittedly, I did consider not reviewing due to the differences between my round and the course's current state, but came down on the side of reviewing as the site's review guidelines did not specify anything about reviewing the current or recent state of a course.
As I see it, a review is a review and a ranking is a ranking - and the two are distinct. While the site's rankings do tie to the course's current identity, as Ryan cites, a user's individual review reflects his/her own experience on a course. I wrote the review honestly with full disclosure of the time frame, so it's up to the editors of the site to determine whether that experience should be considered towards the overall course ranking; I would be the first to agree that it shouldn't go towards any rankings. However, that decision shouldn't negate my experience on the course, which was underwhelming.
I think the easy answer is that I definitely need to play No. 2 again, preferably more than once. Now who's going to sponsor my $400 greens fee and convince my wife that I'll be gone for few days? ;)