Aptly described by reviewer Colin Braithwaite below, the Rees Jones designed Pinehurst #7 course is “newer” with a “throwback feel.” With many holes incorporating hilly terrain and the natural sandscape, challenges await players of all skill levels. The course presents a strong mix of half-par holes with risk and reward opportunities, and the many multi-tiered putting surfaces were intriguing. Those holes which stood out most to me include:
• #1: With a large dip in the driving zone, Rees did a great job at implementing visual deception from the first tee shot. The best angle into the green is from the left side of the fairway, but with the natural tilt of the land, it can be difficult to keep your approach there.
• #4: This dogleg right plays over the crest of a hill and requires shot shaping from the tee to avoid a series of deep bunkers. Missing this green right forces a very tough up-and-down from a steep hollow.
• #10: The “turn” at Pinehurst #7 is an especially fitting moniker. This tee shot plays downhill to a fairway that both twists in an crooked shape, and is canted from right to left. The best angle into the green is from the left side of the fairway, and drives can chase here if the player uses the natural slope of the land. From there, the approach is uphill to a two-tiered, deep green complex.
• #12: The twelfth hole at Pinehurst #7 is one of my favorite holes in the Sandhills, let alone on this golf course, as options abound on every single shot. Off the tee, players must avoid being too conservative with a series of bunkers on the right, but cannot get too greedy down the left with more bunkers and thick woods. This guarded left side provides the best potential opportunity of reaching the green in two. From the fairway, it appears there is significant room to the right, but be warned, any shot that misses the green right is totally dead. I found this out the hard way, from the right greenside bunker. Whether hitting from tight fairway, wiregrass, or a bunker, the green is almost certainly too shallow to hit from the right. Instead, on the second shot, players should favor the left side and use the natural slope as a backstop on their lay-up. The putting surface is banked beautifully into a hillside and a false front can reject any short shot back into the fairway. With interesting topography, strategic sand placement, and width, the twelfth is a hole that will never grow old.
• #14 & #15: Playing along the same hill, players can utilize the tilt of the land to position their drives into these guarded green complexes.
• #16: Requiring a well-flighted shot over a massive waste area, the par three sixteenth was a true standout. Using a mid or long iron, this all carry tee shot must find a complex, fascinating green with a dip running through the center portion and two banking tiers.
• #17: With dry conditions, big drives are possible at the severely downhill seventeenth. If you are playing from the proper tees, one must also be careful about the swamp bisecting the fairway. On the approach, one must hit a high, aerial shot over the hazard and bunkers to a perched complex – a very difficult, natural challenge.
• #18: Wide landing areas welcome conservative tee shots and approaches on the finisher, while difficulties await the more aggressive golfer. The latter must avoid out-of-bounds and a large bunker off the tee, and must not go long off a downhill lie on the approach so as to avoid a lake beyond the green complex.
These elements and many more left me feeling very positive about Pinehurst #7. While the course was certainly quite difficult, the challenges seemed fair and balanced overall with more moderate holes mixed in among the brutes.
In my opinion, there were only two small drawbacks to the architecture presented at the #7 course. First, on six holes, the best line of attack off the tee is to avoid fairway flanking bunkers. This seems like a missed opportunity – should the player not have to challenge those hazards for the best angle into the green? Second, on five holes, one faces a downhill tee shot to an uphill landing area. Many more holes also play to an uphill green. For that reason, while the total yardage of the course is standard, it plays significantly longer as drives hit upslopes and have no run. This frequently downhill/uphill pattern becomes repetitive at points.
Despite this, I would rate Pinehurst #7 as a solid Sandhills option. I prefer #7 to courses #1, #3, and #5, and consider it an equal to #9. The golf course follows the topography well to create challenge, opportunity, and strategic interest.
Date: May 27, 2020