Unveiled as the National Golf Club in 1989, the original Jack Nicklaus-designed layout was renovated by the 18-time major champion in 2012. The facility was acquired by Pinehurst in 2014 and renamed the No. 9 course, adding the Golden Bear to the stellar list of architects in the resort’s portfolio.
On a recent trip to the Sandhills, I had the great fortune of playing Pinehurst #9, formerly the National, for the first time. The staff greeting was warm from the moment we drove through the gate, and even on the entryway, one could tell the round would feature some heavily rolling topography.
As mentioned by previous reviewers, the course favors those players with a left-to-right shot type. However, even with all of the dogleg rights, there was strong diversity otherwise, including a mix of wide/narrow, types of hazards, how the holes fit over natural landforms, and what side of the fairway was optimal. At first glance, the putting surfaces seemed rather small, but because the greens were bentgrass, I found them to be quite receptive. The oblong shapes and severe tiers on the putting surfaces added interest not just when putting, but also on the approach shots.
Many holes at #9 are standouts, including:
• #4: After emerging from three very narrow opening holes, the vista at the fourth is a warm welcome to anyone who sprays the ball like me! The tee shot, though flanked by a pond right, provides quite a bit of width. Furthermore, players can use the naturally contoured slope on the left to run balls back into the fairway. The approach shot is marvelous. Two bunkers bisect the ideal landing zone diagonally. While there is more room to the left, this side provides a horrific angle into a difficult, perched, L-shaped putting surface. The best play is ideally on the right side, and if possible, over the first fairway bunker.
• #5: Playing up and then down a hill, the caddy paired with our group encouraged us all to cut off as much of the corner on the dogleg right fifth as possible. If you can hit a drive over the trees, tee shots can pick up an additional 20-40 yards. This may not be desirable, though, as you can end up on a downhill lie playing uphill to a very shallow green, right over a hazard.
• #6: The green at the par four sixth is a stunner, with a large front tier, and then a massive downward slope to another tier in the back. Depending on pin location, the ideal shot here may be a low runner or a very high-flighted wedge.
• #7: The first hole with natural, sandy waste area is a wonderful reminder about where your round is being played. The best shot from the tee is arguably with a metal or long iron to a much wider landing area; the left side provides a superior angle into this narrow green complex. However, playing downhill, it can be tempting to hit driver. While you can gain a distance advantage and set up a birdie, the landing zone pinches and you may just as easily end up in wiregrass blasting out over more waste area.
• #8: Presenting yet another wildly shaped green, this time sloped hard from left-to-right, pin placement will determine whether or not laying up or going for this putting surface is the smarter play.
• #9: Although the peninsula green at the par three ninth seems tiny, the unique slopes and ridges can be used to funnel balls toward the more tucked pin locations.
• #10: After a pretty benign tee shot, options abound for the approach shot at the tenth. With so many strong contours along the fairway and green, players can attempt to go all aerial, or rope in a ground ball from the left to hit this putting surface in two.
• #16: A very short par four, this hole tempts the player to hit driver. However, the corridor is very narrow on both sides, and the only wide portion of the fairway requires a very conservative lay-up. The sandscape here is yet another charming reminder of the area’s natural scenery.
• #18: Though very challenging – with a downhill, curving tee shot and a lake left of the green – the finisher is also fair, with width, and a bail out area right of the green that leaves a reasonable up-and-down.
All in all, I found Pinehurst #9’s green complexes to be the star of the show. Each one featured many severe, unique contours that forced you to think through your tee shots and approaches carefully. While many of the holes were very narrow, there was a good mix of fairways with wider playing corridors. The natural terrain was featured gorgeously in the routing. The only aspects of the course which were repetitive were the dogleg rights, and the hourglass shape of many green complexes. Personally, I prefer Pinehurst #9 to courses #1, #3, and #5, and would consider it roughly in the same ballpark as #7, perhaps slightly more interesting. The bentgrass greens were soft, but necessary, due to the strong undulations.
Recently, we had the pleasure of playing all 9 Pinehurst courses. Sean Delaney of golftripjunkie.com was instrumental in coordinating our itinerary and at a reasonable price. I heartily recommend Sean and golftripjunkie.com
This is a fun course. As a Nicklaus design, as you would expect, it discriminates against hookers. Having said that the first hole is a slight dogleg left. You can drive through the fairway and if you hit a really good drive you may have a downhill lie on your approach. This a redan green running left to right and is protected by half a dozen bunkers. The second hole is a longish par 3 that is all carry over water. If the pin is left don’t be the sucker that it was designed for. The 3rd is classic Nicklaus dogleg right with a bunker on the inside corner and a large pine tree about a third of the way into the fairway from the right. The tree is marked in no uncertain terms that it should never be cut down. On your approach, best to take an extra club for the elevated green. The 4th hole is a neat par 5 dogleg right with water down the right side. The fairway slopes left to right and narrows significantly about 250 yards out from the green. Another uphill green that will require an extra club. The par 4 5th is another cool hole. The right side is favorable off the tee, once again you will probably have a downhill lie to a well protected green. There is a solitary bunker but there is ten yard wide stream just in front of the green. The par 4 7th is a birdie oppty. The left side will give you the best look and angle to a green protected by bunkers on the left and right. The par 5 8th is reachable, especially for a good drive down the right side. The long green is protected on bith the right and left by bunkers and is sloped front to back. Hitting the green is only half the challenge, we couldn’t hold it. The short eye candy par 3 9th rewards good shots and punishes the marginal or worse. The challenges are water left and the right side of the green sloping to a collection area.
The back side starts off with a bang. The par 5 10th is more eye candy and a great risk/reward hole. A short par 5 dogleg right with a lake on the right and the green jutting out into it with the siren song of “hit me”. The par 4 13th is a dogleg right and is aptly named “Lone Pine”. I would recommend opening the face of your driver and flying right over it. This will give you a mid iron to a well protected three tier green. The par 4 14th is a tough par 4. The fairway slopes to the left , which is the best angle to come if from. Another well protected elevated green. The 15th is reachable par five. Approaches on the left side of the green run the risk of rolling off into the collection area. The par 4 16th is a birdie opt, but you may want to leave your driver in the big. A large waste starts about 90 yards out and ultimately spreads across the entire width of the hole. The 17th is a mid-distance par 3. The bunker on the left appears to be greenside, but is actually about 20 yards in front of the green. The 18this a fantastic finishing hole. Slight dogleg right and you can cut some yardage off going down that side but run the risk of having to contend with some pine trees. Conversely, going down the left side the approach shot must contend with the lake and the bunkers.
We had a great time. This round zoomed by. A real fun track. I would pay to play it again