Twelfth hole, 450/360 yards; In contrast to the eleventh which offers clear sailing down the fairway’s middle, Coore & Crenshaw brought in a mound on the left that pinches the fairway to twenty-two yards at the 300 yard mark from the back tees. While a lay-up off the tee might seem prudent, that doesn’t answer the question of which side of the fairway. Time and time again, the challenge posed by No.2’s wide fairways is where ideally to place one’s tee shot. Here, the sight of the flag to the right suggests that the right portion is best. But is it?
Thirteenth hole, 385/360 yards; Ross determined early on that his routing would utilize a ridge line at the back of the famous practice area later dubbed Maniac Hill. He ultimately placed the thirteenth green and fourteenth tee on it with wonderful results. As charming as any hole in golf rich Pinehurst, the thirteenth’s green complex would fit perfectly at Holston Hills, where Ross did such a superb job of locating greens on top of hillocks. While the thirteenth may be short on length, it is long on playing qualities. The green’s false front has returned many approach shots back into the fairway as well as a putt or two! Only twenty-six yards deep, the 5,056 square foot green represents the shallowest target found among the two shot holes. Some modest length holes become easier the more they are played but not here where familiarity breeds respect, as well as less greedy playing tactics.
Fourteenth hole, 480/420 yards; From its elevated tee, a fine view is afforded down the length of what many consider to be among the finest two shot holes anywhere. In Golf Has Never Failed Me, Ross recounts an interesting story. As he set about bunkering No.2, members began grumbling that the course was rapidly becoming too difficult. Pinehurst No. 1 was relatively free of bunkers and many felt that they would confine their play to the easier course. Within weeks however, all play had shifted to No.2 and according to Ross, ‘we were confronted with the problem of what regulations we could make to relieve the congestion resulting from the desertion of Number One.’ Ross opined ‘that a course bunkered fairly and scientifically is the most attractive’ and that golfers do indeed enjoy being challenged by hazards that are placed in a well thought out manner. Such is the case at the fourteenth with demands that never dull.
Sixteenth hole, 535/480 yards; Playing this hole as a par four in the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens was a mistake. Ross intended Pinehurst No. 2 like all his designs to be a course of give and take. The birdieable third and fourth holes precede the brutish fifth and sixth and the shortish thirteenth is followed by the tough fourteenth and fifteenth. Converting the sixteenth, one of Ross’s all time best par fives thanks to the interesting features found 100 yards short of the green, into a par four robs the course of the ebb and flow that Ross so carefully instilled. Hopefully, at least the women will play it as a par five during the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open so that eagle cheers might reverberate through the tall pines creating a thrilling finish. The late great Seve Ballesteros would concur about the unsettling effects of eagle roars versus those reserved for mere birdies.
Seventeenth hole, 210/160 yards; Given how Ross built up his green pads, he was free to insure that they required all type shots without favoring one over another. Take the par threes as a set. The sixth enjoys a right to left Redan playing characteristic as the green slopes from front left to back right. The short ninth requires a precise aerial shot and the fifteenth is straightaway. Here at the seventeenth, Ross built a green that best accepts a fade, thereby completing a fine set of one shot holes that allows the golfer to show off his full repertoire.
Eighteenth hole, 455/365 yards; Despite the modern lines of the low slung clubhouse roof in the background, the golfer feels an intense connection with the golfing greats that have gone before him as he heads up the Home fairway. Jones, Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus, Palmer, and Woods have all played here and expressed their admiration for this brand of golf. The irony is that none have come close to replicating it in their own golf design endeavors. Other courses down Midland Road feature rock-lined ponds and heavily shaped earth, none of which bears any resemblance to Ross’s work.
Pinehurst’s place in history is secure. It is capable at a moment’s notice of hosting events such as the Ryder Cup and U.S. Open. Rough doesn’t need to be grown as there is none. All the course needs to test the best is fast and true playing conditions. The short grass that feeds balls into well placed bunkers or up – then off – these diabolical greens provides an ample challenge just as it has for decades. In the first half of the twentieth century, No.2 played host to one of the most prestigious events that the PGA Tour has ever conducted, the North and South Open.
Here is what Dan Jenkins had to say:‘For many years, the old North and South Open on No. 2 was sort of a Masters before there was a Masters. Touring pros and golfing enthusiasts alike remember the North-South and Pinehurst as the tour’s annual brush with charm and elegance. Black tie and evening gowns for dinner. Eventually, it was the favorite tournament of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, who each won it three times and in fact considered it a major as did the equipment and apparel companies who gave bonuses to the North-South winner just as they did for the winners of the U.S. Open, PGA and Western Open.’ What is so impressive about this design, and what makes it virtually unique with The Old Course, is that the next day after hosting such events, a family can enjoy the course too.
Providing maximum fun and challenge to the broadest range of golfers possible is surely the epitome of great golf course architecture. At Pinehurst No.2, it didn’t occur overnight but was very much an evolutionary process. While holes 11-18 have been in play since 1911, holes 3 and 6 were created in 1923, holes 4 and 5 were added in 1935, and Ross converted all the greens from sand to grass in 1935. The success of these transitions – unlike virtually every other great course save for Myopia Hunt and the National Golf Links of America – is that the same man who originally designed the course oversaw all modifications. Thus, Pinehurst No. 2 epitomizes even today a course with a consistent, unified feel. To properly appreciate the evolution of Ross’s masterpiece as well as golf in Pinehurst, be sure to purchase a copy of Richard Mandell’s book entitled Pinehurst – Home of American Golf. It is available in the Pinehurst golf professional shop.
Shortly after finishing the overhaul of Pinehurst No.2 in 1935, Ross penned these telling words that provide great insight into his intent as an architect: ‘Bearing in mind that golf should be a pleasure and not a penance, it has always been my thought to present a test of the player’s game; the severity of the test to be in direct ratio with his ability as a player. I carried out this thought in the changes made on Number Two. I am firmly of the opinion that the leading professionals and golfers of every caliber, for many years to come, will find in the Number Two Course the fairest yet most exacting test of their game, and yet a test from which they will always derive the maximum amount of pleasure. This, to my mind, should be the ideal of all golf courses.’
His words ring as true today as they did then and for that, we can all be thankful that Pinehurst is once again a beacon for all that is good about the game of golf.