Fifth hole, 475/425 yards; When this hole opened as the 445 yard ninth on the Employees’ Course, hickory golf was the norm and it played as a par five. Nothing has really changed! Yes, it was labeled a par four in the 1930s while Ross was alive but many more fives than fours are carded here, so much so to that some consider it the most difficult two shot hole in American golf. The player can’t see where his tee ball finishes but the line off the tee is less a problem than the resulting fairway stance as the ball sits above a right handed player. From this hook stance, the player must flight the ball some 200 yards to a green featuring a steep false front, a false side and a savage left greenside bunker. Nothing within seven paces of the perimeter of the green allows for a cup, such is the manner in which this green slopes away on all sides. The statistics on this green are fascinating as it only features 1,976 square feet of putting surface with a slope less than 3%. Another 896 square feet of green is between 3% and 4% and might be cup-able under certain (i.e. non-U.S. Open) conditions. The remaining 2,925 square feet of the green features slopes greater than 4%. From well back in the fairway, the target area is minuscule at ~2,900 square feet. While it is rare to find a hole this difficult without water, this most challenging approach is mitigated by the reinstated firm conditions which allow for a run up. Unlike less artfully crafted courses, there is a reasonable bail out area short and right, providing lots of ways to card a five with dignity.
During the 2008 U.S. Amateur, Pinehurst No. 2 featured lots of green grass in the form of narrow fairways and wall to wall bermuda rough. Give owner Bob Dedman credit for calling in Coore & Crenshaw to restore the rough edged look and rustic flavor that Ross and Frank Maples carefully cultivated. (Photograph courtesy of Tufts Archives).
Sixth hole, 225/180 yards; Even as late as the 1910s, the No. 2 course wasn’t acknowledged as the best course at the resort as many considered No. 3 to be superior. At that time, No. 2 was very much in an evolutionary process that lasted over thirty years resulting in the layout we see today. Ross first expanded it to eighteen holes in 1908 to accommodate the boon in winter golf. Then No.2 received a big boost when Ross replaced two holes elsewhere with the third and sixth holes in 1923. The third requires finessee while the long one shot sixth calls for some sort of long iron to a green set on a diagonal along a front left bunker and swale. Like Oakmont and National Golf Links of America, Pinehurst No. 2 took several decades to obtain its final level of refinement and excellence. The location of Ross’s own home only a scant 150 yards from the sixth tee meant that Ross himself oversaw all major course developements, from transitioning sand to grass greens to moving the course from the era of hickory to steel shafts. We aren’t left to wonder what Ross would have done as he did it!
Seventh hole, 430/385 yards; Many restoration projects involve felling trees, recapturing numerous lost bunkers and expanding putting surfaces back to the edges of the green pads. Such was not the case with Coore & Crenshaw’s work. Indeed, the most significant design change to the course occured here at the seventh. Why? Because it was the most altered hole since Ross’s death. Richard Tufts had built up the seventh tee pad, added mounds to the outside of the dogleg and pinched in the fairway at its turn to a mere fourteen yards. Off the elevated tee, contestants during the 2008 U.S. Amateur were blowing tee shots over the trees on the inside of the dogleg and almost driving hole high. Coore & Crenshaw restored the hole’s compromised playing qualities.
Eighth hole 490/440 yards; Ross captured some of the most pleasant undulations on the property within this hole. All but the longest drivers play into a valley from where they face an uphill approach to one of the most built up green pads on the course. John Daly famously lost control to the left of this green during the 2005 U.S. Open. Having putted from off the green once too often for his satisfaction, he elected to hit a moving ball and was disqualified. A sad ending for a man with such a gifted short game but the banks that feed balls off the greens can elicit such frustration. A clip of John Daly is found on the Facebook page of GolfClubAtlas.com. Despite its length, the hole plays just fine as the green is open across its front and accepts a wide variety of approach shots.
Ninth hole, 190/150 yards; The shortest hole on the course features the most heavily defended green. Set at an angle to the tee, the wide shallow green climbs from front right to back left with a distinct tier at its narrow waist. Similar to the seventeenth at Pebble Beach, the hole location makes a tremendous difference in how it plays. Those on the back flat plateau are difficult because the effective landing area is less than 700 (!) square feet. Front right hole locations are easier to access as the tier in the middle of the green feeds tee balls to them but conversely, the putts feature more break than on the flatter top tier. Though the green measures 6,011 square feet, only 1,880 square feet of it features 3% of slope or less. A very fine one shotter, deserving of recognition for its diversity without appearing contrived.
Today’s back left hole location requires a well struck iron to find and hold the small back plateau.
Tenth hole, 620/460 yards; Architects like William Flynn, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross believed in the importance of challenging the golfer with true three shot holes. As far back as 1923, this hole measured 540 yards which was no easy feat to cover with hickory shafts. Initially, the hole played straight ahead to a green located nearer the fourteenth green and featured a Sahara type bunker complex to be carried on one’s second. Subsequently, Ross came to believe that such hazards were too one dimensional as they don’t allow an alternate route for the weaker player. As part of his massive re-do in 1935 that saw the course grow to over 6,900 yards in length, the Sahara bunker complex was eliminated. Instead, Ross turned the tenth fairway to the left at the 125 yard mark from the green. Weaker players could bunt the ball along the fairway and still reach the green in three from a far forward set of tees while the tiger worked hard to properly position himself for a pitch to the green from the new 590 yard set of tees. This is yet another example of Ross attractively engaging all classes of players.
Though this view from the back markers makes the tenth appear straightforward, …
…it isn’t. Out of bounds threatens down the left while this mound down the right ensnares many a pushed tee ball.
The tenth fairway has pivoted left around this crossbunker for over seventy-five years.
Eleventh hole, 485/375 yards; The eleventh and twelfth occupy land near the harness track/polo field where the elevation varies only a few feet. Here is what’s interesting: Standing on the eleventh tee, the golfer who turns left sees prime golf terrain with holes flowing up and down over the attractively rolling land. This is the No. 4 Course which wraps past No. 2 at the eleventh and twelfth holes. Ross could have easily embedded these two flattish holes into the No.4 course if he was so inclined. That he didn’t and because these holes have been in continuous use since 1911 tells us that Ross liked what he accomplished here. Mo less than Ben Hogan numbered the eleventh among his favorite two shotters in golf.
This photograph of Hogan could well be taken today, such is the recaptured sandy floor of Pinehurst No. 2.