The Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina, will host its third US Open tournament this week – though a lot has changed since it last had the honour.
The layout facing the world’s best this week is very different to the one Michael Campbell conquered back in 2005.
Pinehurst No. 2 underwent a significant redesign beginning in 2010 under the watchful eyes of course architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.
There are now wider fairways, bigger bunkers, 300 extra yards around the course and, perhaps most notably, a total absence of US Open-style cut of rough.
In place of rough are natural waste areas – hardpan, sand, wire grass and other native plants – which should provide this year’s tournament with a unique feel and flavour.
What the changes facilitate is a wider range of strategic options for the player, with multiple choices and shots available into each green.
Speaking of the greens, they are the only part of the course that has remained mostly unchanged, though they were challenging before and will remain so for the week ahead.
The origins of Pinehurst Resort lie in the origins of the village of Pinehurst itself.
Founded by soda fountain magnate James Walker Tufts in 1895, the “entrepreneur, inventor, and philanthropist” purchased 500 acres, and later an additional 5,500 acres, of land for approximately $1.25 per acre in the North Carolina Sandhills, with the vision of building a “health resort for people of modest means”.
It was only two years later, just prior to the turn of the century, that the first golf course at Pinehurst Resort was built, and a few years after that it hosted its first golf tournament, the prestigious United North and South Amateur Championship of 1901.
The iconic Pinehurst No. 2 soon followed. It was designed by designed by Donald Ross and completed in 1907.
Ross was a Scotsman, but spent most of his adult life in the United States. He served an apprenticeship with Old Tom Morris, a four-time Open champion between 1861 and 1867 who is considered one of the pioneers of the professional game.
Ross’ other famous designs include Aronimink Golf Club, Seminole Golf Club, Oak Hill, Inverness Club and Oakland Hills.
Jack Nicklaus said of Ross that his “stamp as an architect was naturalness,” and that will be evident at Pinehurst this week, despite the recent redesign.
A Brutal Closing Stretch
While Pinehurst No. 2 does offer some birdie opportunities, there probably won’t be too many of them coming on the last four holes.
The 15th is a highly challenging par-3 that can reward pinpoint tee shots, but punish any wayward approaches, placing a high premium on a solid short game.
It measures a hefty 202 yards, and features one of the smallest greens on the course, crowned with severe slopes off the sides and a large bunker on the front right.
Expect more than a fair share of tricky up-and-downs.
The 16th is every bit as tough as the hole preceding it – if not more so. The par-4 was the second-hardest hole on the course in 2005.
Players hit their tee shots over the only water hazard on the course, and the dogleg-left fairway will result in a downhill lie for most second shots.
The green has a significant slope from back to front and bunkers and waste areas guard it from every side.
If there are birdies to be made on the closing stretch, the par-3 17th is probably the most likely hole to produce them.
The green is large and inviting and finding it should present a makable birdie opportunity. Miss it, however, and you might have to contend with one of four surrounding bunkers.
The closing hole places a high premium on an accurate tee shot, with a narrow fairway guarded by waste areas. If a player is unlucky enough to find the large bunker on the right side of the fairway, a difficult second shot awaits.
The green has a two-tiered effect and a front-right bunker that presents another tough up-and-down.
On the final day of the 1999 US Open, the pin was tucked away on the back right when the late Payne Stewart nailed a long par putt to capture his third and final major trophy.
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