Pinehurst #2 Review — Don’t miss a green on the wrong side
Pinehurst #2. What to say, what to say. It’s been so tough to figure out what I wanted to say about #2 that I haven’t written this review until over 3 months after the Four Ball. And it’s even so tough now that I’ve been sitting here a while without knowing how to start.
After writing the post, I have a summary to share. Pinehurst #2 is somewhat of a bland course in terms of hole distinction and differences in important shots. But it is impressive in difficulty in that basically every bad shot, especially approaches, is penalized. This makes it an ideal home course if you’re trying to compete since every shot requires perfection, and every other course you’ll play will seem easier.
I guess the first thing to say is that my dad and I played #2 back in the day and were featured in the Pinehurst newspaper the next day. Don’t believe me? My mom found it can snagged picture of it before the Four Ball. This was from almost 10 years ago now, and holy crap were clothes baggy back then. Oof.
Holy baggy rain pants. It was pouring, pouring rain so much then that barely anyone went out and played. We were unsure if we’d do that ourselves, but not like you can reject playing #2 when down there. I actually remember when this picture took place. We walking up to the second green and a car stopped on the road that cuts between the 2nd green and 3rd tee and a dude with a camera stepped out. We walked up to the green, said he’s from the local newspaper and wanted a picture of us on the green to prove that people were playing the course despite the crazy daylong downpour. Fun times.
Besides the second green, I remember a few other parts of the course — 16 because of the pond, 17 because of the semi valley from the tee to the green that was just all that bermuda style rough, and 18 approach shot because I stuffed this hybrid to a foot or so and had a tap in birdie.
When playing earlier this spring, the course was a 1000% percent different. Somewhat because I bogeyed 18 instead of birdieing it, but also because of the unbelievably perfect weather, spring warmness, no clouds, no sogginess, and different type of missed fairway penalty.
With the intro over, it’s time for me to go through all the thoughts I have on the course.
Incredibly similar holes
The big combo holes, are 1, 2, 7, 11, and 12. After we finished the practice round, Mike and I looked back at all the holes to talk about favorites and routing and literally couldn’t tell holes apart. You wanna know why? Cause they’re flat and have elevated humpback turtle shell greens. I know it’s way more difficult to design distinct holes with completely flat land, but it could be better here.
At this point after playing it twice and remembering the round sequence, I pretty much know the look of every hole. But that doesn’t mean that every hole is incredibly distinct which as always is my most important aspect of the best courses.
I could probably show you how similar the holes looked, but I didn’t take more than a few pictures of them because they looked the same and not like it’d be worth it since all the pictures would look the same. I’ll start with what I do have.
Going back to the beginning though, and I’m starting with the looks of the first three holes which easily show the new style of missed fairway penalties.
Here’s the opening tee shot, that is actually a perfect starting hole no matter how similar it is to the others. Straightforward and obvious penalties with bad shots.
Picture of number 1 below, and I will say however in the tournament I yanked a tee shot so far left I needed a provisional. The spotter found the ball in play and in the open left of the trees and just right of the road. I had this tiny window between trees where I hit a half punch 9 iron knowing to miss the green long to have an uphill pitch shot and had a tap in for an “easy” par. Mike claims that when he was in the fairway and told that we found my ball I had a guaranteed par so he could try to go directly at the pin. Not sure if that’s the case, but I’ll go with it.
And now looking back from the green the opposite way.
Here’s a look at me about to hit a tee shot on the second hole of the practice round, and you can just see the flatness.
How about the approach on number 3? Flat and a turtle green.
How about the 7th hole?
And how about number 12.
Like, it’s the same hole. Both sweep to the right from the tee, and have angle shots like this if you miss on the right side, which is what I usually do by hitting cuts all the time.
I do have to give it a ton of credit for not being similar to any other course I remember playing. It’s not that the waste bunker rough is unique, but the greens as well. Whether they’re all super similar to one another, don’t know of another course with that looks anything like #2.
Pinehurst #2 has a ton of holes that look the same, and that isn’t a great thing for a course. That’s all I have to say about that.
Difficulty of stuffing it
Back to those greens. Those greens, those greens. Rock hard turtle shell greens.
We were told that the pins they used were the same ones that were used in the US Open, and during the practice round a club caddie said that these were easily the fastest greens they’ve had since that 2015 open. The combination meant it was basically impossible to stuff approaches.
Because of this, there was pretty much one way to planning the approach shots. When trying to figure out the approach shot, I’d laser the pin to get the distance, look at the yardage book to find the spot around the pin that doesn’t have the arrows meaning flatest spot around the pin. Then find the distance from the front of that area, and I’d usually have something like 15 yards of where the ball needs to end up. Boom.
With every green like that, I had tons of conversations with Grant “The Best Caddie in the World” Freitag and know how to hit it in the correct spot. Check out these pics from the yardage book used during the tourney.
How about the 10th green, where the pin was 16 on, meaning only 7 from the top edge of the short right bunker, and then 5 past the pin until the green drops off on the back. With the arrows, you can see that pin is basically boxed in with 3 sides of death, but a 14 yard cushion if you just aim for safety to the left of the pin.
And here’s number 12, where the pin was 12 on meaning barely 2 steps over the false looking front, but with a whole bunch of safety center and past the pin. Where do you think I hit this approach?
I could show you the rest of the greens from the yardage book and you’ll see all of the pins are tucked next to really slopey parts of the greens, but have room of safety next to them. Tough to justify going directly at the pins. Turns somewhat into a mid range putting contest.
When people think about #2, the first part that comes in minds is the difference of course looking from back when Payne Stuart and Michael Campbell won back in 1999 and 2005 respectively, to 2015 when Martin Kaymer crushed it — waste areas instead of rough.
In the past if you missed the fairway on #2 you’d be left with a consistent tough lie sitting down in the rough. Now if you miss a fairway, you’ll be crossing your fingers that you’re not completely stuck in the poofy grass. Coore-Crenshaw burned the old bermuda rough and turned the grass into sand with little pops of fescue looking grass in the middle. Take a look here to see what I mean.
My comment says that you can still have some trouble, but I remember this shot after taking this picture where the grass barely affected the shot and I hit the green. I also remember during the tournament were I was in one of those bushes and barely could get the ball back in the fairway leaving an approach shot ~230 yards on the par 5.
There are a few legit bunkers out there — you can see one in the picture of the 7th hole. Easy to know the difference between the two, but if you’re on the edge you should call over a rules official to make sure you can ground the club and take practice swings. I had that on the 5th hole near the green during the tournament, and didn’t get up and down for birdie because I didn’t practice enough of those types of shots in the practice round. Dumb Jack.
Fantastic Practice Area
Now this is the part of the facility that I love love love.
The big famous part that I didn’t take a picture of is the giant practice green with the statue of the logo, whose hands are slightly too low to have a perfect stroke, placed in the middle. The bigger the practice green, the more the merrier. Besides that putting green, there’s another one right next to the first tee, perfect for knowing to be on time for your starting time.
For chipping greens, I really really really wish I had a better picture of the area. There are two greens for chipping. The first one is shown in the distance under the sun in the picture below. It’s somewhat of turtle green, but the flatness and space around the green is great for pitch shots. Figuring out how firm the greens are and spin is great to have. Especially since the chipping balls are the Titleist practice balls.
The other green, which I’m standing next to when taking the picture and stupidly hidden to the left is the greatest green I’ve ever been on. The bunker that’s bottom left in the picture was perfect to practice because of the difficulty of the shots and how it mimicked a bunker shot I had on the course. The 16th hole after a bad tee shot to the right I could barely punch out onto the upslope of this deep bunker to the pin on the other side of the green. Since I’d practiced that shot on the chipping green I freaking knew I was going to stuff it so much that I told Grant to “watch this”. The only reason I missed the bunker shot is because I misread where I needed to land the ball by 6 inches.
That’s what you want for practice areas, and that’s how you want to practice. A bunch of different shots where you learn what to do if you see that type of shot on the course.
A volunteer we talked to actually said that the green was actually the 18th green on #4. Pinehurst members actually got quite annoyed of that green because of its difficulty, and slight difference compared to the other greens on that course. It’s the turtleback green that all of #2 has, but ending a round on #4 can take forever and inflate scores because of the random difficulty. Number 4 was getting that new green finished, and the old 18th green was turned into a practice area which was amazingly perfect for #2 because it mimicked all the greens out there, as well as being somewhat more difficult even.
I’ll also give a huge shoutout to the volunteers out there. Not only was there live scoring and spotters for every group, but there were more than a few helping clean the balls off the chipping greens. Even though there wasn’t a ton of people practicing there at one time, none of the volunteers were complaining about that. Every one said how much they enjoyed being there.
Not looking exactly like a Donald Ross course
I’m not complaining about this at all, but it’s interesting to not have #2 be completely obviously a Ross design.
With other Ross courses, there are specific types of holes that you’ll see and recognize. Unlike the Pete Dye notes, I haven’t written one about Ross yet, but this one doesn’t match up with his other great courses. Courses like Exmoor, Skokie (my fave), Barton Hills in Ann Arbor, Longmeadow (in Massachusetts where I played the US Junior back in 2005), Sedgefield, and even Kenosha CC and Oconomowoc CC (where the 2017 Wisconsin State Am was this year; those you know are Ross designs.
Number 2 isn’t obvious. Another example of a shifted Ross course is Oakland Hills which for some dumb reason has giant fairway bunkers left and right on every hole from like 280 to 310 from the tee. I’m curious if I didn’t know who the designer of either the courses was if I’d pick Ross or just say I didn’t know.
I see quotes all the time from Ross about how #2 was the pinnacle of design, and about how often he went back and would adjust the course to perfect it. Courses change over time both from weak care and from straight redesigns. That’s the case with #2.
It really is beautiful
I’ll end here by saying again how beautiful #2 is. I figure I should throw in a few more of the pictures showing the great weather and views.
Here’s the approach shot on the 4th, the fantastic par 4,
Here’s us walking from 13 tee to fairway,
And one more for good measure, this is from 16 green looking back to the fairway,
Is playing #2 worth it? Absolutely. The history, the past championships, the future championships, and it being a different style of every other course.
Will you want to play it again after your first round? I’m not sure. It’s very difficult to the point where you can just get annoyed with how it can be difficult to just get the ball on the green.
No matter that case, when you play, don’t feel like you have to agree with me and everything I have here. You’ll have your own thoughts, experience, and that’s how thoughts on golf should be.