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.
Welcome to the 2017 US Amateur Oscars. I played like garbage with a dumb attitude during the tournaments, but hey! doesn’t mean I can’t give out the awards from the US Am!
I consider myself the host of these awards, but I don’t have an intro speech with jokes, even though I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about all the celebs who are members at Riv and Bel-Air, but can’t come up with any. Because of that, I’ll just lead off with the award for the best picture taken with a cell phone.
Best Picture Taken By a Contestant with a Cell Phone
Best Tournament Course
Riviera of course. And this isn’t just because it hosts a Tour event every year, but mostly because it really is one of the best tournament courses I’ve ever played. Here come the reasons.
My requirements for a tournament course are 1) All the holes look different enough so you play it once and remember every hole, and 2) no funky holes. I keep talking about how requirement number 1 is the key for any course to be considered good in my book, but number 2 is required for a tournament course. I won’t list here courses that host tournaments that violate those rules, but they exist in majors and on Tour. In Riviera’s case, it perfectly follows both the rules.
Proof that it follows the first rule – I played Riv 6 years ago back in the college days, and I remembered the vast majority of the holes and their routing. And that’s not because I see them on TV during the Tour event.
And there aren’t funky holes out there. Some people might consider the par 3 6th as funky, because of the bunker in the middle of the green. Or maybe the par 4 8th with two fairways split by a waste area. But they’re not funky in the sense of required luck. When you hit a shot on those hole, you know where you can’t miss and where it’s ok to miss.
If you hit a bad shot you’re penalized, a good shot you’re rewarded. There are very few, if any, parts of the course where a bad shot stays in play. Throw in how long the course is (I had more irons 6 and over than I did wedges into par 4s, which is the first time in forever I remember that being the case) and you’ve got the perfect course to host a tourney.
Straightforward difficulty folks, that’s the best tournament course.
Most Enjoyable Course
I still haven’t figured out my exact definition of enjoyable course, probably something along the lines of which course I’d pick if I only would be able to play one from now on. Bel-Air wins the award on that definition.
Here’s some of the reasons.
- Bel-Air is easier, but not by much. It averaged ~1.2 strokes less than Riviera, but still averaged +4. Courses that are too easy definitely are on the opposite side. Courses that are too easy wouldn’t be on the enjoyable side, but compared to Riviera, I need something slightly easier to play all the time.
- Tunnels throughout the course. This includes, for example, the tunnel from behind the dumb (see the worst Bel-Air award below) 16th hole’s green to 17 tee. A volunteer told us members compete to see who can throw/roll their golf ball farthest down and closest to 17th tee. Sure, the tunnels are just connecting the course between the hills, but that’s a fun aspect you don’t see much. (Also, I won the competition in our group!)
- How about the celeb parts of the course? Like on the hillside to the left of number 4, which was the cave where Tarzan lived in the first Tarzan movie. The 8th hole were Howard Hughes once landed his plane to impress Katharine Hepburn. Or the original Bachelor Mansion to the left of 11 tee (which I can’t confirm cause I never watched that show back then, or even at all).
It’s not only those parts of the course that make it enjoyable; the design is fantastic. After playing these two George Thomas courses, he’s very high on my list of favorite course designers.
Best Hole at Riviera
Like most of these awards, it’s difficult to pick the winner for the best hole at Riv. In this case, I’m going to pick one of the more straightforward holes which I’m a big fan of. I’m go with number 9.
A couple weeks ago, according to this Golfweek article here, the R&A director of rules talked with European Tour players before their tournament in Abu Dhabi and mentioned the new rules that the R&A and USGA are talking together about changing for 2020. Now we’re not sure if these are exactly the rule changes, or what the specific wording in the rule books would be since the phrases aren’t concrete, but we definitely have enough information here to talk about if we think they should change the rules or not. Note that each of the heading sections of this article are the phrases copied directly from that article, not my words. Here we go!
Reducing the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three
The easiest way to explain this is by pasting the tweet by Kyle Nathan:
Like, are they trying to change this rule to make rounds quicker? If you’re playing in a tournament and have to look for a golf ball, that two minute difference isn’t going to make the pace of play that much shorter. The pace of play in tournament rounds is long either because people’s attitude change and they take too long before hitting a shot, or because the course is set up way more difficultly than normal and everyone has way harder shots and shoots a bunch a more.
If you’re just playing for fun, don’t spend an entire 5 minutes or more looking for your ball. Look quickly, and if you can’t find it, toss a different one on the ground and keep playing.
Allowing players to repair spike marks on greens
Ooh here’s an awesome change. There’s no reason not to allow people to fix any random big bump they find on greens. Those could be new ball marks, ball marks that were crappily fixed by someone who created them, or bumps that came from someone who doesn’t know how to walk correctly.
I remember playing tournaments in the past where everyone in our group would have to look at a giant bump on someone’s putting path and figure out if the person is allowed to fix it. That’s just super annoying, and for the most part, we all just tell the person that they can fix it because who cares where the bump came from. If this rule does get implemented people should be able to fix any of the giant bumps they want to.
This also would help any tournament on Tour since the players mostly use super spiked golf shoes which create a bunch of bumps that the putts of the players with the latest tee times have to roll over. You know how you don’t step in the putting lines that the players in your group are putting through? Probably good odds that someone in the group behind you will putt through where you actually stepped.
That being said, I think there are two issues to consider. First, I can see this as being super annoying to play with people who would spend a ton of time trying to flatten every little bump on the green on the entire path of their putt. Second, imagine someone has a 3ish footer, and they take their putter, and pound the green so hard that you have like a ravine where the ball can’t move out of it on the way to the center of the hole. As long as the rule talks about how light you need to flatten the spike marks, or just how fixing the spike marks is to flatten the green rather than create that ravine, then we’ll be all good. Overall though, good rule change here for sure.
Verdict: Ooh awesome
Allowing players to drop a ball from any height when taking relief rather than the current stipulation of shoulder height
I’m a little confused about this one here, because this change could create a couple problems, and I’m not really sure why they wanted to change this rule. For example, when you’re in a hazard you’re not allowed to have the club touch the ground (which is also an odd rule), but you’re allowed to have the club touch the grass. So you can almost have the club touch the ground. If they change this rule then, and it doesn’t matter how high to drop the ball, would you be able almost have the ball touch the ground before you “drop” it? If that’s the case, than you can get the ball so close that you’re basically putting it on the ground where you want and having great lies no matter what.
I’m guessing this is a possible rule change since shoulder height is different for a bunch of players, and letting you decide how high to drop it from will make that equal for players. Though really, the difference from dropping it like 6 feet compared to 4 feet isn’t too different since the ball’ll be moving fast either time before it hits the ground. Since dropping it really close to the ground can make drops not act like drops, we really gotta wait for more info and description of the change to see if this could be a good idea.
More of an emphasis on using red stakes for water hazards while still allowing yellow stakes in some cases
Excellent, excellent, excellent. Last night, my brother-in-law and I were trying to sit and explain to my mom the differences between the rules of red stakes and yellow stakes (and even red stakes with green tops) since she wasn’t exactly sure, even though she’s been watching golf for 25 years
Quick info here: yellow means you can replay the shot, or drop the ball on the line that the flag and the point where the ball first went into the hazard creates as far back as you want. Red staked hazards are the same, except also you can drop two club lengths in any direction from where the ball entered the hazard, or on the other side of the hazard, just no closer to the hole. If that doesn’t make sense, check out this article which also describes the difference.
This doesn’t seem exactly a rule change, but rather advice for golf course designers or greenskeepers too tell them to just make pretty much all their hazards red instead of yellow. Just make every water hazard have the same rules and be done with it.
There are so many rules in golf that knowing the rules and not messing up when playing in a big tournament is somewhat tough. I’m a big fan of simplifying the rules, and getting rid of the yellow stakes for most hazards is a great idea.
Now that I’ve said that, there still might be the case for allowing some yellow stakes on a course. For example, having red water hazard stakes on the 17th green at TPC Sawgrass would be a little weird, and probably not what I’d want. Like if you hit it in the water over the green, you’d be able to drop it on the green for the most part, assuming you can find a place on the green that isn’t closer to the pin than where it went into the hazard. Same if you had too much spin on the ball, and it landed on the green and spun back into the water. As of right now with the yellow stakes, that means that if you miss the green in the water, you’re dropping in the drop area. Much more standard and easy to know than if it had red stakes. But really, that’s the only case I can think of that means yellow stakes are better. Use red for the rest.
Extending this rule actually makes me want to talk about this other rule I thing they should change to make golf better, but I’ll hold off here and probably write an article about all the rules golf should change to make it better. Look for that next week.
Verdict: Excellent x 3
Eliminating the use of club lengths for taking relief
Hey! I think this rule change is similar to the reason for the possible change of how high you can drop a ball that I talked about above. They want to make it similar for people of different heights, and in this case, similar for people with different lengths of their longest clubs. Time for some math.
Looking at putter lengths here, a long putter can be up to 54 inches if you’re tall (not Bernhard though). So two of those putter lengths for a drop would be 108 inches. Now Jimmy Walker’s driver is currently 42 inches after he made it 3 inches shorter than everyone else’s driver, and two of those lengths for a drop would be 84 inches. The difference is 24 inches meaning two feet! Now that’s a big difference.
So how exactly would this new rule tell players how to figure out how long they can go for their reliefs? Would tell players exactly how long their drops could be? Would players need to walk around with measuring tapes? Maybe just say they have to use their drivers and not putters since drivers are pretty much the same length and a couple inches won’t make that big of a difference.
I’ll admit here, that the first time thinking about this rule change didn’t really seem like a good one. But after the math, and thinking about the difference between longest club lengths from guys on tour, it seems like a reasonable change.
Last comment here overall — all these rules in golf are for tournaments. Remember, if you’re just playing with your friends for fun, you can do whatever you want. Drop balls after hitting it in a hazard wherever you want, look for your crappy shots for as long as you want, drop the ball from as high as you want, from how far away from the hazard as you want, and fix whatever you want on the greens. Play quick, and have fun.