Pinehurst No. 2 Ready to Show Off
Don Sweeting stood staring down the fairway of the third hole of the Pinehurst No. 2 Course and said, “It’s going to be awesome.”
Sweeting was wrong. It’s already awesome.
Pinehurst No. 2, one of the most honored and acclaimed golf courses in the world, is officially reopening March 4, and Sweeting, executive vice president of golf and club operations, is admittedly antsy.
“Anyone who hasn’t seen the course in the last couple of months is going to be stunned,” he said.
The stun factor is definitely there. The design company of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw set out to return the course to what they envisioned architect Donald Ross had intended, and they have apparently nailed it.
Selected members of Pinehurst Country Club get to test the course first on Thursday in a “thank you” event staged by the resort. Regular play begins on Friday, and a huge turnout is expected. A lot of people are going to be surprised, but it’s doubtful that anyone is going to be disappointed.
The course is in perfect condition. The greens have been protected from the harsh winter weather with covers and have also been aerified three times. They look almost velvety.
The fairways are green, although they have been spray painted. Nobody is likely to mind.
Golfers who haven’t seen the course since the restoration began won’t recognize much of it. There are new bunkers, new bunker configurations, new tees on a couple of holes and the fairways are lined by sand, wire grass, pine cones and straw.
“Just like it was supposed to be,” Sweeting said.
There’s a raised bunker on the second fairway golfers will now be able to see from the tee.
“That bunker looks as if it was built with a horse and plow or shovels,” Sweeting said.
Actually, much of the course has that look. Some bunker edges have been made to look as if they were created by weather and time. Most of the fairways are extremely wide, but it’s easy to see how long hitters may rein in their drivers to avoid having shots stray into the waste areas.
There is absolutely none of the Bermuda grass rough that is so familiar to golfers in the Sandhills. The professional golfers who competed in the U.S. Opens in 1999 and 2005 are in for a totally new experience when they return in 2014.
“We’re going to maintain firm, fast conditions,” Sweeting said, “because that’s the way the course was meant to be played. Also, this will help preserve resources. Even some of the fairway grass will be brown if we don’t get a lot of rain.
The seventh hole, a medium length par-4 on which several players almost drove the green during the 2008 U.S. Amateur, has been changed dramatically. A new tee has been built across the road behind the green of the par-3 sixth hole, lengthening it, and there is waste area and fairway bunker in the area where the players were landing their balls to the left of the seventh green.
The ninth hole, a picturesque par-3, has taken on a different look and feel with sand and wire grass filling the area between tee and green, and the huge bunker on the center left in front made even more threatening.
“Ben Crenshaw showed me a photo of what it looked originally,” Sweeting said, “and they got back to that by extending the bunker and splashing it up. It’s majestic now.”
The 11th hole is another prime example of the “back to the future” look. The tee has been raised by some four feet, which allows golfers to see the bunkers and wire grass lying in wait for stray shots. But the shorter tee areas aren’t visible from the championship tees.
“Donald Ross wasn’t one to hide stuff from the golfers,” Sweeting said. “He wanted you to see what you were facing. Bill Coore said he wanted players to focus on the hole, not someone else’s tee area. He wanted players at each level to see the hole they were playing and just play their game.”
Even the scorecards for No. 2 have been changed to resemble those used many years ago. They’re smaller and feature a picture of the sand and wiregrass area.
“I spoke to the caddies at our annual meeting and told them that this project may very well be the most significant in the recent history of Pinehurst,’ Sweeting said.
“I told them that we all are getting to experience firsthand the new history of Pinehurst. It’s a great time to be here, and the whole Pinehurst team is excited.”
Contact Howard Ward at email@example.com.
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