Even a course as revered and respected as Pinehurst No. 2 failed to escape the golfing excesses of the 1990s, when the universal theme was large expansive layouts with plenty of green grass.
Well, that’s all about to change at the famed Donald Ross layout over the next 12 months as the architectural team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw will dial back the clock so to speak at Pinehurst Resort’s signature course, which will host both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in 2014.
Over a 30-year period, the grass at No. 2, mostly rough leading up to the tree line, was allowed to grow and expand, to the point where the course had lost much of its natural aesthetics.
However, during the 2008 U.S. Amateur at No. 2, talk began about reclaiming some of the course’s old mystique of the 1940s and ‘50s, and the idea gained additional steam this past year at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black when Pinehurst CEO and owner Robert Dedman Jr. endorsed the concept.
Pinehurst officials then approached USGA officials late last year and asked if it would be appropriate for the resort to start the project before 2014, or wait until after the Opens were played that year.
“They embraced the idea of doing it now whole-heartedly,” said Bob Farren, the director of grounds and golf course management at Pinehurst Resort.
“The expectations of modern golfers grew when more golf courses were built, of growing more turf with more irrigation, so No. 2 just kind of went down that road of doing that,” said Farren, who has worked on golf courses at Pinehurst in some capacity for three decades. “Even looking at it in hindsight or retrospect it wasn’t the wrong thing to do, I don’t sense that I was part of doing something wrong, but now there is a shift in golfer’s expectations, that they want to go back to more of a sustainable landscape, a more minimal natural golf course.
“We feel like we’re going to be on the leading edge of getting that done here at No. 2. There have been a lot of golf courses built in the last five years that have been targeted to be that way, like Bandon Dunes and Whistling Straits.”
There probably couldn’t be a more perfect test model in this area than No. 2 as Coore and Crenshaw will add back sandy waste areas, native wiregrasses, and natural bunker edges and reduce the manicured rough as seen in photos of 50 years ago.
For the most part, No. 2’s famous turtleback greens will remain untouched.
“We’re trying to uncover it, not recover it,” Coore said. “In short, we’ll bring the strategy back, and reinstate its character.”
“There will be 15-20 acres of what is currently carefully manicured bermuda rough that is going to be sandy, wire grass areas,” added Farren. “We’re literally peeling back layers of the last 30 years, taking sod cutters and cutting the rough out and hauling it away.”
The beneficiary of some of the turf that former U.S. Open champions Payne Stewart and Michael Campbell walked on? It’s local high school Pinecrest. The resort is donating the turf to help with the school’s new baseball complex.
Ross used to design golf courses backwards, and while No. 2 requires a precise game from 150 yards into the greens, it was the approach angle from the fairway that was key to scoring back in the day.
View Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore discussing changes to Pinehurst No. 2