Let me get all my bragging out of the way early.
I’ve been fortunate to play some of the best courses in the world – Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits, St. Andrews, and Turnberry, among my favorites.
Pinehurst No. 2 now joins that list.
It should be noted there is no bad course among the nine at Pinehurst. However, No. 2 stands head and shoulders above them all. Indeed, it has all the hallmarks of a masterpiece of golf architecture.
Donald Ross was said to have fallen in love with the location in the sandhills of North Carolina because it reminded him of his Scottish homeland. Though Pinehurst No. 2 isn’t a links course, it clearly would look at home among the gems of Scottish golf.
What strikes the eye is the combination of a wild and unpredictable landscape meeting the scalpel of a master craftsman like Ross.
Everything about the visual presentation of Pinehurst No. 2 looks as if nature itself carved the waste areas, fairways, and greens from centuries of erosion and sunlight. Every tee box is a postcard. Every clump of grass in a waste area, every tree, and every patch of pine straw is impossibly, yet perfectly, placed – even though you’ll never know if it was nature or Donald Ross who placed it.
It is a stunning collaboration between the course architect and Mother Nature.
Playing No. 2 is where its genius is revealed. While intimidating and difficult, there is not an unfair shot among the 18 holes. It can be played, and equally enjoyed, by a scratch player or a higher handicapper.
I’m not sure there is a more complete course in the world. By that I mean it challenges every player but doesn’t break their will as some Championship courses can.
If you catch Whistling Straits on a windy day, a 10-Index player can shoot 100. Oakmont can make grown men cry.
Pinehurst No. 2 will stir emotions, but defeatism is not among them.
It can certainly punish bad play, but it never seems as if the course itself is plotting against you. No. 2 wants to test your mind as much as it tests your game.
Every hole presents a series of options and challenges. No one style of play suits it better than another. It is not Bethpage Black, where the bomb and gouge set has a distinct advantage. Nor is it Augusta National, where the approach and short game wizards often rise to the top.
Pinehurst No. 2 is about knowing your game and playing patient golf. There are advantages to being long on some holes. But there are equal benefits to playing for position in the fairway. Some pins are gettable. Sometimes 30 feet from the pin is a tremendous shot.
In short, Pinehurst No. 2 rewards the player who manages his game well, regardless of strategy, and punishes bad decisions and loose play. That is to say, it is golf as it should be.
It’s no wonder why the USGA named Pinehurst – and No. 2 specifically – as an anchor site for future USGA Championships. There may be equal tests of golf, but there are none that can claim to be markedly better.
In two years, the U.S. Open will again be held at Pinehurst No. 2. By that time, extensive renovations will have been completed to the hotel and grounds surrounding the facility. Golf House Pinehurst, a learning and testing facility, will be complete.
When we see the world’s best players at Pinehurst in 2024, No. 2 will be the understated centerpiece. And I suspect Pinehurst will again cement its reputation as the cradle of American golf.