Why playing Pinehurst will be heaven

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There is no rough!

This isn’t a joke. “For the first time ever, we are not having long rough grass for a US Open,” reveals Mike Davis. “It’s going to be so different to when 2005 US Open was played here,” continues architect Bill Coore. “In 2005, the tournament was dictated by four-inch deep Bermuda rough that lined the side of all the fairways. Now, it is almost the exact opposite. There is no rough. It just goes from fairway to hard pan, sand and pine straw.”

“Nowadays tournament golf is 99.9% ‘pound it out of heavy rough’,” adds Coore’s partner Ben Crenshaw. “To me, that’s very boring, so I’m delighted our poverty grasses offer something different.”

The fairways are wide

“Before the renovation, the course was pretty tight, but now I stand on all the tees and feel confident that I can hit the fairways,” says 13-handicap Pinehurst member John Patota. “From this point of view, I think the tee shots will be the least of the pros’ worries.”

“The new, wider fairways have changed the strategy of the course quite a lot,” reckons Pinehurst’s Director of Grounds and Golf Course Maintenance, Bob Farren. “In 2005, the fairways were all 27 yards wide and players had no choice but to try and hit the centre. Now, they are up to 51 yards wide, so players need to choose which side of the fairway will give them the best angle to attack that day’s hole location.”

There’s a lot of great holes

“The 11th (left) was Ben Hogan’s favourite,” reveals Kelly Mitchum, a former Walker Cup player who is now a PGA assistant professional at the Pinehurst Resort. “It’s a really neat par 4, with a bunker to the left of the fairway and wire grass all the way up the right, that favours a bit of a cut shot off the tee. Once you overcome this shot, you’ll be left with a 6-iron or 7-iron to a green that has lots of devilish pin positions and is guarded by a bunker at the front.” Jack Nicklaus doesn’t have a favourite. He likes all of them. “I’ve always thought Pinehurst No.2 to be my favourite golf course from a design standpoint. I enjoy going out on No.2 and seeing a totally tree-lined course without a tree coming into play.”

It looks fantastic

“In 1999 and 2005, everything was kind of a monochrome green colour,” says Farren. “Now, you can really see the difference between the fairways and the native turf and plants. On holes with elevated tees, such as the 4th and 5th, this variety of vegetation has added a huge number of colours to the palette and made the holes look so much better. If you don’t believe me, ask the photographers who have been through here in the last two years. In 2005, they all went to the five or six holes that would give them a decent picture. Now, every hole is looking so good, they come to the course and think, ‘God, where do I start?’”

It is all in front of you

“The No.2 course allows you to play with your eyes,” states John Patota. “There are no extraordinary distances to carry, no water hazards to contend with, no artificially elevated greens to attempt to reach and no railroad sleepers to avoid. You can see the exact shot you need to hit when you get to your ball and you can enjoy the dogwoods, azaleas, holly, pine straw and longleaf pines while you are walking between shots. As three-time Major champion Tommy Armour once said: ‘The man that doesn’t feel emotionally stirred when he golfs at Pinehurst should be ruled out of golf for life.’”

It rewards creativity

“In normal US Open conditions, the short game isn’t stressed much,” says six-time US Open runner-up Phil Mickelson. “At Pinehurst, it’s different. No.2 course brings out a player’s skill.”

“The course favours golfers who are creative around the greens,” says Kelly Mitchum. “During the week, we’ll see flop shots, little bump and runs, little chips with hybrids and even putts. It’s going to be really interesting and I think the most creative golfer will come out on top.”

Why playing Pinehurst will be HELL