Pinehurst’s No.2 will stretch every players’ sinew and nerve
Absence of rough, unique as it is for a US Open, is unlikely to lead to lower scoring
The par-five 10th at Pinehurst. The renovation of the course, described as “funky” by coach Pete Cowen, meant the removal of more than 40 acres of rough, which was replaced by native vegetation that includes clumps of wiregrass on sandy areas adjoining the fairways. Photograph: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The view from the 18th green back down the fairway which will determine the eventual winner of this 114th US Open is the stuff of picture postcards. On the fairways, not a blade of grass is out of place; beyond those pristine cuts, in the unkempt wastelands, it appears as if someone with a loose interpretation of agronomy has been given free run to plant wild grasses and weeds. It paints quite the picture, for sure.
As aesthetically pleasing as the mix of green-keeping perfection and dishevelled imperfection is to the eye, this famed Pinehurst No.2 course, brought back to the original ideal of its designer Donald Ross, presents a serious challenge for players this week: physically, in the heat; and, mentally, with the creativity of shot-making required around the up-turned saucers of greens.
Pete Cowen, coach to a number of players with designs on the old trophy, described it as “funky”, before – with a mischievous glint – declaring it would have been the sort of course where Seve Ballesteros would have revelled, particularly in the challenges asked of players around the greens.
Around the greensOne player, who shall remain nameless, described those challenges around the greens as “a mind f**k” which probably gives as good an indicator as any of the psychological demands placed on would-be conquerors of the course and especially their attempts to land long iron approach shots on to greens which undulate and then run-off in numerous directions to shaved collecting areas. They’d likely test the patience of a saint.
But there is something very homely in its own way about the US Open returning to Pinehurst, often referred to as the cradle of golf in the United States and their equivalent to St Andrews where the sport was first nurtured. There are eight courses on the resort – with another, designed by Jack Nicklaus, in the making – and, of them all, the No.2 course is the crown jewel.
Designed by the Scottish architect Ross – who, when he died in 1948, left behind a legacy of 413 courses known for their natural beauty and meticulous attention to detail – the No.2 course has been subjected to a renovation since it last played host to the US Open in 2005. The modern day design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore worked on old aerial photographs to mastermind the work, aiming to restore Ross’s intended design philosophy. It meant the removal of more than 40 acres of rough, which was replaced by native vegetation that includes clumps of wiregrass on sandy areas adjoining the fairways.
In this day and age of ecological sensitivities, it is estimated the redesign – negating the use of watering or sprinkler heads in the areas where rough once blossomed – has saved about 40 million gallons of water a year. The absence of any rough, unique as it is for a US Open, is unlikely to lead to lower scoring however.