By Brad King
The “Home of American Golf” is getting a facelift.
After making history in 2014 by hosting both the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens on its legendary No. 2 course, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club is continuing a master plan to further restore the original character and spirit to the Pinehurst golf experience.
Pinehurst Owner and CEO Bob Dedman said it was the overwhelmingly positive feedback the resort received for the work on No. 2 prior to the back-to-back U.S. Opens that encouraged his team to explore options that would represent a continuation of that effort.
Ben Crenshaw and his architect-partner Bill Coore restored No. 2 in 2011, regaining many of the elements that had been altered over the years from the original Donald Ross design.
Now, architect Gil Hanse, who was chosen over many of the world’s most renowned designers to craft The Olympic Golf Course in Brazil, has been tapped to redesign Pinehurst No. 4 and build a short course. Unfolding in several stages over the next few years, the plan also includes restoring Ross’s original characteristics to Pinehurst No. 1 and No. 5, while enhancing its driving range — “Maniac Hill” as the country’s first practice area is affectionately referred — and “Thistle Dhu,” Pinehurst’s 18-hole putting course currently adjacent to the range and short-game practice area.
“We think this is a thoughtful approach to the evolution of golf at Pinehurst, and we think Gil Hanse, with his timeless and natural design philosophy, is the right person for the project,” Dedman said. “There’s a unique character at Pinehurst because of the landscape Donald Ross found when he arrived in 1900. Back then, he may have been a minimalist by necessity, but we’re making a choice to present our historic golf courses in a natural state similar to that era.”
Pinehurst consists of nine courses, with Nos. 1 through 5 surrounding the main clubhouse, while Nos. 6 through 9 are a short shuttle ride away.
“The restoration of No. 2 was the game-changer,” said Pinehurst President Tom Pashley, who was vice president six years ago when the Donald Ross original was restored. “When it became what it is, we started looking at everything differently.”
The No. 4 project is scheduled to begin this fall, with the course reopening in the fall of 2018. Hanse’s design and routing, which seeks to create a landscape reminiscent of Pinehurst No. 2, will include exposed sand and native wire grass, wider fairways, natural topography and Ultradwarf Bermuda greens.
“We think this approach will create a more authentic, visually interesting golf course and one that feels in tune with its unique surrounds,” Hanse said.
“When you look at No. 4, you look at the scale, and the topography on it is really stunning. It’s more dramatic than what Bill (Coore) and Ben (Crenshaw) and Donald Ross had to work with on No. 2. We think as you look through the great vistas that come about there — there’s a beautiful lake in the center of the property — and there’s a lot more undulation to it. If we reintroduce these characteristics — the sandy, scrubby nature — on a scale that fits this piece of property, I think the potential is really pretty exciting.”
Hanse said there were plenty of ways to incorporate Ross’s original spirit into No. 4.
“(No. 4) is a golf course that’s been changed and altered. There’s no way to take it back to the original Ross design; a lot of those holes are gone,” Hanse said. “But looking at the Ross designs, his plans, were there elements of that that we could bring back into it that will make the course truly feel a lot more like Ross? So, some cross-hazards, some more diagonal bunkering, looking at the green complexes and getting them to sit softly into the landscape, maybe some slight elevation changes as he did on No. 2.”
The original Ross design of No. 4 opened in 1919. Robert Trent Jones Sr., made changes in the late 1950s and his son, Rees Jones, did the same in the early 1980s. Tom Fazio made significant alterations in 1999.
“It’s just going back in and reimagining the look of it to fit in with what Bill and Ben did on No. 2 — that whole Pinehurst feel to it,” Hanse said. “As with any projects, if you’ve got sand underneath, we’re excited, so we’re excited to be playing in that sand.”
Meanwhile, the new short course will be routed on 10 acres of property formerly occupied by the first holes of Pinehurst Nos. 3 and 5. Both of the greens from the original holes will remain in the short course routing.
Hanse has sketched nine holes ranging in distances from 65 to 117 yards and featuring many of the elements players face on the restored Pinehurst No. 2, integrating the native sandscape and wiregrass commonly found at Pinehurst during Ross’s era.
The short course’s greens will blend into the landscape with tightly mown runoffs in the surrounds. Some of the greens will feature subtle contours while others will have a plateau style. The bunkers will have the rough-hewn nature of the original Ross bunkers and will also blend seamlessly with the exposed sand surrounds. Play on the short course will be easily viewed from the historic South Veranda of the Pinehurst clubhouse.
“Pinehurst’s short course is designed to be enjoyed by all golfers, including regular players, beginners, friends on a buddy trip and families out to enjoy the game in a relaxed setting,” Hanse said. “The course will be a fun alternative or addition to a round while at the same time honoring the heritage and traditions of golf at Pinehurst.”
Last December, Pinehurst closed No. 3 and began making changes to several holes before reopening in April as a par-68 course. The former second hole of No. 3 was reversed and will become the first hole of No. 5. In addition, No. 1 and No. 5 will eventually undergo restoration work designed to return elements of Ross’s original designs.
As for Maniac Hill, Pinehurst is planning to incorporate more native characteristics that will allow the range to seamlessly blend with the surroundings of No. 2 and the redesigned No. 4. Due to Thistle Dhu’s popularity and the work planned on No. 4, the 18-hole putting course will be enlarged and moved closer to the clubhouse.
“We believe the beauty of the short course and Thistle Dhu will provide a magnificent front yard for Pinehurst,” Hanse said.
Last summer, the Pinehurst clubhouse debuted “The Deuce,” a new bar and grill that overlooks No. 2’s 18th green. Already, The Deuce is beginning to garner honors. Golf Inc. magazine recently revealed its annual Golden Fork Awards for some of the best dining options in all of golf and honored The Deuce with first place among new restaurants in golf.
While the view overlooking the 18th green of No. 2 is perhaps the obvious selling point, Golf Inc. credited The Deuce’s tantalizing menu, specialty cocktails and craft beer selection for raising the bar for restaurants in golf.
“The Deuce is adorned with vintage photographs and other memorabilia from Pinehurst No. 2,” the magazine wrote. “The historic resort went all out to bring the facility’s heritage to life.”