Connect with us


Hallowed Ground: Pinehurst No. 2



At St. Andrews, you suspect that the entire burgh has turned out to watch your initial tee ball. It’s not the case, as the shopkeepers have wares to sell and the even the starter has other interests. In complete contrast are the headwaters of Pinehurst No. 2, Donald J. Ross’s paragon of the Carolina sandhills. With the strains of the village carillon serving as the piper who brings you aboard, the northwesterly walk from Maniac Hill (the fabled driving range) brings you past the final green, along the clubhouse veranda, to the starter’s shed. And in this gentle way does a round over the terrain of Pinehurst No. 2 commence.

If you dig deeply enough, you’ll learn that the golf course had sand greens in its aboriginal state. You’ll read that ownership began with James Walker Tufts of Boston before the turn of the 19th century, yet has enjoyed a robust transfer legacy since then. You’ll uncover the amount of effort and energy that Donald Ross, born along the coast of northern Scotland, put into creating his inland opus. If it’s history you seek, you’ll find an unending amount in Pinehurst.

For me, a recent trip around the 18 singular holes of Pinehurst No. 2 represented the closing of a circle whose trace initiated in 1982. As a 16-year old golfer with but a smattering of the lore of Pinehurst, I was fortunate to play the course and be exposed to the work of the master. Truth be told, the early 1980s did not represent the luminescent hours of the resort. Golf had not returned to the popularity it holds today and the resort was traversing an uncertain arc, finding an identity. Despite this bit of murk, the features of the course took hold of me, ensuring that I would be forever smitten with the game and its architecture. I would kid my father the tennis player that he played the same rectangle, over and over. In contrast, my game took me from mountains to seaside links, from the desert to the jungle, never to the same geometry.

There is a trap that awaits a golfer who anticipates a maiden voyage around a fabled course. The pitfalls are many: expect too much of the course; expect too much of yourself and your game; expect too much of your caddy; expect that others will share your enthusiasm, and so forth. As I stepped onto that first tee deck of the No. 2 course, I cautioned myself to be satisfied with two achievements: take divots and play to the safe side of the target.


Pinehurst No. 2, in anticipation of an unrivaled accomplishment, undertook a complete restoration of its spaces between. Gone now is the wall-to-wall emerald grass that made missed fairways a nightmare. Recovery shots from the thick rough were dubious at best, often a wedge to safety and rarely a run at the green. Under the watchful care of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (and their team of builders and shapers), Ross’s pride was returned to the rugged, less-shorn test that the course creator had envisioned. Sandy wastes line the fairway edges. Bunkers that once described a recognizable curve now appear tangled, shaggy and jagged; in another word, beautiful.

It is a subtle touch that the first hole demands not a great drive, but a thoughtful approach shot to the green, and that the second hole reverses the requirements, accepting only the most stalwart of drives. Lest you think it gets easier from that point on, the third hole enjoins both. It is at the fourth hole that the golf course allows you to swing freely and crack a beauty down the majestic slope of your first look at a par-5 hole.


After the trundle down the fourth and the ascent back up the parallel fifth, the course for the most part gives off a flattish hue. Holes move this way and that, across boscages and along the odd chaparral. There is vertical movement, but none so dynamic that its presence distracts the golfer from the majesty of the course routing. Donald Ross maneuvered fairway after fairway in distinct directions and at contrary angles. He placed greens against gentle slopes, beyond rumpled hillocks and atop subtle yet potent eskers.

The end result is more golf course than the typical touring golfer can manage. Not in a horrifying, threatening way, but in a subtle one. This is championship golf and it demands championship thinking, planning and execution, again and again. Each golf hole remains etched in my memory for its apparent simplicity and its identifiable complexity. Greens with false fronts and bogus backs seduce golf balls off the putting surface, into grassy hollows.

Pinehurst No. 2 will host the Women’s and Men’s United States Open Championships in successive weeks in 2014. I suspect the mystic, beguiling experience will transcend the tournaments themselves.

Check out the gallery below to see more of Ron’s photos.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Ronald Montesano writes for from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.



  1. Ronald Montesano

    Nov 1, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Nate and Matt and Chris…I don’t know what it is, but Pinehurst doesn’t feel like pulling into a Pine Valley or an Augusta National must feel like. It doesn’t feel secluded to me. It reminds me of St. Andrews and being a part of the town and being a part of the fabric of the lives of the people. It’s higher end than St. Andrews, being a resort unto itself, but it doesn’t intimidate me or make me cower. I love it for that.

  2. Bill

    Mar 18, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Good read, Ron. Brings back a lot of pleasant memories. We had a condo on course #5 back in the 70’s and many of your early recollections parallel mine. The ownership wasn’t as solid back then but the town and golf experience were remarkable. The smells of pine, charming restaurants in the town (long since departed) and the ambience of The Carolina Hotel were borderline magical to a early teens kid.
    I honeymooned there in the mid 80’s and again had a great time (although my new bride flipped me off on the first hole of #2 after chunking her first two shots (we still laugh about that).
    The course is so subtle in it’s ability to abuse. I can only imagine how many putts I suffered through.

  3. Ronald Montesano

    Mar 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you, Nate. I don’t know if it’s possible to replicate the town-owned feel of St. Andrews in the USA. Bandon, Bethpage, Koehler are golf courses set apart from their towns. Pinehurst, as you know, is set directly in the town, a town that breathes golf deeply. These days, it costs a lot to play The Old Course in St. Andrews, but not as much to play its companion layouts. That’s a sign of the economic times, I guess.

  4. Ronald Montesano

    Mar 1, 2013 at 6:12 am

    Thank you, Matt and Chris. I heard an unconfirmed rumor that Pinehurst allows folks to inquire at the shop about simply walking the course. Don’t know if it’s true, but it is worth investigating.

    Number Two, for students of golf course design and architecture, must be seen. It is quite different from most of Ross’ other work and raises questions on why he did this here and why he didn’t do this there.

    I appreciate the kind words.

  5. Nate

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Good read Ron, thanks. I’ve played Pinehurst #4 before but never 2. I still remember the feeling of pulling into the driveway of Pinehurst. From the moment you pull in the driveway, step out of the car, Pinehurst oozes ‘golf’. Golf in it’s purest form. The terraced lawn bowling greens, the back patio overlooking the putting greens. I was there prior to the US Open. They had the leader board up already. It was a pretty cool experience. Thanks for bringing the memory back.

  6. Matt Newby, PGA

    Feb 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Great article Ron. I used to work at Pinehurst a few years back, I can’t tell you how much I miss playing there 7 days a week. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to get back since.

  7. Chris

    Feb 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Nice piece; incredible golf course. Got to see Payne Stewart play and win there in 1999 but never had an opportunity to play the course until 3 weeks ago. I was impressed and enthralled with all of the natural beauty – kudos to Ross, Crenshaw and Coore. Simply awesome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Branson, Missouri Continues to Evolve as a Golf Destination



If you think you know Branson, Mo., it’s time to think again. While the live music venues that put the bucolic Ozark Mountains town on the map continue to thrive, its reputation as a top notch golf destination has grown … and continues to evolve.

Heck, golfers who’ve visited just a few years ago will find the scene almost unrecognizable. Sure, the awe-inspiring Top of the Rock — designed by legendary Jack Nicklaus and holding the honor of being the first-ever par-3 course to be included in a professional PGA championship — is as striking as ever, but its sister course, Buffalo Ridge, has undergone a metamorphosis.

No. 15 at Buffalo Ridge

Designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio and originally opened in 1999, Buffalo Ridge has done the unthinkable – make its list of previous accolades pale in comparison to what now graces the land. In conjunction with owner and visionary conservationist Johnny Morris, Fazio has exposed massive limestone formations, enhanced approaches and added water features to make every hole more memorable than the last.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio masterpieces not enough? Gary Player has stamped his signature in the Ozarks with the recently opened Mountain Top Course. This 13-hole, walking-only short course is unlike anything you’ve ever played.

Strap your bag to a trolley and let your imagination dictate your round. There are stakes in the ground with yardage markers nearby, but they’re merely suggestions. Play it long or play it short. Play it from different angles. The only mandate is to enjoy the course, nature and camaraderie.

No. 10 at Mountain Top

The Mountain Top greens are huge and as smooth as putting on a pool table. Nearly as quick, too. And the bunkers are as pristine as the white sands of an isolated Caribbean beach. Capping off your experience, the finishing hole plays back to the clubhouse and the green boasts multiple hole locations that enhance golfers’ chances at carding an ace. Hard to imagine a better way the end an already unforgettable round.

It shouldn’t take you much longer than two hours to get around Mountain Top Course. If it does, you were likely admiring the stunning panoramas. One notable addition to those views is Tiger Woods’ (TGR Design) first public access design — Payne’s Valley (named to honor Missouri golfing legend Payne Stewart) — which is full speed ahead on construction and scheduled to open in 2019. As a treat, the 19th hole was designed by Morris. Named “The Rock,” it’s a short par-3 that promises to be amazing.

Payne’s Valley will be both family-friendly and challenging. It has wide fairways and ample landing areas along with creative angles and approaches that shotmakers love and expect from a championship course.

If two years is too long to wait for new golf, then Morris and his Big Cedar Lodge have you covered with the yet-to-be-named ridge-top course by the industry’s hottest design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. With all the heavy lifting complete, the Ozarks is scheduled to be unveiled in 2018.

The Ozark Mountains form the backdrop on No. 5 at Buffalo Ridge.

Once opened, this par-71 (36-35) track will play “firm and fast” and offer multiple avenues into each green. Both Coore and Crenshaw bristle at the notion that there’s only one way to approach the playing surface. Bring it in high or run it along the ground. Considering the exposed nature of the course and propensity for high winds, the latter may be your best option.

There’s more. Tiger won’t be finished with Branson when he wraps up Payne’s Valley. He’s also designing a family-friendly par-3 course on the grounds of Big Cedar Lodge. There isn’t a date attached to this project, so stay tuned.

These new tracks join the likes of Thousand Hills, Branson Hills and Pointe Royale Golf Village to make Branson a powerful player on the golf destination scene. Combine that with world-class fishing and camping, as well as countless museums, restaurants and points of interest and this bustling Ozarks town is a must-visit spot in Middle America.

Learn more or plan your trip at

Your Reaction?
  • 50
  • LEGIT7
  • WOW2
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP2
  • OB1
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading


Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club



Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.

All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.

A view from the ninth fairway

Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.

Trees, or no trees?

The 18th tee

The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.

The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.

Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.

A good variety

Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16.  What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14.  These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set.  The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.

A view of the ninth fairway from across the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s tempt the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.

Green complexes are…complex

The green on the 18th hole

Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world.  They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.

The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a decent lie.

Ari’s last word

All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.

Your Reaction?
  • 54
  • LEGIT4
  • WOW4
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading


Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure



My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

Your Reaction?
  • 50
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW4
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

19th Hole