Posted 02 December 2012 - 12:38 PM
In reponse to numerous questions regarding the setup of Pinehurst No. 2, I found this article from the local paper which speaks to several areas of concern. From The Pilot:
It’s June 2014, and the golfer sends a drive screaming down the fairway of the Pinehurst No. 2 Course in the first round of the U.S. Open.
Recognize the player? You should. Look in a mirror.
OK, just toying with a little fantasy stuff here. It really isn’t 2014, and it really isn’t the U.S. Open. But it really could be you hitting a ball on the same course the best golfers in the world will be teeing it up on in the Open.
It’s nothing new for golfers to be able to play U.S. Open courses, of course. That’s why the United State Golf Association bills the event as Everyman’s Championship. Anyone who qualifies can play.
But to be able to play a course a year-and-a-half in advance of the Open and know that you’re playing it under virtually the same conditions that the championship will be played … well, that’s unheard of.
Bob Farren, the director of golf course maintenance and grounds at Pinehurst Resort, is rightfully proud of the restoration project conducted by course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. And that the project produced a course that the USGA agrees is “Open ready” a year-and-a-half in advance of the event could almost be viewed as heresy.
The norm for U.S. Open courses is anything but the norm normally. But No. 2, the jewel that the legendary Donald Ross mined out of sand and scrub pines, is one of a kind in the world. And therein lies the explanation of how a golfer can play it today and find it almost exactly the way Open players will experience it in 2014.
“We started the project in 2010,” Farren said. “Unlike a typical course renovation, this is a process. We had to be patient and let the course evolve more than mature.
“Bill (Coore) is really thrilled at how the course is looking. It’s exactly the way he wanted it to look. We didn’t overseed the course, and it provides a much firmer playing surface. The ball runs out more than before on the fairways.
“The greens have matured nicely, and for the first time we have all the pieces in place. The course is firmer and faster. Mr. Padgett (Pinehurst President Don Padgett II) said he has never seen the course better from a championship perspective.”
Although the USGA made suggestions, officials did not dictate the renovations.
“There were USGA suggestions that we are following up on,” Farren said. “They are doing walk-throughs on some of the holes, making adjustments to the fairway width.
“We have the U.S. Open setup in place now. It’s the same process as previous championships (1999, 2005), except that it’s completely backward.
“This time, instead of adding rough and taking away fairways, we are adjusting the width of the landing zones. The fairways are significantly wider than in 2005, probably wider than any U.S. Open course in recent years.”
Pinehurst officials point out that when golfers play the course it will truly be an Open experience.
“It’s really an interesting story,” Farren said. “The average player — 0-12 handicap — will have the opportunity to play the course before the Open, and the only changes that will have taken place will be behind the white tees. This time the changes affect everyone who plays the course.
“That’s what Coore and Crenshaw mostly focused on. They wanted the changes to impact everyone who played the course, not just the professionals. If you’re playing the course this week, you’re going to see everything the U.S. Open player sees except for an additional 40-50 yards on each hole.
“If people play from the proper tees, they are really going to get the Open experience. The new bunkers and landscape affect all players. Any chance I get, I try to talk that up.”
One noticeable change comes on holes four and five. The pars have been flipped on these holes, with four now playing as a par-4 and five playing as a par-5. New tees have been added on both those holes. The tee on No. 5 has been moved back to where the old World Golf Hall of Fame building was located and will play 585 yards. The course can now play as long as 7,450 yards.
There were some concerns voiced earlier that the Women’s Open players might find some unfavorable course conditions, such as divot marks left by the men in their landing areas. But Farren doesn’t see that as a problem.
“This was taken into consideration by the placement of the ladies tees,” Farren said. “If the men are hitting 7-irons for their approach shots, we want the women to be hitting 7-irons. That puts them in a completely different spot as far as divots are concerned.”
Farren likes the idea that golfers can have the “Open Experience.” But he does have a word of caution.
“It’s a pretty neat thing,” he said, smiling. “But some people may think they want to play an Open course when they really don’t. Be careful what you ask for.”