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Our Guide to Pinehurst Resort #2

Ready to learn about a golfing venue unlike any other?

When it comes to golf courses in the United States, they usually fall into one of two categories. You have your ultra-high-end clubs that are generally private, exclusive to paying members only.

Then you have your “resort courses” that are public, meaning you can get a tee time next week with no problems. It’s rare to find a golf course in America that has not only hosted Major Championships but is also known as a premier destination for golf enthusiasts around the world.

The #2 course at the Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina, is the perfect blend of both worlds. Yes, it is immaculately designed and has been the home of a Ryder Cup and multiple U.S. Opens.

But Pinehurst #2 is also part of a 9-course mega-resort that is available for everyone to enjoy. Visiting and playing at Pinehurst should be on the bucket list of every single golfer – it’s that good.

Welcome to our guide to Pinehurst #2, the 30th-ranked track in the country.

Our goal is to bring the story full circle. We want you to understand and be able to picture what one of the top-ranked public courses in North America is like.

We’ll talk about the early times, referencing Donald Ross’s incredible vision when creating a championship-quality venue in the heart of North Carolina.

We’ll follow by taking you on a tour of the golf course, explaining what makes “#2” so challenging for even the best players in the world. After we tell you about the signature holes, we will transition into reminiscing about the prestigious golf tournaments that were contested here in the past.

Of course, being that you can schedule a trip to Pinehurst Resort during any time of the year, we won’t leave you hanging in that regard. Near the bottom of the page, we’ll give you some tips and advice for traveling to the golf village so that you are fully prepared when the time is right.

Begin by glancing at these basic facts about the #2 course before diving into the rest!

Pinehurst Resort: #2 Course – Key Facts

Location
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Year Opened
1907
Owner/Operated by
Semi-Private (Open for Public Play + Memberships Available)
Course Designer
Donald Ross. Rees Jones renovations in 1997, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore redesign in 2010
Par
70
Yardage
7,565 yards
Host to
U.S. Open (1999, 2005, 2014, 2024), U.S. Amateur (1962, 2008, 2019), 1936 PGA Championship, 1951 Ryder Cup
Official Website
https://www.pinehurst.com/golf/courses/no-2/
Pinehurst Resort #2 Overview

A Mega Golf Resort in North Carolina

First and foremost, you need to understand the magnitude of Pinehurst Resort. We aren’t talking about a tiny golfing community with a couple courses. We are talking about the largest golfing facility in the entire continent, plain and simple.

Of the 9 courses that make up the resort, the #2 course is easily the most well-known, and for good reason.

Not only is it the 6th-ranked public course in the whole country, but it’s also been the site of some of the biggest golf tournaments in the world. We’ll get into those occurrences down below, but we need to introduce the course properly first.

The Opening of Pinehurst #2

We have to go back to 1895 when the man who invented the Arctic Soda Fountain bought more than 5,500 acres for under $7,000. James Walker Tufts got himself quite the deal, and he didn’t waste much time getting to work. He opened the Holly Inn hotel that same year and had the first golf course laid out by 1897.

The #2 course didn’t open until 1907, but it was well worth the wait. They called on Donald Ross to build the track, a man who had already created masterpieces such as East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square, Pennsylvania.

He’d follow Pinehurst #2 with superb creations such as Seminole Golf Club and Oakland Hills, just to name a couple.

We like to preface Pinehurst #2 with some of Donald Ross’s best-known courses because the #2 at Pinehurst is widely considered his finest work of them all. It’s the uniqueness and attention to detail that Donald employed when designing the course that makes it stand out amongst the group.

In order to appropriately justify how stunning and flawless the 18-hole layout is, allow us to dive head-first into a description! You’ll want to note that the dynamic duo of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore renovated and redesigned a good portion of the #2 course in 2010.

This was simply to stay current with the evolving technology and to pay homage to Donald Ross.

They wanted to bring back the characteristics that made Pinehurst what it was, and it’s safe to say that their mission was accomplished.

Depicting the #2 Course at Pinehurst Resort

Before we get into a portrayal of Pinehurst #2, you should be aware of how difficult the golf course is. By taking a peek at the scorecard, you can immediately see what we are referring to. The back tees boast a 76.0 rating and 147 slope, not to mention that 7,565 yards is excruciatingly long for a par-70 golf course.

Despite its length, the most obvious feature and the one that causes the most havoc for players is the “turtleback” shaped greens.

The signature mark that Ross left on his North Carolina design is the distinct way in which he shaped the greens. They resemble the top of a mushroom, with falloffs surrounding the entire perimeter. The putting surfaces are elevated in a way that makes chipping around this golf course as difficult as any.

Those who aren’t precise will pay the ultimate price and be forced with pitches and chips of the most delicate nature. To thrive at Pinehurst #2, you must have a “pillowy-soft” pair of hands and a deft touch with the putter and wedges.

Those who aren’t “short-game wizards” will unfortunately go begging and will be writing down lots of bogies and doubles.

Pinehurst Resort #2 Features Many Greenside Bunkers

Many of the greens are surrounded by bunkers for an even greater challenge.

If you plan on heading to Pinehurst Resort, and you want to excel on the #2 Donald Ross jewel, make sure you practice your short-game shots off the tightly-mown grass.

You’ll need an arsenal complete with bump-n-runs and high flop shots to be able to contend with what gets thrown at you. Putting from well off the surface is a common “go-to” shot for most players, thus eliminating the need to clip the ball perfectly off the short grass.

It’s a strategy that Martin Kaymer utilized to perfection en route to capturing the 2014 U.S Open by an astounding 8 shots. The contour of each green will allow players to play a variety of shots when their balls inevitably roll off the edges of the surface. As long as you are prepared to get creative, you’ll be just fine!

After that U.S. Open in 2014, the golf club decided on a major transformation that would influence how the course plays. They resurfaced all 18 greens from bent grass to ultradwarf Bermuda.

The entire process only took a couple of months. The main reasoning for this change was to keep the greens in peak conditions throughout the heat and humidity of the long Carolina summers. Executive Director of the USGA Mike Davis had this to say a few months after the changeover.

“The new Bermudas have much less grain, they roll so much truer, and they withstand the heat better.”

Sounds like it was a win-win for everybody involved.  

Now that you get the gist of what the golf course is all about, let’s concentrate more on the particulars of the layout. Just telling you that Pinehurst #2 is a tree-lined golf course with perched greens isn’t enough to do the course justice. We need to illustrate some of the key holes.

When the USGA was here for their National Championship in 2014 (they also hosted the Women’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst #2 the following week), there was a quartet of par 4s that measured over 500 yards. Incidentally, that didn’t even include 11th and 12th, which at about 485 yards apiece are perhaps as tough as any holes out there.

The 13th at Pinehurst is 385 from the tips but was moved up more than 70 yards during one round to entice players to reach for the big stick. The problem is that the first 10 yards of the green are equipped with a severe false front.

Rather than chase up and onto the green, balls tend to come ripping back off the front and back down to the level of the fairway. This leaves players with a tricky pitch shot to a raised green that is guarded by bunkers left and right.

In terms of which holes present the toughest challenge for players, it’s hard to say. Singling out just one hole would discredit the brilliance of the other 17. There are a few holes that get talked about more than others, and we’ll shed a little bit of light on those.

The 8th Hole

We can tell you about how ridiculous the back of the 8th green can be, or we can show you this unforgettable clip of John Daly smacking his ball in the midst of it rolling back to his feet for a third time at the 1999 U.S. Open.

Daly told reporters after his outburst,

“I’ve had with the USGA and the way they run their tournaments.”

Not only can the hole stretch out to over 500 yards from the back tees, but the green’s elevation is as exaggerated here as any. To make you feel better, the hole plays as a par 5 for members and guests but has been converted in a beastly par 4 when the USGA rolls into town to host a championship.

Not everyone throws a fit here to the extent that Daly did back in ’99, but the majority of golfers will walk off the diabolically-shaped 8th green scratching their heads in displeasure.

If you get to play Pinehurst #2, don’t get upset if you suffer through some trials and tribulations trying to get the ball up and down at this hole. Remember that we warned you, and everybody goes through it.

The 16th Hole

It’s not a secret that the other par 5/converted par 4 on this golf course presents a stern test, no matter how good of a player you are. If you want to test your mettle like the big boys did in previous Opens, good luck on the 16th hole.

At nearly 530 yards, the fairway of the slight dogleg left is pinched in around the 300-yard mark by some nasty sand traps. Tee shots that wind up here will likely mean players are laying up and setting up a third shot.

The issue is, it will be to another green that appears to be suspended above the surrounding chipping area and is lightning-fast around the edges. Playing as a par 4 in firm and fast conditions, this hole is borderline unfair.

The bad news is that after walking off 16 and playing the 200-yard par-3 17th, you are looking at one final obstacle that might be the most brutal one yet.

The 18th Hole

The good news is that if you are standing on this tee, you’ve survived the first 17 from Donald Ross and have only one more to go. The bad news is that this hole is ruthless. Let’s start with the tee shot, arguably the most demanding of any on the course.

There’s no room to fiddle around; it’s just step up and make your best swing of the day. The drive is uphill and typically plays back into the wind.

The hole gently bends to the right, favoring a right-handed player with the ability to hit a high-cut shot. The fairway is surrounded by wispy grass and sandy beaches, making recovering from missing the fairway no bargain whatsoever.

It might be closer to 450 yards on the card, but we promise you this hole is every bit as tough as any of the 500+ yard ones. Check out this quick flyover and get a glimpse of how a hole can be stunning and extraordinarily difficult all at the same time.

Let’s Talk About the U.S. Opens

Now that you are prepared with an understanding of what the golf course is like, let’s relive the most memorable moments. Let’s go back in time and discuss the three instances that the U.S. Open has been held here. You’ll soon find out that a fourth one is on its way!

1999

How could we ever forget this golf tournament? It was the sight of one of the most remarkable finishes to date, featuring a battle between two of the giants in the game of golf.

On one hand, you had the flamboyant, gum-chewing and kickers-wearing Payne Stewart, already with U.S. Open and PGA Championship titles under his belt. On the flip side, you had Phil Mickelson, an energetic lefty who had just turned 29 years old the day before the competition got underway.

What we all remember is that Phil’s wife, Amy, was due to give birth to the couple’s first child at any moment. This resulted in Mickelson’s caddie Jim “Bones Mackay” having to balance helping his player win his first Major and checking the cell phone every few minutes throughout the entirety of the final round.

The good news is that Amanda Mickelson was born the following day, and Phil didn’t have to leave the course early, as he vowed he would have had he gotten the call.

Sadly, it would be the last time Payne Stewart ever hoisted a trophy, as he was tragically killed in a plane accident just four months later.

Part of Payne’s legacy as a player and his role as an ambassador for the game of golf were his heroics in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst #2. He may have won 11 golf tournaments (3 Majors) in a career that was fatefully cut short, but it was his final victory that left his lasting imprint.

You can see the action from the last few holes of the tournament in the following video. Watch as Stewart holes the clinching putt and grabs Phil’s face in astonishment.

He wasn’t rubbing the victory in the face of the 29-year-old left-hander; he was simply telling the future Hall-of-Famer that he was about to become a father, a moment far more important than winning a golf tournament.

2005

It’s not unusual for a less-than-household-name player to win a regular golf tournament on the PGA Tour schedule. It’s an entirely different ballgame when someone who the golf community knows very little about goes out and wins a United States Open, notably holding off the likes of runner-up Tiger Woods and third-place finisher Sergio Garcia.

We are talking about Michael Campbell, the 36-year-old who made the 2005 U.S. Open his first and only PGA Tour victory of his career. The New Zealander started the year missing 5 straight cuts and almost never made it to Pinehurst in the first place.

It was a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole of sectional qualifying at Walton Heath in England that earned him a Thursday tee time in the first place.

You would assume that when he found himself in the final pairing on Sunday with two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen, he would feel the pressure and collapse.

Well, what if we told you that while Campbell shot a splendid 69, Goosen shot 81? The penultimate pairing that day (Olin Browne and Jason Gore) shot 80 and 84 respectively.

If this doesn’t show off the composure of Michael Campbell, nothing will.

When it was all said and done, Campbell’s consistent rounds of 71-69-71-69 meant he was the only man who posted even par, bettering Woods by 2 strokes. He may have never won another tournament after this, but his name is never coming off the U.S. Open Trophy.

2014

For the first time in history, the USGA decided to host the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens on the same course. The ladies got their crack at Pinehurst #2 from June 19-22 that summer, but it’s what took place the week before that grabbed our attention.

Martin Kaymer absolutely walloped the field, winning by an absurd tally of 8 shots. Fellow European Ryder Cup teammate and 4th-place finisher Henrik Stenson had this to say.

“He kind of killed the event the first two days. He went out and shot two 65s and left everyone in the dust.”

Talk about a wire-to-wire victory; this was the pure definition of that. The German’s romping of his competitors was evident from the get-go, emerging into a 3-shot advantage after the first round.

After matching his Thursday 65 on Friday, his lead had ballooned to 6 shots. His 36-hole tournament record score of 130 also marked the first time a player had shot 65 or better twice during the championship.

Martin undeniably throttled the field that week, even on the last day. Out of the final 16 golfers to come in, Kaymer was the only one who broke par on Sunday. A complete and utter dominance was exactly what this golf tournament was.

2024

Just 10 years after the last U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the USGA will be returning. The 2024 tournament will be hosted at the #2 course. No one knows what exactly will be in store by the time June of 2024 rolls around, but one thing is for sure.

There will be no shortage of drama, and it won’t lack excitement. With the direction the game of golf is heading, that’s the only logical outcome.

U.S. Amateurs at #2

U.S. Opens aren’t the only time the United States Golf Association has hosted one of their championships at Pinehurst #2. The U.S. Amateur has been contested here twice, and there is a third occasion on the horizon.

1962

Labron Harris Jr. enjoyed his best days as a golfer during his amateur years. The Oklahoma State alum played under his father, who coached the Cowboys from 1947-1973. It was the summer of his senior season that he would remember most, mainly because he won the first-ever U.S. Am held at Pinehurst.

He never wavered during the event, despite being down as many as 5 holes at one point during the 36-hole Championship match. He would chip away at the lead during the afternoon 18, eventually squaring the match with 9 holes to play.

After sinking a slippery 4-footer on the 36th hole of the match, he had officially defeated Downing Gray 1-up. “Harris Jr.” was going on the Havemeyer Trophy forever.

2008

The 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst proved to be a stepping stone for a number of players. The champ, Danny Lee, has gone on to be a successful PGA Tour Player who won the Greenbrier Classic in 2015.

After taking out PGA Tour member Morgan Hoffman in the quarters, Lee had another tough match in the semi-final round.

It was against a baby-faced 18-year-old named Patrick Reed. If you watched the 2018 Masters or any of the recent Ryder and Presidents Cups, surely you know all about the feisty Green Jacket winner.

A host of other tour players such as Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Wesley Bryan, Kyle Stanley, and Brian Harman (just to name some of the match-play participants that week) were all there and outlasted by Lee.

Just two weeks younger than Patrick Reed and fresh off celebrating his 18th birthday, Lee broke Tiger Woods’ record for being the youngest U.S. Amateur winner in the event’s history. This was short-lived, as An Byeong-hun broke it again the ensuing year, winning at age 17.

Coming Back in 2019

If you possess a handicap of under 2.4 and you aren’t a professional golfer, you’ll have the opportunity to qualify for a United States Amateur at Pinehurst #2.

Don’t expect the USGA to set the course up as anything less than supremely difficult, but someone is going to walk away with the trophy at the end of the week.

As in all U.S. Am’s, the two men who reach the final match will gain a coveted invitation into the Masters. Thanks to a consolation prize of that scale, we suspect that whoever the runner-up is, he will be going home happy.

1936 PGA Championship and 1951 Ryder Cup

We wanted to briefly mention two other golf tournaments that were held at the #2 course at Pinehurst Resort many years ago.

The 1936 PGA Championship

The 1936 PGA Championship took place at Pinehurst, and it was won by Denny Shute. The Ohio native was awarded just $1,000 for his accomplishment; however, it was getting his name engraved in the Wanamaker Trophy that made him most happy.

The 1933 Claret Jug winner won his second Major by defeating Jimmy Thomson in the final match 3&2.

1951 Ryder Cup

The 9th edition of the Ryder Cup was played at the most acclaimed of the 9 courses at the Pinehurst Resort Village. The #2 course played witness to seeing the American squad, captained by Sam Snead, smash the team from Great Britain to the tune of 9 ½ – 2 ½.

Interestingly, the 1951 Ryder Cup was played on a Friday and Sunday, with the “in-between day” being an “off-day.” This was so that the players could attend a college football game about an hour away in which the number-one-ranked Tennessee Volunteers came to town.

After the favorites blew out the Tar Heels 27-0, players returned to the Village some 70 miles southwest back to Pinehurst.

The United States team comfortably won the singles session, capturing 6.5 of the available 8 points that were up for grabs on the final day.

An Avid Golfer’s Paradise

We aren’t going to spend any time telling you what to do or where to go when you get to the resort at Pinehurst. If you went through the trouble of setting up a trip, chances are you have an itinerary set, and you know what you want to do.

Your biggest problem will be narrowing down those activities because the village offers more than you can see during a short vacation. We highly suggest staying on site during your stay, as it will make the logistics of getting around from course to course much more efficient.

If you have been dreaming of stepping foot on a U.S. Open venue, but you don’t know any PGA Tour players or Fortune 500 Company executives, Pinehurst might be your answer. It isn’t often that you will encounter public golf courses that are steeped in this much history and tradition.

If you are seriously considering setting up a golf trip of a lifetime to Pinehurst Resort, check out this page revealing the answers to most of your questions.

The Scoop

There isn’t much left to say about Pinehurst Resort. The entire facility is full of championship golf courses, but none are more esteemed than the Donald Ross creation they call “#2.”

You know how it was opened, and you know that Mr. Tufts got quite the steal when he paid so little for such lush land.

We talked about the golf course’s layout and explained the marquee holes. The flagship symbol of the entire property is without a doubt the dome-shaped greens, as you won’t find a collection this severe anywhere else in the country.

The difficulty of Pinehurst #2 is increased tremendously because of the hellish-shaped putting surfaces, but it’s what makes the track so prominent.

You know that Major events like a PGA Championship and multiple U.S. Opens have been hosted here. You also know it’s a place that all avid golf fans can experience by simply calling up and making a reservation.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of living your life without making the call. Set up a trip to Pinehurst Village, and make sure you play the #2 course. It will be a 4+ mile stroll for the ages!