[by Chris Garrett, Online Marketing Editor]
"We're playing #2 on Thursday." Emotions range from disbelief and excitement to nervousness, inadequacy and elation. All the legendary stories about #2 and the "turtleback" greens flood your mind as soon as you get your tee time. The U.S. Opens, the Ryder Cup, the TOUR Championships, Senior Opens, the U.S. Amateurs, the historic North/South matches, Payne's win in 1999, epic collapses, greens rolling like asphalt. How would a 12 handicap hold up on this Donald Ross gem in the sandhills of North Carolina?
Click here to begin the slideshow.:
Over 100 FootJoy associates from various departments converged on Pinehurst last week for the semi-annual sales meeting and Thursday afternoon was set aside for the notorious 2-man best ball competition. Our foursome consisted of myself and Mike Lowe from Marketing and Tom Downs and Paul Teeter from Product Development. My initial thoughts...from the tees, the course looks immaculate yet fairly docile. The fairways are very generous (when the rough is not US Open height) and even the bunkers that dot the fairway don't really come into play when you're not playing the tips. Even if you stray from the fairway, which we did, the trees are thin so you almost always have a clean lie on the pine straw and a clear shot to punch out. But, boy, look at those greens...
We started on the par-3 sixth hole, a relatively harmless opening hole until you see the false front and are told that long is dead, too. My shot was long and left and Mike was pin high in the deep trap on the left so were both resigned to make bogeys. Next hole was a dogleg right par four. Plenty of room off the tee so aim at the tree straight out on the left side of the fairway to avoid the bunkers on the right. Mike was to the right, I was left with a clear shot at the green. My approach was pin high, landed on the left edge of the green and rolled quickly into a bunker. Mike executed a fantastic recovery shot from the right trees but also caught a greenside trap. We both struggled to get out and made bogey. Next hole. Straight away, par five. I was left, Mike was right but both had shots at the green. Mike hit a great shot that hit pin high. As we were all congratulating him on a makable eagle putt, we noticed the ball was on the move again....something many people experience on a Ross design. It didn't stop until it slid off the green and down into a collection area 8'-10' blow the level of the green, turning a simple eagle putt into a difficult up and down. The best we could do was par. And that was the story all day. You could drive the ball great, but that just gave you an opportunity to consider going at the flag. While chipping and putting is paramount at #2, the players who score consistently well are the ones puring their irons with exceptional distance control and a high trajectory that places the ball softly on the green. We never really had a "blow up" hole, it was just one shot into or around the green that had you tapping in for par or bogey. Mike estimates he hit 13 greens in regulation while the ball was in the air, but actually only hit maybe 4-5 when the ball came to rest.
The par 3's are the holes that seemed to sneak up and get us. No matter the tees you play, you're almost always under 200 yards. Just be sure you hit to the spot the caddy gives you. Very rarely can you miss and get away with it.
"Remember the Birdies"
Not playing from the tips did enable us to have shots at birdie, which are the holes you'll always remember. Mine were on #4 and #10, Mike's was on #16, all par fives for amateurs. The tenth is a slightly uphill dogleg from right to left. After a drive out to the corner, I was loose with a five iron that ended up 30 yards right of the green in the pine straw. I managed to pitch the ball to the near edge of the green and it released perfectly to about eight feet. Made the putt and had my first birdie on #2. The second was on another par five, the beautiful downhill fourth hole. Another drive to the center of the fairway set up a perfect 3R Cobra Baffler from about 210 yards. Hit a nice draw that landed softly on the green, just over the bunker, and rolled to about 15 feet. One of our caddies, Stan, said I was in the "kill zone," which kind of freaked me out until I was told that's a good thing. Well, apparently the swing thought when staring down an eagle putt on #2 should NOT be how cool it would be to make eagle on #2. Missed the putt on the low side but tapped in for another bird.
"Heading for Home"
While the entire Pinehurst #2 experience is obviously memorable, we remarked after the round that there wasn't really a "signature" hole or a hole you'll remember and say "wow." There are no waterfalls or island greens, no 600 yard par fives or 250 yard par threes (at least for us). It's the old cliche, the course is right in front of you. However, when you reach the 16th tee, you start to think of all the legends who have had this same tee shot with a chance to win a major championship. You're three holes from history.
The 16th is a par 5 that doglegs slightly from right to left. The tee shot carries the only water on the course and the left side is lined with bunkers, fescue and other native, and gnarly, grasses. A good tee shot to the middle or right will give you a nice look downhill at the green which slopes from back to front. Walking down the 16th fairway, look to your left and you get a glimpse at the adjacent par-3 17th hole and the 18th tee. While there are bunkers on either side of the green this is a good green to go for in two. Mounding behind and to the right of the green will keep wayward shots in play and short will give you an uphill chip.
The 17th is a straightaway par 3 protected left and right by bunkers. The green is one of few that is relatively flat so birdie is a possibility here....unless you dump your tee shot in the left trap. Once again, I was pin high but just left. After spending the previous day with Lowe getting bunker tips, I blasted out to four feet and made the putt for a satisfying par. Time to head for home.
The 18th at Pinehurst #2. Okay, this is a "wow" hole. The short walk to the tee doesn't allow for much contemplation but you can see the top of the clubhouse over the hill that hides the green on this par four. Right is trouble, as the fairway drops off on that side and several bunkers guard the edge. Left center leaves a nice approach and there's room off the left of the fairway as it's wide open to accommodate the grandstands which will be erected when the U.S. Amateur is played here in August. After a nice drive, I had about 120 to the stick. My caddie Rick said to play to the number which I did and ended up pin high but off the green to the left. The "wow" moment is when you're walking to your ball and look up to see the statue of Payne Stewart literally pointing at your ball. Now granted, I shouldn't have been there to begin with...the ideal shot is on the green...but once again, you can't help but get swallowed up in the history of this place. I did not make a 15-footer for par to win the Open, but I did make a four footer for bogey. No fist pump. Mike hit a flare to the right over the back of the green (the one place the caddie told him not to go). After a nice runner up-and-over the huge mound, he drained an eight footer for a par and yes, the caddies made him do the Payne Stewart one-legged fist pump.
"Closing Thoughts and Suggestions"
The day we played Pinehurst was probably one of the most spectacular days of golf I've ever experienced. Temps in the high 70's, bright blue sky and a slight breeze. That certainly added to the experience but there were several other factors that made it a day to remember. First of all, we walked. You can take a cart on #2, but I highly discourage it. The walk is spectacular and the routing is ideal. Tees and greens are close and there aren't too many hills to navigate. Walking also gives you more time with the caddies, which is my second recommendation...take one! Our guys, Rick and Stan, not only knew the course inside and out and provided invaluable reads and shot recommendations, they regaled us with stories on every hole. So and so drove the green here, this guy made a 10 here during the 2004 Open, etc. They explained who the Tin Whistles are and why they have plaques on every tee box. They pointed out Donald Ross' old home, just off the third green, and explained how he would sit out and watch how players played the hole. If it was playing too easy, he would change the green by adding a bunker or a slope or some other challenge.
There are very few homes around #2, so you don't hear much other than what you would expect on a golf course. However, you'll occasionally hear a train whistle and church bells. No car horns, or people yelling. It's very peaceful and serene, almost as Ross would have wanted it. The absence of carts (for the most part) and seeing groups with caddies also ads to the serenity. So walk, take a caddie and listen. And when you're done, grab a drink and pull up a rocker on the porch just steps from the 18th green to watch other groups try their luck on #2. It's an experience you'll never forget.
Paul Teeter: "My first thought being out on the famed course was , my God, what am I doing out here, a hacker living a dream. When we had to wait before hitting was the times I looked around and thought about the history of the place, the bells ringing in the background, the statues watching us come up 18. Aren't we lucky to 'work' for a company that allows us do this on occasion. I went out with some friends Saturday night after returning and told them of two birdies I made, but somehow left out the many bogies and double bogies that crept onto my scorecard. How can I ever forget that day, sun was shining, weather was warm and the smell of the grass and trees was everywhere...there I was walking where the big boys go."
You should have had a few more pictures...especially of the 19th holes down there, which I just read about in golf digest. Sounded like you guys had a fabulous day, I'm very jealous.
Nice article. It was great seeing the pictures of the course. I've only played #2 once, a couple of weeks before the 1992 Tour Championship. At that point they were only letting 20 groups on a day. One of the guys in our group was a friend of the pro, so we got out as the 21st foursome. They hadn't cut the rough back yet, so it was about shin-high. You were better being 15 yards off the fairway (in the pine straw) than 1 yard!
My husband's dream is to play a round of golf at Pinehurst #2. What are the chances of making my man's dream come true?