Putter Boy (in his new location)
The Pine Crest Inn pork chop
Welcome to the Pine Crest Inn
Thistle Dhu putting green
Thistle Dhu putting green (tough to see the amazing contours, so just go and play it!)
The new and improved No.2
Our morning began with a visit to the Pinehurst Resort and their wonderful new Thistle Dhu putting green. Loosely based around The Himalayas in St. Andrews, it is as much fun as you can ever have on a putting green. There are 18 contoured holes, some with 15 feet of break from tee to hole! After a couple of weeks of being open the course record is in the 40s, and on a number of holes three is a good score. Well conceived and beautifully executed by the superintendent it is the perfect start or finish to a round at the resort and I can only imagine how much beer they will sell as foursomes head out to Thistle Dhu after their round. So, after some chips and putts we stepped onto the tee of the magnificent Donald Ross designed No. 2. It been well reported that Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore with their skillful team have renovated the golf course and what a job they have done. I last played No.2 in 1999 the week before it closed for the U.S. Open and came away totally underwhelmed. The course today is a different proposition and rightfully deserves a spot in the top 10 in America, if not the world. C & C have opened up the vistas and taken away all of the extraneous grasses that blanketed the course a decade or more ago. It has become the epitome of natural golf and actually feels very British (think Swinley Forest and Sunningdale). I was expecting it to be great and even an ardent C & C fan I can honestly say it was even better than anticipated. The greens complexes are better than ever and missing the fairway leaves the player a shot which can vary from straightforward to chipping out sideways from the sandy waste area. I experienced both. All of the bunkers that border the waste areas are not treated as hazards, so you can ground your club, which I have always found disconcerting. It will be fascinating to see how the USGA defines these areas after the Dustin Johnson incident at Whistling Straits a couple of years ago.
The U.S. Men's and Women's Opens are due to be played on back to back weeks in June of 2014 and it will be fascinating to see how both sets of professionals manage this re-polished gem. The hospitality from the golf staff at the Pinehurst Resort was first class and I highly recommend experiencing No.2 ahead of the Opens - it will be so much more meaningful to watch the telecasts having played the course.