PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — The facelift for Pinehurst's renowned No. 2 course is complete.
The course that has hosted a pair of U.S. Opens and will stage two more has reopened following a yearlong restoration led by Ben Crenshaw. The two-time Masters winner said his mission was to revert the layout back to its Donald Ross original design.
"This place is what it is," Crenshaw said Monday. "We tried our best to uncover it."
Ross wanted the No. 2 course to be a "stern test, but he also wanted people of lesser skills to be able to play it as well," and Crenshaw said during the reopening ceremony that he and design partner Bill Coore tried to keep that in mind.
"I think a lot of us do view No. 2 as Donald Ross' masterpiece, and it's like messing with the Mona Lisa," Pinehurst Resort CEO and owner Bob Dedman Jr. said. "And there were trepidations initially about what should be done, and should we undertake this? And I think we were all nervous at first. We all realized it will probably be the smartest thing we've ever done, or the dumbest thing we've ever done. So it had that kind of an impact in thinking about it."
Some of the world's best players from both genders will take it on in 2014 when the 104-year-old course will play host to the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in consecutive weeks. They'll discover several tweaks as part of the $2.5 million renovation that was first discussed in 2008 because officials felt No. 2 was starting to lose a bit of its uniqueness.
"Bill and I did some soul searching before this, because we revere (the course) so much," Crenshaw said. "But we finally, in our minds, we had the courage of conviction to do some things that we thought were necessary."
Eight tees were added to the championship course, lengthening it by 271 yards to 7,485. The fairways were widened by an average of 50 percent, a move designed to give players more options. Perhaps most notably, the tight-angled dogleg on the seventh hole was widened to more closely resemble how it played in the 1940s.
"When we started this, we were trying to figure out how to position Pinehurst No. 2 for the next 100 years," Dedman said. "It has an incredible legacy since 1907. Obviously it has an incredible impact on the game golf on the national and international level. We wanted to make sure whatever we did was consistent with the legacy and the history."
All the rough was removed. Only two cuts of grass remain: green and fairway. Roughly 32 acres of grass was stripped and replaced with areas of hardpan, sand, pine straw and wiregrass – all components of the course's original design.
"You want to encourage them to hit the ball," Crenshaw said. "But in order to have those choices, you have to have latitude, you have to have width. There is no question we have made a wider course here, but with swings to those spots encased in these areas of sand and wire grass.
"We've offered them those alternatives, which reaches other people's handicaps," he added. "But it's also fascinating the expert player, too, who is trying as hard as he can to get to a fairway quadrant so he can attack a flag in some fashion."
Crenshaw and Coore also restored, eliminated or reshaped bunkers based on aerial photographs from the 1940s.
Ross "intended this to be a strategic course," Crenshaw said. "We simply uncovered it. We'd take grass away, and there's sand right there. We're in the sandhills of North Carolina. That's what was here."