Play Your Own U.S. Open

The long par-3 17th hole at No. 2, where a birdie helped Payne Stewart secure the U.S. Open in 1999.
Peter Wong

This article was first published May 5, 2007.

Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina is one of just two publicly accessible resort courses to have staged the Open, and 2007 marks the centennial of Donald Ross' most celebrated design. But since No. 2 is also just one of eight courses at this Sandhills sanctuary — and because few of us have time for 144 holes on a golf trip — we took a quick tour of the most popular courses Pinehursthas to offer.

(Click here to see more photos from Pinehurst)

Pinehurst No.2
7,305 yard, par 72
Greens fee: $319
Architect: Donald Ross (1907)

Ask golfers to describe America's greatest courses and they'll weep about "Wow!" holes like the seventh at Pebble Beach. Pinehurst No. 2 has no signature hole and no breathtaking aesthetics, but is proof that a course can be much greater than its individual holes.

You can land a jumbo jet on the generous fairways without dislodging a pinecone, but No. 2 is the toughest course on the planet from within 50 yards of the greens, which are tougher to hold than a nervous turkey on Thanksgiving. It takes only one chip shot rolling back to your feet to have confidence replaced by doubt and despair.

So what if it lacks the scenic splendor of other top courses? No. 2 might be the finest test of championship golf anywhere, a course that defends itself through greens that gently draw blood in 18 different ways, and not by having to bastardize the fundamental design every time the pros come to town.

Value for money

Pinehurst No. 4
7,117 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $209
Architect: Tom Fazio (2000)

This piece of property has been reshaped more times than Michael Jackson's nose, and only the original routing done by Donald Ross in 1919 remains after Tom Fazio's redesign. No. 4 is an undeniably fun, quality resort course, and like all Fazio courses makes for terrific eye candy. But whereas the upturned saucer greens are at home on No. 2, they seem contrived on a course of this recent vintage — the architectural equivalent of Xeroxing the Mona Lisa and calling it a "tribute."

Value for money

Pinehurst No.7
7,216 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $209
Architect: Rees Jones (1986)

There are some fine holes here — notably the seventh, a short par 4 that demands a stomach-churning approach shot over wetlands — but this isn't quite seventh heaven. The endless sequence of elevated greens — there are 13 of them in all — and the similarity of several holes on the back nine gives the layout a repetitive feel that it probably doesn't deserve. The homes lining the fairways give the course a claustrophobic feel that is deserved.

Value for money

Pinehurst No.8
7,092 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $209
Architect: Tom Fazio (1996)

This is arguably the most enjoyable course to play at Pinehurst after No. 2, with a charming mix ofholes that range from inviting to downright intimidating. Be warned: The ever-encroaching trees and scattered wetlands also mean you're more likely to lose a ball at No. 8 than on any other course at the resort.

Value for money

Stay here
The Carolina hotel is one of the most recognizable buildings in American golf and is the center of life at Pinehurst Resort, though many golfers prefer the more sedate ambience of the Holly, the original resort hotel which opened in 1895 (when guests paid $3 per night). The hotels are a few minutes walk apart and both are served by constant shuttles to all golf courses and resort amenities. 800-487-4653,

Eat here
There are almost as many dining options as courses at Pinehurst. The top picks are the Carolina Dining Room, where meat dominates the menu, and the 1895 Grille at the Holly, where the triple chocolate souffle is the only triple you'll want twice on the trip. For lunch try the 91st Hole at the main clubhouse.

Summer Tee
Buy a two-night golf package and get a third night and round of golf for free. Includes four rounds (No. 2 costs an extra $150), three nights' accommodations, breakfast and dinner daily. Cost is $928 per person (plus taxes and service charge). The companion non-golfer rate is $492 for the stay. Available May 24-Sept. 5, based on availability.

Summer Escape
The dine-and-dash deal includes one night's accommodation, one round of golf (No. 2 is $150 extra ), breakfast and dinner. Cost is $309. Valid May 24-Sept. 5, based on availability.

Centennial Package
The only package that doesn't add a surcharge for No. 2 is also the most expensive. Includes three rounds, including No. 2, two nights' accommodations, breakfast and dinner, a clinic on how to tackle the greens at No. 2, Pro V1 balls, and massage at the spa. $1,499 per person. Valid through 2007.