The genius of Pinehurst lies in Donald Ross's confounding convex greens. The term "crowned" doesn't do them justice. They swell, ripple and heave, demanding superhuman precision. Our experts illuminate No. 2's four most devious surfaces, which are sure to humble the world's best putters.
We spoke with Bill Coore, the Co-architect of the No. 2 restoration, and Bob Farren, Director of Grounds at Pinehurst to get an insider's view of the four most devilish greens on the property.
The 3rd hole: 389 yard par-4
GO FOR THE GREEN, BUT DON'T GO OVER IT
BOB FARREN: "The green is drivable under the right conditions," says Bob Farren, Pinehurst's director of grounds. "But if you go over, you're in a sandy area, not grass. The left side of the green tilts to the left and down to the bunker, so players must be careful not to spin their approach shots back into that bunker. There's enough slope and pitch on the green to make putting difficult, too. I feel that this and No. 5 are among Ross's greatest greens because they're right next to the house where he lived. He spent so much time there, he gave his full attention to them. When I'm on the course, I envision him on his porch, smoking his cigar and watching golfers putt the third and fifth greens."
BILL COORE: "Off the tee, the hole entices players to get as close as possible," says Bill Coore, co-architect (with partner Ben Crenshaw) of No. 2's restoration. "But it's tough to get up and down from anywhere around that green. Since it cants severely back to front, the worst thing is to hit it over the green. It's spectacularly contoured and crowned to accept a pitch shot."
The 5th hole: 576 yard par-5
LIKE STOPPING A BALL ON THE HOOD OF A CAR
COORE: "I've never seen anything like this green, which is crowned so severely that you can only place the pin in the middle. Remember when some golfer compared hitting the greens at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass to trying to land a ball on the hood of a car? Well, this really is like that, but it's a 1940s car with an elongated hood. I'm not sure there's a green in golf where the usable square footage for hole locations is so small relative to the overall size of the green. I can't imagine that any more than a third or even a fourth of the green is pinnable. It's pure Pinehurst."
FARREN: "It's a reachable par 5, or a short-iron third shot, but the entire left side of the hole is a train wreck. The left two-thirds of the green breaks so hard that a lot of balls get putted off it. [USGA executive director and U.S. Open setup major domo] Mike Davis wanted to see this as a par 5 so that they could use great hole locations that were simply too difficult when it was a par 4."
The 14th hole: 473 yard par-4
AVOID THE "MOST PENAL" BUNKER AT ALL COST
FARREN: "Since this is a long par 4, the green isn't as severe as some of the others, but it has enough pitch in it to make every putt and chip interesting. Any ball that winds up above the hole will make for a delicate next shot; getting the speed right will be a challenge. There's plenty of fairway in front of the green, which will give players the freedom to run the ball up onto the putting surface, but if it goes over, it'll roll far away. If they hit the right side of the green, the ball could slide into the greenside bunker—and that bunker is most penal. Relative to the green, it's as deep as just about any bunker on the course."
COORE: "This green is beautifully designed to fit the shot hit to it: deep enough to handle long- or mid-iron approaches but with less undulation." Putts and chips from the left side (above the hole) will require a deft touch.
The 15th hole: 202 yard par-3
STAY BELOW THE HOLE AND NO ONE GETS HURT
FARREN: "This great par 3 has two relatively new hole locations, one about two-thirds of the way back, on a plateau that wasn't there before, and the other one middle-right. That one was brought back into play by moving the green closer to the right greenside bunker. The right side of the green has a lot of pitch to it, and the entire front third has a lot of slope. If you find your ball above the hole, it's bad news."
COORE: "We expanded the green back to where it had been years ago, to accommodate some pin placements that had been lost. The pros will see a right-side pin closer to the greenside bunker that wasn't there in '99 and '05, when hole locations had been mostly in the middle of the green." Players will see a plateau that wasn't there in '99 and '05. A new pin location is expected to bring the right bunker into play. Putts from here will need to be hit firmly up the steep slope.