It’s all go for January after the R&A and USGA published their finalised Rules of Golf. So what’s coming in? Steve Carroll outlines the changes.
Pinehurst No.2 redesign could pave way for exciting US Open
The word being bandied around quite a bit recently is ‘redesigned,’ a term which basically says something has been altered enough to be considered new again. However, upon closer look it is clear that there has been very little actual change to Pinehurst No.2; rather the host for the US Open has simply been restored to its initial form.
Whatever anyone’s opinion may be on the new-look course – and there has been plenty of debate – the basic scale of this $2.5m (£1.5m) redesign cannot be denied. The upturned saucer greens have obviously remained, placing a premium on second shots during the second major championship of 2014, but the rest? Just as Donald Ross would have intended when designing the second of eight Pinehurst courses at the beginning of the 20th century.
The course itself is often looked upon as a thing of beauty, a beacon of difference which sets itself apart from the mundane and simple formula used by a series of US Open venues. It’s a golf course fans can relish watching players battle to tame.
Pinehurst No.2 is undeniably stunning on the eye. It is treacherous, long and original. And that’s why we love it.
Claims from some American commentators that Pinehurst resembles a traditional links course, or more specifically, the Old Course at St Andrews is well wide of the mark.
For some spectators there is a real concern that this major will quickly regress from something special into the realms of quality decay. The course set-up will play its role in determining how player’s make their way across the course, with many golfers spending as much time studying roll-offs around the greens as honing their swing planes before the big event.
“I’ve never played anything like it,” said Jordan Spieth. “It’s already – right now, with the pins in the middle of the greens – hard enough for even par to win. It’s going to be extremely challenging.”
Those comments are a testament to the level of hard work and unwavering dedication to the task of creating something special in that corner of North Carolina. Constructed under the watchful eye of golf course architect Bill Coore, in partnership with double-major winner Ben Crenshaw, makes this course all the more attractive.
“We think you are going to see some of the most spectacular recovery shots in US Open history,” said a confident Coore.
It has been suggested that around 35 acres of turf was removed during the redevelopment. Now there is so much more to admire. The fairway; sandy, water scrubland as opposed to rough; bunkers with ferocious, natural edges as sharp as knives.
“A lot of people have spoken about the fact there is no rough,” said Justin Rose, who hopes to retain the US Open title he won last year. “But at almost every hole you have a decision to make on the tee; you can be almost sure of being on the short stuff but have 180 yards left to hit into these greens. That isn’t easy, it is a test. Can you hit and stay on those greens?
“If want to have a 9-iron in your hand, you are going to be hitting from the tee into much tighter areas.”
Masters champion Bubba Watson believes the course will be a virtual no-go driving zone, explaining: “I’m going to try to lay farther back than normal, because it’s still iffy hitting in that, I don’t know what they call it; rough, dirt, sand.
“It’s going to be iffy, you don’t know what kind of lies you’re going to get. So I’m going to lay back and have a lot longer shots into the holes.”
Pinehurst No.2 has been extended to 7,500 yards, which is fine in a professional context but rubbish in terms of attracting amateur players to the course. The removal of more than 650 sprinkler heads means only the centre of the fairways and the greens can be watered. The remainder has to naturally adapt to its surroundings and let nature work its magic.
Claims estimating that Pinehurst has already saved upon water use by 40% will be welcome news to some as it writes a positive narrative and begins to weave an economic legacy. “Maintain the middle of the golf course and spend less time and money on irrigation, fertiliser and fungicides in the roughs,” explained the United States Golf Association’s Mike Davis of policies such as this. “Maintenance up the middle is a great message for the game.”
Ernie Els is certainly in favour of all the changes which Pinehurst has undertaken. “When I played here in 1999, I didn’t like it,” he said. “You hit it in the rough, you’re just trying to get it out. It was one-dimensional. Now, you’re going to have an unbelievable championship.
“If you miss the fairway, you’re not just going to wedge it out. You’ve got a chance to hit a miraculous shot. And then you could really be in trouble. This is the way it used to be.”
It wasn’t such a love-in for Jason Day, who chose to throw out words such as “very difficult” and “interesting,” although he was far from critical of the new look and layout. “This is a second-shot course,” Day said. “And you have to be very sharp with your short game this week. With how dry everything is, you think you are going to get a lot of run on the fairways but surprisingly you don’t.”
Watch the US Open this weekend and keep checking back here at american golf for all the news, reviews and latest stories from around the golfing world.