By Shawn Stinson
April 14, 2014
This isn’t going to be Payne Stewart’s or Michael Campbell’s Pinehurst No. 2 when the U.S. Open returns to the course that played host to the 1999 and 2005 championships.
Instead, it is going to be the one Denny Shute tamed to win the first of his consecutive PGA crowns.
Who is Denny Shute, you ask? He is the winner of the 1936 PGA Championship.
Shute would probably be pleased to grab his hickory-shaft driver and take a run at Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson because when Pinehurst No. 2 is unveiled to the public during U.S. Open week (June 9 to 15), it will be the talk of the golfing world.
Mainly because the owners spent $2.5 million to turn the clock back to when designer Donald Ross was still able to tinker with his masterpiece. This huge change was undertaken by two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and his partner Bill Coore using an aerial photograph from 1943 as a guide.
The main thing that catches the eye when you see the course in person or on TV is the lack of green. That’s because the rough — all 40 acres of it — was eliminated during the one-year transformation from “modern” course to its original design.
This is contrary to what one usually finds at an U.S. Open venue. Usually the rough is so high a small child can be lost for days in the grass. Now at Pinehurst in two months that same child could disappear in the mixture of sand, pine straw, hardpan and wiregrass.
“We’ve always had U.S. Open roughs with U.S. opens,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said last year. “So in this case, you’re going to have a U.S. Open that, when you miss a fairway, you’re going to get all kinds of different lies.”
In addition to yanking out the rough, the crews also removed 650 irrigation heads and restored the centerline irrigation system. What all of this means to the players is that the further away from the center of the fairway you get, the less green grass is going to be under the ball.
Bob Farren, the director of grounds and golf course maintenance at Pinehurst, was all too happy to show off the work he and his crew have done to prepare for this year’s tournament. Farren stood in the middle of ankle-high wiregrass talking about how excited he was to have the “best in the world” see the results.
Farren added when the owners began to discuss making these drastic alterations to Ross’ beloved course, they worked hand-in-hand with Davis.
“Mike Davis and the USGA were all in,” Farren said standing on the tee box on the fifth hole. “We will see an entirely different course.”
This doesn’t mean everything Coore, Crenshaw and Farren have accomplished was designed to penalize errant shots. In fact, it was done to give players more options when hitting off the tees or into the greens.
Fairways on the whole have been widen up to 50 percent since Campbell raised the trophy in 2005. With the good news, does come bad, the holes have been lengthen more than 300 yards to measure a whopping 7,565 yards from the championship tees.
The only part of Pinehurst No. 2 which didn’t undergo the massive makeover are the greens as No. 15 and 17 were slightly modified to give additional pin placements. Rebuilt in 1986 and again in 1996 before Stewart’s dramatic par putt on the final hole three years later, the undulating greens are still the course’s calling card.
Pinehurst is gearing up for the return of the U.S. Open and after the transformation under Coore and Crenshaw, the course is prepared to give the best golfers in the world a run for their money.
Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.