Hosting a U.S. Open is nothing new for Pinehurst No. 2 as the course was the site for the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens. A lot has changed in the nine years since, however, namely the setup of the course. The track the players will attempt to tackle this week will look and play very different from the one Michael Campbell conquered in 2005.
Under the auspices of top architectural duo Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, Pinehurst No. 2 underwent a massive redesign beginning in 2010, and the result is a one-of-a-kind unique U.S. Open setup. While fairways were widened, bunkers were changed and the course was lengthened by 300 yards, the biggest difference is the rough. There will be no thick, U.S. Open-style cut of rough this week. In fact, there will be no rough at all. More than 35 acres of turf was removed during the redesign, leaving two cuts of grass; greens and everywhere else. In place of rough are natural waste areas. There is hardpan, sand, wire grass and other native plants. That natural areas will provide a unique change from the typical U.S. Open setup.
The changes were made in an attempt to get the course back to playing how it was originally designed. When Donald Ross blueprinted Pinehurst No. 2, the focus was on giving players strategic choices. The wider fairways will do just that, giving the 156-player field multiple options and shots into each green.
About the only thing that remains entirely the same from the last U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 are the greens. Two of the 18 greens were modified slightly, but the putting surfaces remain as challenging as originally designed. Here is a complete look at each hole at Pinehurst No. 2.
No. 1 | 402 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
The opening hole is one of the easier holes on the course, with Ross designing it to give players a soft landing. The fairway starts out wide, but narrows closer to the hole, so most players will likely take a fairway wood or iron off the tee. The fairway is bordered with sand and natural waste areas, making accuracy off the tee important. Most will hit a wedge into the green and accuracy will be paramount as any miss will likely roll away from the pin.
No. 2 | 507 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
Traditionally one of the hardest holes on the course, the fairway at No. 2 was widened significantly during the redesign. While players will have a bigger landing area to target off the tee, the second shot remains difficult. There is a slight dogleg to the right, so a drive down the left side of the fairway gives the best angle into the green. Players won't want to miss short with a front-right bunker and a severe slope at the front edge that could send shots off the green.
No. 3 | 387 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
The third hole was one of the easiest in 1999 and 2005. The green might be drivable depending on the tee placement, but a miss could be costly. The front of the green is surrounded by a bunker and waste areas, but going long makes for a very difficult up and down. Most will likely play conservative off the tee, hitting an iron to set up a safe second shot. If executed, No. 3 should be a good birdie opportunity.
No. 4 | 529 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
No. 4 underwent significant change with the tee box moved to the original angle. The bigger change is after playing as a par-5 in 1999 and 2005, the hole will be a long par-4 this year. The hole plays downhill with a dogleg to the left. The green is one of the biggest on the course and sloped right-to-left. With it's length, many will hit a mid-to-long-iron into the green and will need to avoid a challenging bunker on the front-left.
No. 5 | 576 yards | Par-5 | Flyover
Previously a par-4, No. 5 will play as a par-5 this year, flipping with No. 4. With a sloped and uneven fairway and extremely tough green, the hole will challenge players from tee to green. Many will go after the green in two, but will do so from an uneven lie. Both sides of the green are guarded with bunkers, but missing right makes for a much easier up-and-down. There isn't a great place to layup at and those who do will either have the ball well above, or well below their feet on their next shot. The green may be the hardest on the course.
No. 6 | 219 yards | Par-3 | Flyover
The first par-3 is also one of the hardest holes on the course. The majority of players will use a long-iron off the tee, with some possibly opting for a hybrid or fairway wood. There are bunkers guarding both sides of the green, which is severely sloped from front-to-back. Going long will leave either a very fast putt down the slope or a tricky chip. Front hole placements will be the most challenging.
No. 7 | 424 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
The seventh should be a solid birdie opportunity, but requires precision. The hole features a dogleg-right with a narrow landing area off the tee. Running through the fairway to the left is a legitimate and undesirable result and the right side is guarded with bunkers. Many players will take a fairway wood or iron off the tee, setting up a mid-to-short iron for the approach. There is a massive bunker and waste area guarding the right of the green. Pin locations on the right won't leave very much green to work with out of the bunker.
No. 8 | 502 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
Another long par-4, the eighth hole plays straightaway. That doesn't mean it's easy, however, with a very sloped fairway creating some interesting second shots, especially for players who go left off the tee. The green is elevated and slopes from back-to-front. Missing long is a crucial mistake with a steep slope off the back leaving a brutal up-and-down.
No. 9 | 191 yards | Par-3 | Flyover
The ninth hole is the shortest on the course, but far from the easiest. The majority of the field will hit a mid-iron into the two-tiered green and an accurate tee shot is vital. The back-left tier is relatively flat, but missing long and left will leave the player with a nearly impossible up-and-down. The front-right tier is sloped and can create tricky putts with plenty of movement. There are three bunkers and plenty of waste area guarding the green, just for good measure.
No. 10 | 617 yards | Par-5 | Flyover
The longest hole on the course is likely a three-shot hole for all but the very longest hitters (think Bubba and Dustin). Even they may choose to play it safe and layup to set up a short wedge shot into the elevated green. The fairway narrows significantly and trees can be a factor on second shots, forcing players to shape their ball, or attempt to go over. The elevated green features trouble around the edges, but balls that safely land in the center of the green should leave good opportunities for birdie with only a slight slope.
No. 11 | 483 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
One of the least forgiving holes on the course, especially off the tee where players will hit a semi-blind tee shot to a narrow and sloped fairway. The waste areas can come into play on most holes at Pinehurst No. 2, but that is especially true at No. 11. If you're going to miss the green, miss right as there is plenty of space leaving a manageable up-and-down. The green can be very difficult, depending on pin locations and any approach shots missed left can easily lead to a bogey or worse.
No. 12 | 484 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
The tee shot at No. 12 is one of the easiest on the course with a wide and inviting fairway awaiting. From there, the hole gets much harder. The green is sloped from back-to-front with a steep drop off on the back side. Missing long will almost certainly be a costly mistake. There are bunkers guarding the green and waste area short. The green can be a tough one to read, especially on fast putts down the slope.
No. 13 | 385 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
While No. 13 is one of the shortest par-4s on the course, it plays uphill with a dogleg-right. Many players go iron or fairway wood off the tee, leaving a mid-iron into the green. Four bunkers guard the green, including two on the front-right and a large bunker and waste area on the front-left. Missing short is the ideal miss on a lot of holes at Pinehurst, but not on No. 13. The green is relatively simple, compared to the rest of the course and those who get on in regulation should have good chance to pick up a shot.
No. 14 | 473 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
A long par-4, No. 13 plays downhill, making it play a little shorter than it appears off the tee. There is a deep fairway bunker on the left, so most will favor the right side with their tee shot. There are two large bunkers guarding the front of the green which is sloped from back-to-front. Like most of the holes on the course, missing short is the better option with long approach shots likely headed for bogey or worse.
No. 15 | 202 yards | Par-3 | Flyover
The start of a brutal closing stretch, the 15th hole is a very difficult par-3. Not only is it long at 202 yards, but the green is one of the smallest on the course and crowned with severe slopes off the sides. Short approach shots are likely to roll off the green and there is a large bunker on the front-right. Short game skills are paramount on No. 15 with a lot of players tasked with getting up-and-down to save a par.
No. 16 | 528 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
The 16th was the second-hardest hole on the course in 2005. Players will hit their tee shots over a small pond, the only water hazard on the course. The dogleg-left fairway will result in a downhill lie for most second shots. The green is sloped from back-to-front and significantly. Bunkers and waste area guard the left, right and back of the green. Missing short is the best place to miss.
No. 17 | 205 yards | Par-3 | Flyover
The best birdie opportunity on the closing stretch, the 17th hole features a large and inviting green. Finding the green off the tee should lead to a makable birdie try, but short tee shots can easily roll off the green and four bunkers surround the putting surface. Payne Stewart and Phil Mickelson both hit outstanding tee shots at No. 17 in 1999. Stewart made birdie while Mickelson settled for par, a pivotal swing in the final result.
No. 18 | 451 yards | Par-4 | Flyover
The closing hole requires players start with an accurate tee shot. The fairway is narrow and guarded by waste areas. There is also a very challenging deep bunker on the right side of the fairway that won't leave an easy shot to the green. The green has a two-tiered effect and the bunker on the front-right does not make for an easy up-and-down. The Sunday pin will almost certainly be tucked away on the back right, just like it was in 1999, when Stewart sunk a long par putt for the win.