Is Pinehurst No. 2 Overrated?

Is Pinehurst No. 2 Overrated? June 16, 2024

CREDIT: Pinehurst Golf Resort

Yes, that’s what I believed before this U.S. Open began this week. And that’s what some other former PGA Tour players are now being reported as saying. Golf online says Mark Calcavecchia, a thirteen-time winner on the PGA Tour, said Thursday, “Pinehurst is such a cool area with great courses. #2 ain’t one of them. Most overrated course in the world! Lemme have it!! But it’s true.”

The social media has been fired up since this afternoon about what happened to the main loser, by one stroke, Rory McIlroy, on the par five 5th hole. Indeed, it was aweful! When I saw it, I thought that confirmed what I thought and what Calcavecchia said.

Rory blasted a great drive in that fairway, which is difficult to keep the ball from rolling downhill to the left and into the waste area. Then Rory played a great 5-iron second shot that landed on the front middle of the green. You’d think it was a perfect shot since the ball stopped immediately and was about 20 feet onto the green for a 25-foot eagle putt. But that green has a false front that made the ball gradually and slowly roll backwards and off the green. Then the ball gained speed and rolled and rolled and rolled, backwards and then way left until it settled in the sandy waste area with a horrible lie and well below the elevated green. Rory carded a miserable bogey six. You just have to chalk that up to bad, bad luck. But then there’s the crazy guy who says, “heh, if I didn’t have any bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

(BTW, do you know that the biggest controversy among Christian pros who attend the weekly PGA Tour Bible Study is about whether there is any such thing as luck, but that everything happens according to the sovereignty will of God? For me, that’s crazy. I did notice today that Christian man Bryson DeChambeau believes in luck. Good! My go-to Bible verse on this one was written by wise King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that reads, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.”)

This controversy about Pinehurst No. 2 raises a question about the fairness of golf courses in the U.S. compared to those in the old country, especially in Scotland. The reason is that Donald Ross designed and built about 400 golf courses in the U.S. to become perhaps the most famous golf course architect here. But you would have to say he got his ideas about how golf courses should be designed from the birthplace of golf.

Donald Ross was born in Dornoch, Scotland, and was an apprentice to famous Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews, the most famous golf course in the world and the venue where “kolf” or “gowfe,” as they used to pronounce the game, was born. (Just as there is with the birthplace of golf, whether in Scotland or Holland, there has always been much argument about the game’s original name.) As a young man, Donald Ross moved to the U.S. and fashioned his career here and somewhat in Canada.

Those old golf courses in Scotland have some very devilish features, such as little but deep and steep pot bunkers right in the middle of the fairways that gobble up a good shot with a driver. Thus, compared to American standards, golfing your ball in the old country can be an unfair nightmare. Some diabolical souls think that’s great, adding to the fun of the game. I say they are so crazed because they don’t make their living at it.

So, this criticism of Pinehurst No. 2 is based on what’s fair. But Pinehurst No. 2 now has that invisible moniker hanging on its front door of the clubhouse even more since the membership board called in former two-time Masters champ Ben Crenshaw to remove the rough lining the fairways and return these locations to “native areas,” as they call them, which is supposedly how it was when Ross built the course.

But there is another issue about the unfairness of Pinehurst No. 2. It is that when Donald Ross was building golf courses, they had some raunchy lawnmowers that couldn’t cut the grass finely like lawnmowers can nowadays. So, Pinehurst No. 2 has way faster greens and little or no fringes around the greens than the old days, which causes golf balls to roll all over the place as if the game is a pin ball machine, not kolf.

I’ve played several tournaments at Pinehurst No. 2. Actually, I think I liked Pinehurst No. 6 more than Pinehurst No. 2. One year we had a PGA Tour tournament in which we played both courses. I played on the Tour with the legendary Sam Snead three times, and one of them was there at Pinehurst No. 6.

When there is a lot of unfairness in a golf course, it makes it easier for the cream to sink to the bottom rather than rise to the top if you know what I mean. Yet, I have to admit that that didn’t prove out this week. This contest came down to a match between two of the greatest players in the game. So, what do I and Mr. Calcavvechia know?


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