After a year-long, $2.5M restoration, the famed Donald Ross course is now ready for the 2014 U.S. Open and “the next 100 years.”
Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort held official reopening ceremonies on April 11 for its renowned No. 2 course, after a year-long restoration led by two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw, who said his mission was to restore the course to its original Donald Ross design.
“This place is what it is,” Crenshaw said Monday of the course that has hosted two U.S. Opens and will be the site of a third in 2014 (and then the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open the following week). “We tried our best to uncover it.”
Ross wanted the No. 2 course to be a “stern test, but he also wanted people of lesser skills to be able to play it as well,” Crenshaw added during the reopening ceremony, as reported by The Associated Press and espn.com. He and design partner Bill Coore tried to keep that in mind, Crenshaw said, during the $2.5 million renovation that added eight tees to the championship course and lengthened it by 271 yards, to a new total of 7,485.
The course’s fairways were widened by an average of 50 percent, to try to give players more options. Perhaps most notably, the tight-angled dogleg on the seventh hole was widened to more closely resemble how it played in the 1940s.
All the rough was removed and only two cuts of grass remain: green and fairway. Roughly 32 acres of grass was stripped and replaced with areas of hardpan, sand, pine straw and wiregrass — all components of the course’s original design.
“Bill and I did some soul searching before this, because we revere [the course] so much,” Crenshaw said. “But finally, in our minds, we had the courage of conviction to do some things that we thought were necessary.”
“You want to encourage [players] to hit the ball,” he added. “But to have those choices, you have to have latitude, you have to have width. There is no question we have made a wider course here, but with swings to those spots encased in these areas of sand and wire grass. We’ve offered them those alternatives, which reaches other people’s handicaps. But it’s also fascinating for the expert player, too, who is trying as hard as he can to get to a fairway quadrant so he can attack a flag in some fashion.”
Crenshaw and Coore also restored, eliminated or reshaped bunkers based on aerial photographs from the 1940s.
Ross “intended this to be a strategic course,” Crenshaw said. “We simply uncovered it. We’d take grass away, and there’s sand right there. We’re in the sandhills of North Carolina. That’s what was here.”
“I think a lot of us do view No. 2 as Donald Ross’ masterpiece, and it’s like messing with the Mona Lisa,” Pinehurst Resort CEO and owner Bob Dedman Jr. said during the ceremonies. “And there were trepidations initially about what should be done, and should we undertake this? And I think we were all nervous at first. We all realized it will probably be the smartest thing we’ve ever done, or the dumbest thing we’ve ever done. So it had that kind of an impact in thinking about it.
“When we started this, we were trying to figure out how to position Pinehurst No. 2 for the next 100 years,” Dedman added. “It has an incredible legacy since 1907. Obviously it has an incredible impact on the game golf on the national and international level. We wanted to make sure whatever we did was consistent with the legacy and the history.”