PINEHURST, N.C. – Things are starting to take shape before the first doubleheader of U.S. opens.
In just over two years, Pinehurst's renowned No. 2 course will play host to the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open on consecutive weeks — the first time the USGA has attempted such a feat.
Organizers said Friday they'll keep an eye on the freshly renovated course next month to see how it behaves in typical June weather and make any necessary tweaks.
Ben Crenshaw led the course's yearlong $2.5 million facelift in which, among other things, the rough was removed and its layout reverted closer to its original Donald Ross design.
That project started in the fall of 2010 and the course re-opened last spring. Now Pinehurst president Don Padgett says it's finally mature enough that "we can kick the tires and see what we've got."
Eight tees were added to the championship course, lengthening it by 271 yards to 7,485. The fairways were widened by an average of 50 percent, a move designed to give players more options. The tight-angled dogleg on the seventh hole was widened to more closely resemble how it played in the 1940s.
Pinehurst Resort CEO and owner Bob Dedman Jr. said groundskeepers have eliminated "40 acres of the rough that we have come to know and hate."
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.
"We obviously started on the track of preparing for (the two opens) over two years ago when we started working with Ben Crenshaw ... on the concepts to return some of the strategy back to the course," Dedman said. "And it continues to evolve. ... The beauty of that has been just adding that much more texture and more variety, and aesthetically, it's significantly different than it was (when No. 2 last hosted the Open) in 2005."
Dedman says the course itself should hold up well despite two weeks of nearly nonstop traffic, and that for the Women's Open, he expects the greens to be "somewhat more receptive than they would from a men's shot approaching the green.
"Certainly the firmness and the texture of the fairways will be the same," Dedman said. "Really, the only difference is the receptiveness of the greens, and they really have it down to the metrics."
Reg Jones, managing director of the U.S. Open, says the biggest questions faced by the organizers at this point concern parking, transportation, booking volunteers and the other outside-the-ropes logistics that must be sorted out during the coming two years.
But that's where the region's experience at hosting big-time golf comes in handy, and that's why Jones says his crew is "looking forward to a home game in 2014."
"When you look at the recent history of golf in the sandhills, I think it's pretty obvious the USGA likes to be here," Jones said.
Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted U.S. Opens in 1999 and 2005. The U.S. Women's Open has been held at nearby Pine Needles three times since 1996 — but never at Ross' masterpiece course. By 2014, the USGA will have held 12 championships in 20 years in the North Carolina sandhills, with the most recent such event at No. 2 being the 2008 U.S. Amateur.
Padgett says it didn't take much convincing at all a few years ago to persuade Dedman to go along with the proposal for back-to-back Opens. Padgett says he pitched the idea to Dedman, and then there was "just a long pause, and the only thing he said was, 'Has it ever been done before?'"
"He got the idea of being first, never being done before, and the history part was all that he really wanted to know," he added. "It wasn't hardly a 5-minute conversation, but it spoke volumes for his commitment and how he feels about working with the USGA.
"It didn't take him long to say, 'We're in."