Following the 2005 U.S. Open at famed Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, I had the opportunity to travel down to the Tar Heel state and play course No. 2.
Always rated amongst the top-20 courses in the United States, No. 2, with its domed putting surfaces, ranks second only to Pebble Beach as the best public course in America.
So, why after all the recognition did I feel that this Donald Ross layout was not worthy at that time?
Well, to be honest, the course was not in very good shape. Tees were beat up, the fairways were less than stellar and the greens, well, not very true. Not to mention, the price tag at over $350 was not very, shall we say, appealing.
Let's jump ahead five years and the restoration project that started in February of 2010. After weighing its options, Pinehurst contracted the services of the design firm of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to restore No. 2 to Ross' original design.
This was an important project, as the USGA in '09 had picked No. 2 to play host in back-to-back weeks to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open in 2014.
The two biggest changes -- the removal of the rough and the conditioning.
That's right. All 35 acres of rough were stripped and restored with natural areas featuring sand, pine straw and native grasses. In addition, a completely new irrigation system was installed, replacing its 60-year-old archaic predecessor.
There were other modifications as well, but these two alone put No. 2 back in the mix.
But this architectural wonder is not the only game in town.
Pinehurst Resort features eight outstanding courses. In addition to No. 2, Nos. 4 and 8 are amazing in their own right and completely different in playability.
Another Donald Ross classic, No. 4 received a brand-new facelift from none other than Tom Fazio in 2000 and garnered rave reviews. So much so, that the USGA staged the 2008 U.S. Amateur Championship at both Nos. 2 and 4.
The youngest of the group, No. 8 was born in 1996 and also designed by Fazio. The course features more elevation changes than all seven courses combined and was the host site of the 1997-98 PGA Club Pro Championships.
There's no question that golf is the main focus in Pinehurst, but the piece de resistance is The Carolina and The Holly Inn.
Nicknamed the "Queen of the South," the Carolina is as majestic as it gets.
Centuries old and growing, the Carolina's amenities are as expansive as its 230 Four-Diamond rooms. Whether it's dining in the main culinary facility or the casual fare of the Ryder Cup Lounge, featuring mementos and photos of the 1951 event, your taste buds will be satisfied.
However, The Holly Inn is my personal favorite.
As quaint as they come, the Holly is a step back in time, but not in luxury.
First class all the way, the Holly features 82 Four-Diamond, Four-Star, Gold Standard, or whatever top verbiage you want to use, guest rooms. And the classic 1895 Grille is the best dining in the region.
Oh, there's plenty else to do at Pinehurst -- the spa, tennis, swimming, lawn sports, you name it, but this is golf at its best.
How many times have you heard about the Myrtle Beach excursion or the Pebble Beach right of passage, not to mention the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail? All too often.
The next time you talk about buddy trips or the family retreat, make Pinehurst Resort your final destination, as Pinehurst takes a back seat to none.
Don't take my word for it, experience it for yourself at Pinehurst.com.