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Golf Course Review - Pinehurst Resort - No. 2

FACTS AND STATS: Course Architect(s): Donald Ross (1901-48), Rees Jones (1996-99, 2004), Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2010-12 - renovation and restoration). Year Opened: 1907. Location: Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina. Slope: 141. Rating: 76.4. Par: 70 (U.S. Open Par). 72 for Resort Guests. Yardage: 7,495.

Hole-by-Hole:

1 - Par 4 406 Yds 10 - Par 5 619 Yds

2 - Par 4 503 Yds 11 - Par 4 486 Yds

3 - Par 4 389 Yds 12 - Par 4 451 Yds

4 - Par 5 569 Yds 13 - Par 4 385 Yds

5 - Par 4 476 Yds 14 - Par 4 479 Yds

6 - Par 3 223 Yds 15 - Par 3 205 Yds

7 - Par 4 429 Yds 16 - Par 4 534 Yds

8 - Par 4 490 Yds 17 - Par 3 208 Yds

9 - Par 3 190 Yds 18 - Par 4 453 Yds

Par 35 3,675 Yds Par 35 3,820 Yds

Key Events Held: U.S. Open (1999, 2005, 2014), U.S. Senior Open (1994), U.S. Women's Open (2014), Tour Championship (1991-92), U.S. Women's Amateur (1989), Hall of Fame Tournament (1983), World Open/Hall of Fame Classic (1973-82), Men's and Women's World Amateur Team Championship (1980), PGA Club Professional Championship (1971-74, 1988), World Senior Amateur Team Championship (1967), U.S. Amateur (1962, 2008), Ryder Cup (1951), PGA Championship (1936), North and South Women's Amateur (1903-present), North and South Amateur (1901-present).

Awards Won: Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Best in State Rankings (NC) (2004-10), Ranked #1 by Golfweek - Best in State Public Rankings (NC) (2012), #2 by Golf Digest - America's best state-by-state (2011-12), Ranked #5 by Golfweek - America's Top 100 Resort Courses (2012), #8 by Golf Digest - U.S. 100 Greatest Public Courses (2011-12), Rated #11 by Golfweek - Best Classic Courses (2012), Ranked #10 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 U.S. Courses (2011-12), Rated #15 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 World Courses (2011), Platinum Golf Resort by Golf Magazine (2012).

Website: Pinehurst.com.

HISTORY: Pinehurst Resort, and especially course No. 2, is steeped in tradition. The resort was conceived by Boston soda fountain magnate James Walker Tufts, who purchased 5,500 acres, intending to build a resort for a winter escape for the northern snowbirds. The price? Just $1 per acre.

After the first course was laid out in the late 1890s, Scottish-born course designer Donald Ross was brought in to design three courses and redo No. 1.

Famed No. 2 opened for play in 1907 with oiled sand or dirt greens, as the summers would not maintain grass. Over the years, Ross tinkered with his pride and joy for over 40 years, finally settling on its current configuration in 1935. Ross certainly was happy with the result, calling it, "the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed."

The man most relied upon recently to renovate and update U.S. Open courses, Rees Jones, aptly nicknamed the "Open Doctor," had this to say about No. 2: "Pinehurst No. 2 is sacred ground in golf. It's Donald Ross's ultimate design because it's his most hands-on creation."

When first opened in 1907, the course was a mere 5,860 yards. Over a century later, the course has been lengthened many times and now stands at over 7,400 yards.

The PGA Championship of 1936 was the first major event held on No. 2, as Ross converted all of the greens to grass. With this change, Ross' surfaces took on a more domed look, thus creating the most difficult greens in golf.

"This contouring around a green makes possible an infinite variety in the requirements for short shots that no other form of hazard can call for," Ross said.

Ross completely changed every green, using horse-drawn, drag-pans to change the putting surfaces and shape the mounds. In addition, his changes lengthen the layout to 6,879 yards.

Barely qualifying for the match-play portion of the PGA Championship, Denny Shute knocked off Jimmy Thomson in the 36-hole final, 3 & 2, to capture the 1936 event. Some of the great players of the day failed to reach match-play, including Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson and Leo Diegel.

Another noteworthy event was the 1940 North-South Open Championship, as it marked the first professional win for Ben Hogan, an event he would win two more times (1942, 1946).

One of the most revered events in amateur history is the North & South Amateur Championship, first held at Pinehurst in 1901. Some of the past champions reads like a who's who, with winners such as Walter Travis, Francis Quimet, Harvie Ward Jr., Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Corey Pavin, Billy Andrade, Davis Love III and Jack Nicklaus II.

The women's North & South dates back to 1903 with former winners Louise Suggs, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Hollis Stacy, Carol Semple Thompson, Donna Andrews, Brandie Burton, Kelly Robbins, Laura Diaz, Yani Tseng, Morgan Pressel and two-time winner Beth Bauer.

The world would come to Pinehurst in 1951 for the Ryder Cup matches, but, sadly, without the course designer present because Ross passed away in Pinehurst in 1948.

The ninth edition of the Ryder Cup, featured an imposing U.S. team which included Jimmy Demaret, Ben Hogan, Lloyd Mangrum and captain Sam Snead, as the Americans crushed the squad from Great Britain, 9 1/2 to 2 1/2. The result was so overwhelming that only two of the 12 matches reached the final hole. This would be the final Ryder Cup for Demaret, who retired with a perfect 6-0 Ryder Cup mark. The course was lengthened again to just over 7,000 yards for the event.

The U.S. Amateur Championship would make its first stop at No. 2 in 1962, as Labron Harris Jr defeated Downing Gray, 1-up. Along the way, Harris defeated the likes of Richard Sikes, Homero Blancas and Billy Joe Patton, who would declare No. 2 "a masterpiece."

The '70s were a difficult time for Pinehurst and the course suffered. With the passing of James Tufts, the course was passed on to his son and he in turn sold the property. The new owners came in and completely changed No. 2. Among the modifications, was to take out all of the sandy waste areas from along side the fairways and planting grass inside the tree-lines. As the years went by, course conditions worsened and even though the PGA Tour brought in an event, the bite of No. 2 was gone. Some of the past winners of that event included Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Ray Floyd, Hale Irwin and Tom Watson, all major championship winners.

Following a Champions Tour event in 1983 won by Rod Funseth with a record- tying score of 18-under-par, change was evident and Club Corp. took ownership of the resort in the mid '80s. Under their leadership and vision, No. 2 was brought back to its original look, feel and playability. Once again, the course became firm and fast and the powers that be at the PGA Tour and USGA levels took notice.

The U.S. Women's Amateur made its lone appearance on No. 2 back in 1989. Vicki Goetze, who also defeated Annika Sorenstam in the 1992 Women's Amateur, came away with a 4 & 3 win over future LPGA player Brandie Burton. Goetze reached the championship match by defeating 1973 winner Carol Semple Thompson, 5 & 3.

The PGA Tour made a couple of visits back in 1991 and '92, as the Tour Championship was held at Pinehurst. Craig Stadler was a playoff winner over Russ Cochran in '91, while Paul Azinger defeated Lee Janzen and Corey Pavin by three shots for the title in '92.

The next event for the USGA at Pinehurst was the U.S. Senior Open in 1994. Starting the final round with a two-shot lead over Jim Albus, Simon Hobday, who controlled this event from the onset with rounds of 66-67-66, saw his lead trimmed to one with just three holes remaining. Graham Marsh moved to 10-under while Hobday climbed to 11 with birdies on the 16th and Albus stood at nine-under. Marsh drew even with Hobday with a par on 17 and Albus, who also made par, was just one back, as Hobday made four.

After all three players drove in the fairway on the last, only Albus found the putting surface. However, his birdie try missed right.

Marsh then missed short from nine feet and Hobday knocked in his 2-foot par putt for the title. His final round of 75 was good enough for a one-shot win over Albus and Marsh. The victory, from start to finish, was one of five Champions Tour titles and his only USGA crown. Bobby Nichols made a rare ace during the championship, as he holed out on the 17th hole during the final round.

Prior to the 1999 U.S. Open, the greens at No. 2 went under the knife, as all of the putting surfaces were replaced by Penn G-2. In addition, more yardage was added to the layout, increasing it to 7,175 and playing to a par of 70.

When all is said and done, however, people will always talk about Pinehurst No. 2 and Payne Stewart's final triumph.

The '99 championship at No. 2 proved to be one of the most exciting finishes in Open history, as it all came down to the final hole.

Faced with a daunting 15-foot putt for par on the 18th green, Stewart surveyed each and every angle and then rolled in the longest putt by a player in the final group on the final hole for the victory. Stewart's famed reaction is now captured by a statue, standing fittingly just behind the final hole.

Standing at 1-under par after three rounds, Stewart held a slim one-shot advantage over Phil Mickelson. After trading the lead on holes 13 through 15, Stewart moved into a tie with Lefty after saving par with a 25-foot putt on 16, while Mickelson missed from eight feet for bogey. On the 17th hole, Stewart knocked his 6-iron three feet away while Mickelson hit a 7-iron four feet from the hole.

Putting first, Mickelson missed right while Stewart's putt ran true to take the lead. After missing the fairway off the tee on 18, Stewart laid up, 80 yards shy of the green and then placed his approach 15 feet away. Mickelson, who once again had a chance to tie, missed his birdie try from 25 feet, setting up Stewart's heroic putt. Stewart was the lone player to finish under par.

Sadly, this would be his final title, as four months later, Stewart, along with his agents, Robert Fraley and Van Arden, and course architect Bruce Borland and two pilots were killed in a plane crash. Pinehurst No. 2 proved to be a formable foe, as only Stewart finished under par (1-under). For the week, the field managed to hit only 47.1 percent of the greens, producing a scoring average of 74.55. In fact, after the second round, only three players had broken par and no one for the week shot better than 67.

In preparation for the next championship, Rees Jones was brought in to repair most of the bunkers and roughly 100 yards were added to the layout by adding several new tee boxes, stretching the course to 7,214 yards.

The United States Golf Association returned to Pinehurst for the 2005 U.S. Open, as Michael Campbell of New Zealand captured his first career major championship. Four shots off the pace when the final round began, Campbell fired a 1-under 69 to defeat Tiger Woods by two shots. Campbell was the lone player in the field to finish at par or better with his four-round total of even-par 280.

Two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen dominated this event through three rounds, as he carded rounds of 68-70-69; however, a Sunday collapse of 81 sent the South African down the leaderboard into a tie for 11th.

Tim Clark, who opened the tournament with a 76, tied for third with Sergio Garcia and Mark Hensby after rounds of 69-70-70. Woods certainly had his chances, but back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 from five feet did him in.

Campbell's final round was a steady one with four birdies and three bogeys, two of which came on 16 and 18 when the championship was already in hand.

The 2005 U.S. Open at No. 2, along with Bethpage Black, were the longest courses in U.S. Open history at 7,214 yards. The course played 92 yards longer than in 1999. During the third round, Peter Jacobsen aced the ninth hole with a 7-iron. Only one player played a bogey-free round throughout the championship, as Arron Oberholser carded a second-round 67.

Just two years later the USGA announced the 2014 U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open would be held in back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst No. 2, marking the first time in history that two national championships would be staged on the same course in consecutive weeks.

"This is a unique and wonderful opportunity to showcase the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open," said then-USGA President Jim Vernon. "The USGA is constantly striving to improve its championships, and conducting these championships in back-to-back weeks allows the Association to provide a new and exciting experience for the players and fans alike."

Not only is this unique, but No. 2 will become the first and only course to host the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur.

"This doubleheader, staged at one of the sport's most storied golf courses, promises to provide a promotion of women's championship golf unlike anything we've ever seen," said David Fay, USGA executive director.

Just one year later, the USGA returned for the 2008 U.S. Amateur, as courses No. 2 and No. 4 were used. Additional changes were made to the course, including No. 2 being lengthened to 7,281 yards. How difficult was the course going to play? Well, the course rating was 76.2 with a slope of 140.

When all was said and done, 18-year-old Danny Lee of New Zealand became the youngest winner in the history of this storied championship, as he defeated Drew Kittleson, 5 & 4 in the title match.

Lee used a hot putter, as he poured in 13 birdies over 32 holes to defeat Kittleson. At the time, Lee was six months younger than Woods was when he won his first U.S. Amateur title.

All square after the opening nine holes, Lee birdied five of the next six holes to pull away and held a 5-up advantage after the first 18. Kittleson made a charge in the afternoon to get within 2-down, but Lee followed with a pair of birdies and then closed out the match on the 32nd hole with a 30-foot birdie. Lee never trailed in the match and finished 11-under par for the match.

Again, the courses at Pinehurst played extremely difficult, as only nine players out of 312 finished under par and No. 2 played to a scoring average of 74.898 during the stroke-play portion of the championship. Generally a par-5 for the resort guests, the 16th played as a par-4 and was the most difficult hole on the course averaging 4.502 strokes per player.

Following the U.S. Amateur, Pinehurst sought out a design team to restore No. 2 to its original Ross glory, the way it was intended.

The logical choice was Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Known for their minimalist approach and their shared admiration for classic golf course architecture, Coore and Crenshaw began the restoration process in February 2010, when they were named to return the character of No. 2.

There were several changes and modifications to the course, but the two biggest were 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.

"My mouth literally falls open when I see the incredible work that they've done," said Mike Davis, current USGA executive director. "I've got to say, I'm so excited about 2014 because it's going to be a very unique U.S. Open."

In addition, fairway widths and firmness of the landing areas were adjusted for increased strategy in playing the course. "The premise is that the farther a golfer hits it, the more chance there is of the ball running into the wire grass and pine straw," Coore said. "They'll be able to see the ball in that area, but they won't know what kind of lie they're going to have."

Another key change was the modification of the bunkers, as several were eliminated, some were restored and others reshaped to match the original images of the course dating back to the 1940s.

"It is not our intent to radically change this golf course," Coore said. "We're trying to uncover it, not recover it. We're trying to take what Ross left and perhaps bring it back to the character and definition of what was once here. In short, we'll bring the strategy back, and reinstate its character."

What was once a course under 6,000 yards long, now stretches to the ungodly length of 7,495 yards, with a slope of 141 and a course rating of 76.4.

The before and after numbers are astounding. 61 acres of turf, down from 87 prior to restoration. 41 acres of fairways, up from 28 and zero acres of rough, down from 50 for the 2005 U.S. Open.

Pinehurst president Don Padgett II said it best: "We're not doing this for purely environmental reasons, nor are we doing this project as preparation for the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open Championship. We're doing it because it's the right thing to do, as stewards of this historic course."

HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW: For starters, pick your tee box wisely. Pinehurst No. 2 can play from 5,267 yards to 7,495 yards, so choose from one of the five tee boxes that will fit your game.

With your caddie in tow, the first is a straightaway par-4 only 406 yards in length. A perfect start to get your juices flowing, the first, just like all the holes on No. 2, relies on placement and strategy. Your tee shot must be struck down the right side of the fairway to set up an easier approach to the green. A short iron is all that is needed to attack the putting surface, but beware, miss long, left or right and you'll have a near impossible task of getting up and down. Play below the hole regardless of the pin position, take par and move on. This is the longest green on the course, 40 yards in length, but it is quite narrow.

The second, now 32 yards longer than in 2005, will require a big tee ball down the left side of the fairway, avoiding the series of bunkers that guard the landing area. A long iron or fairway metal is left and becomes more difficult with a back-right pin placement, as sand guards the front-right of the putting surface. Once again, all shots slightly off target will roll down away from the flag. Along with the fifth, the second hole is one of the most difficult on the course. During the 2005 Open, it played as the second hardest hole, averaging 4.5 strokes.

One of the few opportunities for birdie on No. 2 is the short par-4 third, although it has been lengthened to 389 yards with a new tee box. A long iron or fairway metal down the left side is the play off the tee. A little wedge remains to this elevated green guarded left and right by sand. The green slopes severely from back to front, so below the hole will set up a realistic birdie try. Long or bunkered will result in bogey or worse.

Another solid opportunity for birdie, the fourth is a reachable par-5 that plays downhill to the fairway and then uphill to the green. The optimum drive is down the left side, as the fairway slope goes to the right. If laying up, be wary of the sand around the 100-yard mark on the right. In addition, sand protects the left and right portions of the green. Any shot short of the putting surface will slide back down the fairway, so your approach needs to be spot on. One of the easier greens on the course, so birdie is a real possibility.

Now that you had a chance to pick up a couple of shots, the fifth will most certainly bring you back to reality. Let's start out with an uphill tee shot that needs to carry past the crest of a hill to have any shot at reaching the green in two. Next, you're left with a shot of 200-plus yards, off a sidehill lie with a long iron or fairway metal. Miss short and left and you'll find a deep bunker, long and right and you'll leave yourself with an impossibility for par. One of the most intimidating greens on the course. Consider yourself fortunate if you make bogey. During his winning trip around No. 2 in 1999, Payne Stewart made par all four days on the fifth. In contrast, Tiger Woods played the fifth in 2-over, as he finished two strokes back. It comes as no surprise that the fifth hole was the hardest during the 1999 U.S. Open, playing to a scoring average of 4.54 and the third-most difficult in 2005.

The sixth, the first par-3 on the course, is also the longest at 223 yards. A long iron or fairway metal will be required to achieve success here. Not only does the hole play slightly uphill, but a gentle breeze in the face usually accompanies the sixth. One bunker on each side guards one of the longer greens on the course. A low approach will kick up toward the flag, due to the sloping, back to front surface. This hole proved to be the difference between Stewart and runner-up Phil Mickelson, as Stewart made four pars and Mickelson was 2-over, as he finished one back.

The seventh is a sharp dogleg to the right of 429 yards, as a new tee was added to toughen up the hole. The right corner of the fairway is guarded by a series of bunkers and native grasses. The safe approach to the left-center of the landing area will result in a short to medium iron to a fairly small putting surface guarded on both sides by sand. A back-right pin could cause problems, so play for the center of the green to give yourself the best shot at birdie.

Although a par-5 for most mortals, the eighth is played as a par-4 at 490 yards during tournament week. Your tee shot, played downhill toward the fairway, must clear a pair of bunkers down the right side to have any chance of gaining access to the green. The right-to-left sloping fairway will move your teeball to the left. The second shot will play slightly uphill to a green that features steep slopes left and long, and a sharp pitch from back to front. Missing this surface behind the green will cause nightmares, as it slopes down toward the ninth tee, leaving an uphill approach of at least 10 feet. Play this one like the resort guests do, as a par-5.

The outward nine closes with the shortest hole on the course, but certainly, not the easiest. A mid iron is needed to negotiate this diabolical par-3 of 190 yards. Sand, slope and swirling winds make this hole quite challenging. Bunkers guard the severely slick putting surface that slopes back to front and left to right. Any shot toward the front of the green will roll back down the fairway, while long will catch sand. In addition, shots just off to the right, will find a steep chipping area that will chase your ball 15 feet below the green. Club selection will be key on this hole, as the green is quite wide, but very shallow. Stewart made only 11 bogeys during his four rounds at No. 2, four of which came on the eighth and ninth holes.

The longest hole on the course, the first hole on the back nine is a brute at 619 yards. With new technology, the 10th can be reached in two, but accuracy is key. A bomb down the right side will open up the hole, if not, then lay up down the same side, leaving a short pitch to a very receptive green. Stay clear of the left side sand at the 120-yard mark. Wedge it close, as birdie opportunities are dwindling.

The first of back-to-back monster par-4s, the 11th bends ever-so gently to the right and is fairly flat. Sandy scrub and trees guard the entire right side of the fairway from tee to green, so play left-center off the tee to the meatier part of the landing area. After your tee shot, a long iron or fairway metal will be needed to reach the green, which is guarded left by sand and right by slope and small trap. When in doubt, play short and right of the green to leave yourself with an uphill pitch to the pin. Birdie on the 11th will be fortunate, as only one player in the top seven at the 1999 U.S. Open made three.

The 12th is certainly no weak sister to the 11th, reaching to a length of 484 yards and angling to the right. The tee shot is key here, as it must be placed down the left side of the fairway. Again, a sandy scrub will welcome any shot off-line to the right and missing the short grass will make it next to impossible to hold the putting surface. Your approach shot is played uphill to a slightly elevated green guarded by several bunkers. A false front will play havoc with any short shot, while a back slope will bound your shot well away from the green.

Although the 13th is the shortest par-4 on the course, it would seem that it plays as a definite birdie hole. Au contraire. On the card, the 13th at just 389 yards is rated the sixth-most difficult hole on No. 2. There are reasons, as this slight dogleg right plays into a breeze and displays fairway bunkers down the right and sandy scrub everywhere else. The challenge really begins with your approach, as the green is elevated, some 15 to 20 feet, requiring at least one extra club. The green is small, just 26 paces deep and quite undulating, especially in front, as short shots will roll back down the fairway. Sand, left and right of the green will leave a small opening to the putting surface, so now you know why this hole plays so hard.

Another big par-4, the 14th plays downhill off the tee to a well-bunkered fairway, one of the many holes that puts a premium on the driver. A mid- to long iron is left to a very narrow and undulating green. The putting surface is quite deep and is bunkered on both sides. There are a pair of bunkers short of the green that provide quite a deceiving target. Missing long is not an option, either, so choose wisely with your approach. Of all the greens on No. 2, this one might be the most difficult.

If you thought the last green was hard, wait to you reach the 15th's putting surface. This par-3 exemplifies where the term "upside-down saucer" originated to describe the greens at No. 2. The hole plays over 200 yards and requires a high, soft mid- to long iron to hold the green. Of the sand traps on the hole, only the bunkers guarding the right portion of the green will come into play. This is a perfect example of a hole in which you go for the center of the surface, or just in front and try to make par. If you reach the back portion of the green with a front left pin, you'll have a difficult time keeping your first putt on the green.

Another hole that the Pinehurst guests play as a par-5, the 16th is converted for the U.S. Open to a 534-yard par-4. The only hole on the course with a water hazard (which does not come into play, unless you're a golf writer), requires a big draw off the tee, avoiding the pair of fairway bunkers on the right. A long iron for the professionals or fairway metal (for the resort guests), remains to a fairly accessible green with sand, left, back and right. While Stewart made par all four days, Mickelson made three bogeys in four tries in 1999. It comes as no surprise that the 16th was the second-hardest hole during that Open, with a scoring average of 4.5. The players in 2005 didn't fare much better, as the hole again was the second-most difficult with a 4.4-stroke average.

The last of the par-3s, the 17th has been extended to 21 yards to 208 yards and features a gaping bunker in the front-right portion of the green. When coupled with a back-right pin position, this hole make even the best of players shake in their spikes. The green is deep and slopes from back to front with no bail-out areas, unless you consider just short and left of the green. Swirling wind and bunkers surrounding the hole make club selection key. Stewart made birdie on the final day to take a one-shot lead into the last hole, while Mickelson missed from short range. Six years later, Michael Campbell sealed his win with a birdie.

Although only 453 yards in length, the final hole plays uphill all the way to the green and bends slightly to the right. The tee shot must attempt to cut across the corner to set up the best angle to the green. One note of caution: A large, deep bunker, some 30 yards in length, not to mention a sandy waste area along the entire right side, must be avoided as well. A mid- to long iron is required in order to reach the putting surface. That's another story, as the raised green is protected in front by sand and a small pot bunker in the right, rear portion of the green. Back-right is the traditional Sunday pin, so play middle of the green to set up the winning stroke, just like Payne Stewart.

OVERVIEW: Wow!

Tradition, beauty, style and grace. Just a few of the words that come to mind when talking about Pinehurst, and more specifically, No. 2.

Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer of all time and one of the leading architects in the world said of No. 2, "My favorite golf course in the country from a design standpoint."

The course has 111 sand traps, 53 fairway bunkers and 58 greenside bunkers and just one water hazard (on hole 16). The average size of the greens is 6,388 square feet, although all have sloped edges making landing areas even smaller.

Position off the tee and through the green is of utmost importance. Although the fairways are somewhat generous, the new or should we say, restored rough, with its sandy waste areas and native grasses, gives No. 2 that rustic and classic feel. And that is what makes No. 2 so difficult. No doubt a thinking man's golf course.

But what makes No. 2 so unique?

That's simple, the greens.

This is a course that requires a deft touch around the greens. With the fairways slightly enlarged due to the revamping of the rough, you can be slightly erratic off the tee. However, approach shots must be true, otherwise your short game will be tested to its highest level.

But, let's set the stage for your stay at Pinehurst Resort.

When you first check in across the street at the Carolina Hotel or even better, the Holly Inn, you feel like you're back in time, as you're greeted by employees with knickers and horse-drawn carriages. The grounds are immaculate and the staff quite accommodating. There is nothing like southern hospitality. The walls of the hotel are draped with photos and memorabilia from yesteryear. One could spend hours gazing at the hallways of this beautiful landmark. The photo opportunities are endless.

Now it's off to the course, as you take a ride down Pinehurst's version of Magnolia Lane. Of the eight courses at Pinehurst, five are located within shouting distance of the club house.

The practice facility is quite extensive, along with the putting greens and chipping areas. The clubhouse is enormous with many banquet and meeting rooms, not to mention a full-stocked pro shop. How can you not buy logoed balls, towels, shirts and other trinkets.

As you stride to the first tee, you're joined by one of the many knowledgeable caddies at Pinehurst. Here's an important tip: listen to your caddie. He will know every nuance to the course and will help you shave a couple of shots off your round.

Finally, the course, well, greens as slick as glass, conditions, now as good as any private club in the country, and the challenge, awesome.

"It's the type of golf course I could play every day," Greg Norman said.

Upon completion of your experience, you'll get a glimpse of the historic and fitting statue of Payne Stewart, "One Moment in Time," overlooking the 18th green. In addition, you'll see the sculptures of Donald Ross and Richard S. Tufts, the driving forces of Pinehurst, seemingly at ease as they survey their creation.

The work Coore and Crenshaw did to restore No. 2 to its original heritage and design was nothing short of remarkable. A tribute to the sure genius of Ross.

"When you see and feel Pinehurst, you know it's something different," Crenshaw said. "It remains a masterpiece, a course so beautifully balanced and testing."

Ross certainly designed some gems in his time, Aronimink, Inverness, Oak Hill, Oakland Hills and Seminole to name a few, but Pinehurst No. 2 is no doubt his finest ever.

Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to psokol@sportsnetwork.com.