Many golf purists and The Pinehurst Resort Management Company would have you believe that Pinehurst No. 2 is the Holy Grail of golf in the United States. However, more than half of GolfCarolina.com readers who have responded are saying that Pinehurst No. 2 is underwhelming and does not warrant the $300-plus price tag.
After playing golf for 30 years and always desiring to visit and play at the world renowned Pinehurst property, my wife surprised me with a visit during our return trip from Sea Island, Georgia to our home in Baltimore, Md. Our stay was greatly anticipated and the drive from Sea Island went remarkably well due to our excitement about Pinehurst.
Upon arriving we were greeted by a particularly friendly Bellman who provided us with answers to all our questions and made a very good first impression. Unfortunately, things went downhill very quickly thereafter as you will see. We were shown to our room which had a panoramic view of the exhaust fans at the rear of the kitchen, many of which looked like 747 jet engines jutting out through the wall. Upon notifying the front desk of our displeasure with our location we asked to be moved to another location of their choice. During the wait and while wandering around we encountered a maintenance engineer, we assumed a native Carolinian who had been with the Hotel for many years and truly a gentleman. In fact, he gave us a mini-tour and suggested that we request a room on the second floor which overlooked the front lawn. After about an hour, this transition was arranged and we settled into a lovely room overlooking the scenic front lawn.
The next morning we completed breakfast in great anticipation of our first round at Pinehurst and shuttled to the clubhouse to bask in the history and test our game on #4. Upon checking in, we found that little direction was offered and the service not particularly personal. We eventually found our way downstairs to a rather unorganized caddie/cart operation that eventually found our bags and off we went to the range. The range was quite lovely and once we were directed to the guest portion (we had inadvertently wandered to the "member" area), we prepared with our typical routine and were ready for our first round. Again, with little assistance, we found our way to the starter shack and off we went.
Number 4 was a very nice course that presented many opportunities to enjoy the property and the beautiful day. Neither of us putted particularly well, but we attributed that to the drive the day before. Back to the clubhouse to really examine the history and memorabilia; what a fine collection, presented in a very intimate manner. We both found the highlight of this visit to be the tribute to Payne Stewart, a true champion and admired ambassador of our game. A light lunch and off for a trip through the village. Delightful! We acquired our usual commemorative tree ornament to remember our visit. Dinner concluded our day and we retired to discuss the day and share impressions of our long awaited trip. All in all okay, but somehow lacking the personal touch and pizzazz we had expected.
The next day found the weather quite unacceptable and we called the pro shop to move our round on #6 to the following day. All went well and we spent the day wandering the property and enjoying the horticulture and architecture, all of which is plentiful. Day three and the fun begins. Realizing that we would be departing after our round to head to Richmond, Virginia, I inquired if we might arrange for a late check-out. We were informed that we "could use the clubhouse facilities" prior to our departure. It goes without saying, that this was not the response I had anticipated and my curiosity took over.
I ventured downstairs and began my detective work to find that the hotel was at approximately thirty percent sold out and that they expected to be very slow for the next few days. What an unusual situation. Not wishing to create a fuss, we packed, checked out, played #6 and had a less than delightful round due to the mental aspect of the game. Our drive to Richmond was full of conversation and my unending apology for suggesting that Pinehurst was one of my "dream destinations".
We have mutually decided that we will continue to try new destinations; however, we still find Sea Island, Georgia the measure to which we judge all golf properties. Sea Island, particularly The Lodge, is what golf vacations are all about; beauty, service and hospitality with a smile, regardless of the situation.
Andy Stafford, Baltimore, MD
I couldn't agree more!! #2 is the most overated golf course in the country, #4,7 or 8 are definitely more playable and more diversified. If wasn't for the greens on #2 almost anyone would find the course an average track.
Dennis Olsen, Hoffman Estates Ill.
I could not agree with your view with anything but full admiration. You have hit the nail on the head! However, I would point out that on our first trip last fall to Pinehurst my wife and I had a less than satisfactory " experience" finding most staff less than helpful or even pleasant, save and except our maid and one bellman, whom I refered to The Cloister at Sea Island because he was truly of the caliber that we find at Sea Island. The "hype" is just that and we shall not be returning for a second visit to Pinehurst.
Andy Stafford, Timonium, MD
Wow, you couldn't be more wrong by this. Every great golfer I have played with recalls Pinehurst No. 2 as one of their top courses they have ever played. Having played around the country at many elite courses, No. 2 is the best course I have ever played. I could give you at least five different holes I deem memorable. Courses designed today will never touch Pinehurst's tradition or layout. Hope you enjoyed your last 'comped' round over there.
Robert, Irving, Texas
I agree with the writer concerninig the inflated ranking of Pinehurst #2. What is more astounding is #2's ranking worldwide, in the TOP TEN IN THE WORLD, alongside such greats as Royal Melbourne, Shinnecock Hills. I think a top 25 ranking in the US is more appropriate, and MAYBE a top 75 ranking in the world. Give me Harbour Town and the Ocean Course at Kiawah any day over venerable No.2. I think the standard prime season greens fees are over 325 dollars, for a golf course that can't be all that difficult to maintain. What is the justification for that price? There is always room on many golf courses for a green or two with the contours of those at Pinehurst #2. But isn't there a certain monotany created when all those 7000-8000 square foot greens have useful cupping areas around 3000 sq.ft? The complexity(and variety) of green sites at Ocean Course at Kiawah, in my humble opinion, are far superior to those at #2. Never mind, tee to green, Ocean Course wins in a knockout.
Jack Armstrong, Lyndhurst, OH
Although I've never been fortunate enough to visit Pinehurst, I am overwhelmed that a "golf writer" finally enters foreign territory and hints that the golf course is not the reason people partake in this great sport. In my opinion almost every golf facility creates a course with a famous designer, builds an oppulant clubhouse, charges an incredible amount of money and proclaims to have built a top rated golf facility. They forget to take care of the guest. The main and only reason they're in business. It's no different than a hotel. It's all about meeting and exceeding expectations. Thank you for the article. However, you've only scratched the surface. There is more to explore as it relates to the experience.
Gary Orfield, Mission Viejo, Calif.
Chris Wallace hit the nail on the head. I am a weekend hacker. I do not consider myself an expert in golf architecture but I have played many courses for the pure experience and beauty. I played No.2 before the greens were rebuilt (About 10 years ago). I did not understand the all the talk about No.2. My group all thought it was a ho hum course. Totally overated. we were in fact disappointed.
Now as far as the experience; Pinehurst, breakfast at the Pinehurst Hotel and the staff truley make you feel like royalty and I tell every golfer I play with who has not played at Pinehurst that they must go there without fail. As far as No.2? Give me the Golden Horseshoe (both courses)in Williamsburg any day. Kiawah Island Ocean Course was my most memorable round of golf.
R. Turski, Mechanicsville, VA.
Mr. Wallace is entitled to his opinion and I agree some of his thoughts... especially the green fee. I played there last month for $335 plus $40 for a caddy! While I enjoyed the round/experience I would have to agree that some of the holes were a bit Myrtle Beach-Like and the greens were unlike anything I have ever played - especially 18, 10, 9 and 12. I play the Black course for $41 on weekends. Enough said.
James Ellis, Smithtown, NY
This article is a prime example of what is wrong in the world of golf course media coverage. I will admit that #2 is not the most visually striking golf course, even within the Pinehurst resort. And, the greens are certainly not what your average player would like to play on a daily basis, when they have options to play green complexes that throw the ball back onto the green. But, #2 is one of the best courses I have ever played relative to strategy on the surface and pyschological strategy that bends ones mind.
This is a learned opinion. #2 is simple from tee to green, but in a complex way, and the greens are very complex, in a simple, in your face way. The writer of this story should do less to criticize and more to raise discussion. I am one who does not think any criticism is a good way to raise good discussion. It must be intelligent criticism based on substance, not style.
Tripp Davis, Norman, Okla
This article is shallow at best. No real analysis, just outrageous, even absurd comments. Since No. 2 is in the top 12 or so on every major ranking, it must have something going for it. The pros, other than Daly, were highly complimentary after 1999. It would be really interesting to see the author's top 10 in NC. I doubt many would agree with it if his commentary is any reflection. Great golf architecture is not about being the "most attractive." Visual appeal is important, but golf architecture is also about routing, strategy, diversity, challenge for all levels of play, among other things. Likewise, because Augusta and Pebble are on TV every year, people easily recognize the holes there. Pinehurst is pretty recognizable. I would challenge the author to show photos of No. 2 and Nos. 4,7 and 8 to golfers. I bet that more holes from No. 2 would be recognized than the others combined.
Greg Holland, Greensboro, NC
Could not agree more with your comments. Have played some of the greatest courses in Canada, the UK and the US, Pinehurst #2 is a huge disappointment. Yes, a $40 greensfee is about right.
Doug Lovat, Montreal, Quebec
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!