Review: Pinehurst Resort (No. 2)

Reading Time: 10 minutes A rare perfect golf course, No. 2 is an exceptional testament to Donald Ross’ skills.

Reading Time: 10 minutes


  • Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina
  • Public—daily fee
  • Donald Ross (1907)
  • 16th in the world (Golf Magazine)

Donald Ross settled in the United States on the third fairway of No. 2, and from 1907 to the mid 1930s, he tweaked the golf course extensively. It became his magnum opus, and in today’s day & age, it reflects it. Thanks to a thoughtful restoration from Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw in 2011, the sandy wastelands are back, and the famous greens are as treacherous as ever.

The caddies & starter might tell you that the 1st is the easiest hole on the golf course, and while they may be right, don’t walk through lightly (it’s still difficult). At 402 yards, two bunkers left come into play. The best play is a long iron or potentially fairway wood.

The approach shot gives you a bit of a taste for the round: the famous turtleback greens. Standing in the first fairway, it literally looks like you’re hitting onto the top of a coffee table. It feels like you can spin it off the front, while all the sides fall off.

And believe it or not, this is one of the more tame greens on the golf course.

The second is a big par 4 at 507 yards. Not too much trouble in the driving zone except for a bunker or two, but there’s a ton of width out there. Finding the fairway is key.

This green complex looks relatively normal from the fairway…

…but it’s not. Over the back is a pretty dicey chip, and sneaks up on you. With the green angled to the right, it’s hard to tell where the green falls off!

The third starts my favourite stretch on the golf course. 387 yards, the fairway is heavily pinched by three bunkers around the landing zone.

This green complex is quite strong as well. Over the back is death and could potentially run onto 5 green, while short is very delicate. Short left lies a bunker, which is another difficult spot.

You can see the false front below.

Everyone knows about the green complexes here, but I think the strategy component goes by the wayside a bit. On the first, the player needs to keep it right to be hitting into the upslope of the green. On the 2nd, keeping it left gives you a better angle. Similarly, on the third, up the right side (which is much more difficult IMO) to be looking up the gut of the green. It’s all dictated by the contouring of the greens, but I feel like it’s under-appreciated when people talk about No. 2.

The 4th is a really, really strong par 4 at 529 yards. Playing down into a valley, make sure you aim up the left side of the fairway—you might not keep it in the short stuff anywhere else!

From a fade-biased lie the call to action is a draw, but given the lie almost seems impossible. A high fade will do, but with a bunker left, any pin on the left side would be extremely difficult to get close to.

A closer look at the green complex on the 4th.

The 5th is the second all-world hole in a row, and truly one of golf’s most special holes. At 576 yards, it’s a longish par 5. Working on the land above & to the right of the 4th, the hole slopes down to the left. Playing up the right side will kick the ball back down.

The entire hole gracefully moves to the left, and even the topography slopes to the left. For the layup or even getting home in two, keeping the ball on the upper right side is the best play.

It’s a very difficult looking wedge from below the putting surface.

This is undoubtably one of my favourite green complexes ever. Missing left can result in you hitting your next shot from the 4th tee—some 60 yards away!

The 6th is a strong par 3 at 242 yards. A sneaky ridge running north-south kicks the low, ground ball away from the green. This is a very difficult par 3!

The 7th is a wonderful, shorter par 4 at 424 yards. Swooping to the right, a cluster of bunkers guards the inside corner of the dogleg.

It’s an excellent golf hole because the player who sacrifices distance to play to the outside corner of the dogleg actually benefits from a better angle. Here’s a view of the inside corner:

And from the outside, which features a wonderful view into the mouth of the green.

The 8th is a mean par 4 (playing as a par 5 from the non-US Open tees) over some gentle, rolling terrain. 502 yards on the card, getting the ball up the right side is ideal.

This green blends wonderfully into the landscape, rising slowly to the back. From there, however, it falls off everywhere. Left is death—ask John Daly.

If there’s a signature hole at No. 2, it’s likely the 9th. At 191 yards, it’s the shortest hole on the golf course, yet the green contouring makes par a very good score.

The green is divided into two sections. The upper, left, and the lower, right. As usual, it runs off hard away from the green short in between the bunkers, right, and long left.

The 10th starts off the back nine with the longest hole on the golf course at 617 yards. A tee shot over a gully and a sandy hump cutting in from the right, keep sharp!

The hole moves ever-so-slightly to the left around a bunker (or two) in the layup area.

A view of where most will play from for their third:

Over the back of the green is perhaps the most severe other than hole 5!

The 11th kicks off another really strong three hole loop of a few difficult par 4’s. 483 yards, the 11th plays slightly uphill. A bunker left is the main hazard to deal with first.

I haven’t really talked about it yet, but I guess it’s fitting to bring it up on the 11th (it’s when it really clicked for me). The fairways look quite wide and feel inviting, but because of the firmness of the turf and the nature of the sandy waste areas, I’d say they play 33% smaller. Anything down the middle is safe, but chances are, if you’re offline by just a bit or hugging the side of the fairway, it’ll end up off grass. This is a wonderful little trick they used during the restoration, as it makes the golf course play much harder than you’d think.

The approach to the 11th is wonderful, cut behind the native areas and a bunker hugging the left corner. A tough angle from anywhere but up the right, and even then it’s all carry!

The 12th is one of my favourites. At 484 yards, it’s another mean golf hole, especially with the sandy knob eating into the fairway. Keeping it left is ideal to have a better look into the green (right where the hazard is!).

A perfect angle into the turtleback green:

The 13th is a short par 4, playing 383 yards, working its way slightly up the hill, it plays a bit longer than the yardage, but not by much. The tee shot moves a bit to the right.

From there, it’s a wedge up the top of the green, which you don’t want to be short on.

In reality, I think most people hear about the turtleback greens and think they’ll all be the same. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was in that group! However, they are (thankfully) all different while sharing similar characteristics. Some holes, like 1, 3, 5, & 8 all favour the short right miss, while 2, 7, 10, & 11 look to the front left as ideal misses. 6, 9 and 13 you can’t miss short, while almost every other green wants you to miss short. There’s a ton of variety among the 18 greens, even though they’re all pushed up and sloping away from the centre.

The 14th is a beautiful 473 yard par 4 going down the hill 13 climbed up.

This green complex is fairly protected with a few bunkers short (but not in play), and one right. In reality, the ones short are only there for deception.

The 15th is the definition of “hey, this doesn’t look so bad” and then walking off with double. 202 yards, it’s a longer par 3 to a green that’s—you guessed it—difficult.

A closer look at this green complex. I find this one so low-key, yet brilliant for the hole.

The 16th is a very strong par 4 at 528 yards, but a par 5 from the non-US Open tees. With the only water hazard on the golf course on this hole, it’s beautiful to look at, but that’s it (it doesn’t come into play).

Moving to the left, a big draw will kick down the hill for miles. From the right side, you get a look at the rest of the hole;

For the resort guest, this par 5 is a short, yet get-able one. In the layup zone, there’s a bunker hidden that you can’t see. A must-avoid bunker!

The 17th is a difficult par 3 at 205 yards. Playing a bit downhill, it’s slightly shorter than the listed yardage. Hitting the green can be a difficult feat!

The green is well guarded. A bunker short, long left and long right, while the green runs away at all other angles. The green feels smaller than the rest of the golf course (to me, anyway).

The 18th is a really great par 4 to finish. 451 yards working itself back uphill to the base of the historic clubhouse, the tee shot bends slightly right.

The strength of No. 2 is in its green placement. While not an interesting site in terms of elevation change or anything significant like that, Ross places greens in very difficult positions. Like the 11th, the 18th is right of the rest of the hole assuring you almost always come in from an awkward angle.

I really like the nature of this green as well. Sitting slightly up, and not as aggressive as others, it’s still very difficult—especially to a back left pin.

I was a little skeptical going in, but I left in shock of how good No. 2 is. Tom Doak wasn’t messing around, saying every green is worthy of study—they are all so good!

This is a must-play, and simply could be on the shortlist for the best public golf course in the US. It’s similar in quality to Pacific Dunes (in fact, I have it a hair better, but it’s really a coin flip), and people put Pacific in Pebble’s league (we will see soon enough!).

I adore this golf course and would return anytime. An absolute stunner from Donald Ross!


  • Andrew Harvie

    Based in Toronto, but having lived in Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Arizona, and Texas, I have been lucky enough to see over 400 golf courses and counting!

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