Review: Pinehurst Resort (No. 4)

Information:

  • The Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina
  • Public — Daily Fee
  • Gil Hanse (2018)
  • 85th best modern golf course in the US (Golfweek)

For years, Pinehurst’s No. 2 was the big draw at the resort. Host of the US Open and numerous championships, it was the course that everyone wanted to see.

Flash forward to 2011 and No. 2 went under an extensive restoration to open up playing areas, expand short areas, and expose sandy waste areas. This elevated the course to a new level, and opening up a big gap in between the No. 2 and the rest of the resorts courses.

Gil Hanse was brought a couple years ago in to renovate Tom Fazio’s No. 4, which took an original Donald Ross and renovated it in the 1990’s. Gil’s job was to bring No. 4 to a similar style that No. 2 has become renowned for.

A big addition to its reputation, and early reputation given its 2018 opening, is co-hosting the 2019 US Amateur with No. 2. Shining the spotlight on this new gem a year after opening was a big step for this golf course.


The opening hole at No. 4 is a big dogleg right par 4. 450 yards, keeping it to the inside corner allows a shorter second shot.

Quite a few bunkers guard the inside corner. A ridge defines the green, which splits the green into two portions. The ridge runs SW-NE.

Those who hit it to the outside corner of the dogleg have a less-obstructed view, but longer club in.

After a difficult opening hole, the 2nd lets off the gas with a 512 yard par 5. A tee shot down the hill allows for a good drive.

Two bunkers cut into the fairway where you’d want to layup potentially.

The fun, however, is around the green complex. Gil’s team really went nuts here—I love it!

The third is a very fun golf hole. 431 yards on the card, it doglegs left around a bunker complex.

Gil Hanse opened up playing corridors, and I absolutely love the expansiveness of the 3rd. To a square green, the third feels so retro.

A closer look at the green:

To the naked eye, the 4th may not look so appealing. Factoring in the old Fazio hole, which I understand to be down and to the right over the hazard (that you play around on 13/14), it feels almost like a step down.

However, that is not the case. 153 yards, this is an excellent short 3.

Cut into the hillside, anything right is death, while left is in a bunker. A very smartly designed golf hole, notwithstanding the more plain look.

The 5th ramps up the pacing of the golf course with a massive, big-swinging 489 yard dogleg right par 4. This is one of the better holes here thanks to the land it occupies.

The hole naturally falls to the right, so the green complex sits in nicely. A big bunker is exactly where you’d want to use the contours for a long second.

The 6th is another cool hole, but stout at 217 yards, par 3. On the right side, it feels like the hole falls off the edge of the planet, while left has some interesting short grass surrounds that can provide some funky lies.

A look at right of the green. As a caddie tip: don’t miss here.

And a look at the left:

The 7th is another mid-length par 3, playing a yard shy of 440 yards. Gently moving to the right around a small bunker complex, this tee shot is fairly wide. A line on the inside corner sets up a better angle for the second shot.

The green complex wraps around the bunker short left, so any pin on the left will certainly have to negotiate with that. As previously stated, a tee ball up the right will be easier for the second shot.

The 8th is the shortest par 4 up until this point at 409 yards. A bunker severely cuts the fairway up, which will almost certainly be in play off the tee. It’s perfectly cut into the ridge running through the hole. Anything up the right will have a weird visual, while left side will be less obstructed.

The green complex is cool. Low-profile, with quite a bit of slope, it’s likely my favorite actual green surface thus far.

The 9th is a short 5 at 527 yards. A big fairway awaits without much in the way… yet.

The second shot plays over Gil Hanse’s “The Great Hazard,” adapted from Pine Valley & A.W. Tillinghast. Every golfer will have to cross this on their second shot, stretching from about 140 yards to 80 yards from the middle of the green.

The green complex is raised slightly, falling off short and to the right. On the left, a bunker is situated on the front-left portion, almost eating away at the green.

Starting the back nine, you’re met with another mid-length par 4. 432 yards, the hole moves to the right with a bunker on the outside corner.

This is another well-built green complex, cut into the side of the hill moving down to the left. A bunker short right is the main defence.

The 11th is a wonderful, sporty par 3 playing slightly downhill. 174 yards, the right side feels more well-guarded than the left, but short grass on the left isn’t exactly the easiest up & in.

The 12th is an interesting golf hole, with a very plain looking tee shot. This can mess with you a bit, visually, because there’s not too much to aim at! 453 yards, it’s another mid par 4.

Cresting over the hill, another good green complex awaits. Gil did good work here with the green complexes!

After the 12th, we take a dive down into the bottom of the property for the two hole stretch around a big pond. I’m sure Gil likely wanted to remove it, but I’m not sure how much that would cost and I would bet the resort wouldn’t like that. So we’re stuck with a weird 529 yard par 5. A cluster of bunkers right and the lake left come into play on the tee shot.

Stylistically, the water really butchers the vibe of the place, and feels quite out of place. Unlike the pond on No. 2 at hole 16, which somehow weirdly fits, I think this one is bigger, and more in the way.

The second shot plays around the pond, which now bends to the left pretty hard. It’s a “bite off as much as you can chew” type layup, or second shot if you’re getting home in two.

For the brave, a view of the 2nd shot angle in over the pond:

After the 2nd shot, you should be home free, aside from the possibility of a big pull into the pond. The green is big, so it’s an inviting third shot.

The 14th is the final par 3 on the course, and gets us away from the pond. 216 yards, it takes it head-on, playing over an inlet.

I like Gil’s choices with the 3’s. Approximately, 150, 175, 215, 215 is a nice spread. I wouldn’t mind seeing one be closer to 200 and another one closer to 240, but I think with what he was given, he nailed it. I wonder how much he had to work with the previous Fazio routing. I did not see it.

The 15th is by far my favorite tee shot at No. 4. 398 yards, this par 4 plays up and over some natural sandy waste areas, making the tee shot blind. Exhilarating!

Once you climb the hill, you realize there’s width out there, but picking a line can be a lot of fun. The green complex is one of the more wild ones here, but sits beautifully on the land given.

The 16th is another excellent golf hole, and likely drivable! 320 yards, the player must decide if they want to layup, or go for the green. A bunker is in the layup area, while the green is a turtleback green. Yes, not just No. 2 and No. 3 have them!

As opposed to No. 2, where they rise gently and then fall off hard around the edges, the 16th green sits firmly up above the rest of the land. A massive false front and fall offs everywhere require precision!

A closer examination of this really quality putting surface:

The penultimate hole is the final par 5 on the course. There’s only three, but this is the longest three shotter by some 60+ yards! 590 yards, it gradually works downhill.

One bunker, which is an absolute bugger, is in the left-centre of the fairway. Avoiding this significantly reduces the difficulty of the hole, but there seems to be a magnet over there (from personal experience)!

Bunkering seems to eat into the fairway at all the right parts, so being attentive is likely a good call. I’m a fan of par 5’s that make you think, regardless of your decisions and route. This certainly falls into that category.

The 18th is a very strong par 4 finishing hole at 487 yards. Climbing back towards the clubhouse, it plays longer than the yardage listed, especially considering the “S” nature of the hole!

Without a view of the putting surface, it can be a tough final iron. All you need to know is short right is bunkering, while short grass surrounds the rest.


The biggest comparison that No. 4 will likely face (and has already faced) is the comparisons against No. 2. Is there similarities? Yes. They both utilize the sandy areas well, and short grass is the main defence around the greens. That, and the green complexes are the star of both courses.

However, I actually think you handicap No. 4 by drawing comparisons to No. 2. It is a fine golf course it its own respect, but they play and feel very differently.

Aside from 13-14 around the big pond, which is not really Gil’s fault, I find No. 4 sometimes doesn’t pace well. There isn’t a par 4 under 410 until the 8th hole, and even then you likely can’t pull driver. So excluding that, you wait to the 15th for a shorter par 4. By the time you get there, it’s been a long slog already! At times, No. 4 can feel more like a collection of golf holes than an actual golf course.

With that being said, I do enjoy the golf course and think the highs are very good. Gil produced a couple really good stretches like 2-6, and 15-18. It’s a must play with the resort, and a worthy re-addition to the resort.

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