I think I'd rather sweat my butt off rather than have a cramp in my back! I got cramps in my lower back many, many years ago. I couldn't sit down, lay down, stand up, or do anything! It was pure agony! Give me sweating anytime! At least I can move when I sweat.
My review/write up of the round at Pinehurst #2.
Overall, Pinehurst #2 is a fantastic experience and one that I would recommend for any serious golfer. The course is incredible. The atmosphere is great, too, with people watching you tee off on 1 and finishing on 18.
We got to Pinehurst about an hour and a half before our tee time. Found the pro shop after wandering down the memorabilia hallway, including the Payne Stewart stuff from 1999. The pro shop could put a Golf Galaxy to shame with the selection of merchandise it had. You name it, the shop had the Pinehurst logo on it. It took a herculean effort to avoid buying everything in the damn store, because it was impressive. Ended up with a ball mark, a hat, and a yardage book. Bullet dodged.
(You're going to be a great dad!)
(1999 US Open winning putt)
We go out to the driving range, and fog is rolling in. We were hoping it would lift before our round started, but it gave the place a cool, eerie vibe to it. After playing around with the FlightScope Mevo at the range a bit, we headed out to the tee.
(Looking out from the pro shop, driving range is behind that building)
(Looking back at the clubhouse from the practice green)
We played in a cart. It was cart path only. Your options are to either take a cart or take a caddy and walk. You cannot walk the course carrying your own bag. We took the cart because we didn’t want to spend the extra $60 plus tip on the caddy. In hindsight, I would recommend taking a caddy. I ended up walking down the fairway on quite a few holes just to soak in the experience more. Having a caddy isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but I would put up with it next time. Plus, the extra $60 isn’t much when considering the greens fee.
We started on the 10th hole, which is a 580 yard par 5. And the fog hadn’t lifted yet, so we weren’t sure where exactly to hit to. But it lifted when we got to the tee box on 11, so it didn’t matter much. Teeing off on 10 was fine, but it was a little anti-climactic to end on 9 instead of 18. On the other hand, I thought the front 9 was better than the back 9.
(Number 10 tee, with fog)
I don’t really want to go through the course hole by hole, or bore you with how many bunkers I was in and how much my short game sucked. I’ll give general thoughts and highlight a hole or two that I liked. Before getting to that, let’s get this out here: I played like crap. But I want to come back and play that course again, and if I’m ever near Pinehurst again, I will go out of my way to play it. It was awesome. The only other US Open course I’ve played is Torrey Pines, and Pinehurst #2 blows Torrey out of the water.
Anyways, I ended up shooting a 95 and only hitting 5 GIR. I also had 34 putts. I had one lost ball. That doesn’t make add up, you say. Well, read on…
The course is amazing. It is wide off the tee, and there’s not really much danger off the tee, except finding your ball in a tuft of wispy grass. I hit 11 of 14 fairways. Ask anybody who played with me at the Newport Cup – I’m not that consistent off the tee. It was a slightly better day that usual for me on that, but the fairways were still very generous. If you missed the fairway, you were in a sandy waste area that I’m sure you all remember from the US Open. Generally, you would catch a good lie in these areas. Unless you found the wispy long grass there, which I did once. I was almost completely stymied by it and ended up just having to whack at it and hope I got a better lie with my next shot.
(In the wispy grass. The green direction is the top of the photo. Not really many options here.)
The greens themselves aren’t actually too hard. They are domed/turtlebacked and are quite intimidating from the fairway. They look really small, although I didn’t think they were all that small when you get up there. When you get on the green, putting isn’t that bad. We estimated they were running about a 12. Mid-South supposedly ran at an 11 when played there in the Newport Cup, and these greens were noticeably faster. They aren’t tiered or anything like that. Just sloped. Like ski slopes.
That said, these greens make the course difficult. If you miss the green in the wrong spot, bogey is the best you can do, and you’ll make a lot of double bogeys. If you are in the wrong bunker, you are completely screwed. I ended up in 8 bunkers – without hitting a single fairway bunker. Twice I went from one bunker to another around the green. I easily lost 10 strokes because of bunkers. The mistake I made was in attacking too many flags from the bunkers instead of playing to the center of the green. If you’re not a superb sand player, ignore the flag. I want to go back and make myself play just onto the center of the green from the greenside sand, because I would easily be in the 80s if I did that.
If you’re not in a greenside bunker but you miss the green, you have options. There’s no rough on the course, so you can putt almost everything. Which I did, but my putting sucks, so it didn’t work as well as it should have. But you can generally putt, pitch, or chip from almost anywhere around the greens. Getting the speed right is the difficult part. I never flew a green, but it looked like beyond the greens is dead. I came up short several times, which was where your miss needed to be on most holes.
I generally hit the ball like crap on approaches, with some exceptions. I was mentally and physically spent from the Newport Cup, I think. My irons were 20 yards shorter than the day before. My decision making was, well, non-existent. And this is a course that demands precision when approaching the greens. Not the greatest formula.
With that out of the way, onto the holes. I want to highlight a few cool ones. 18 was my favorite. The setting was so cool, with the clubhouse in the background and people watching you play around the green. Selecting a good line off the tee was key – right side of the fairway yields a shorter approach and more fairway to work with. I managed to find the right side of the fairway off the tee. I then got one of our playing partners to take some pictures of me hitting my approach, and the pictures are so cool. 18 was the Payne Stewart pin position when we played it, and I roped a 7 iron to about 25 feet. There was a crowd, and they would applaud good shots around the green. With the clubhouse there, it was astonishing.
(Addressing the ball on 18)
(Backswing complete on 18)
(Follow through on 18. This photo gives me goosebumps, and that shot was pure.)
4 and 5 were visually stunning as well. 4 is a long par 4 that winds around and into a little low spot on the course. It’s the most remote part of the course, surrounded by some trees and multimillion-dollar homes. 5 plays back up the hill as a par 5, and it’s visually tricky. It looks like your line from the tee is the left side, but that brings a fairway bunker and the waste area into play. You cannot see the extent of the waste area from the tee. You want to favor the left side to get a shorter shot into the green, because it’s a reachable par 5. That brings the waste area and the lottery of getting a good lie in it into play.
(Looking back on the 5th green. You can sort of see how domed the greens are.)
Finally, the par 3s are monsters. They all played over 160, and those menacing greens make the tee shots a lot more difficult than they should be. Phil and I both hit the longest one in regulation, which was awesome. My tee shot hit the front of the green and was about 2 feet from rolling off the back because of the slope. That gives you an idea of how firm and severe the greens are.
(My birdie putt on 6, which was playing at 205)
(Video of @phillyk's birdie putt on 6; he made par)
(Video of my birdie putt on 6 ... three putted)
Some course pictures:
(View up the first fairway, from the second tee box)
(View up the 8th fairway)
(View back down the fairway on hole 8 from the green)
(Looking up the 13th hole from the tee)
I will swallow my pride and admit that I played the wrong tees. We played the tips, which were 6900 yards. While I never had an issue of reaching the greens in regulation, I didn’t have a single wedge into a par 4 green. Like I said, I was mentally and physically spent from the Newport Cup, so I think playing a box up would have been more enjoyable. If I go back, I will play from the middle tees, which are about 6300 yards. I’ll have a lot more fun with the occasional wedge rather than the constant 6 irons I was hitting.
By the way, I cannot fathom shooting a 65 from nearly 7600 like Martin Kaymer did at the US Open. This course is demanding, and it’s hard to believe that 65 could be had out there. I’m not an excellent golfer, but I’m an okay stick. The gap between me and him is a chasm that’s 50 miles wide and 10 miles deep.
Do I have complaints? Two minor ones. First, it was less penal to go further offline off the tee. The long wispy grass came into play if you were still close to the fairway, but if you went way off line and ended up under a tree, you were going to get a better lie because there was only pinestraw there. I don’t like really bad misses getting penalized less than average misses. Also, the greenside sand was inconsistent. Some bunkers were like playing out of concrete. I hit a couple of sand shots expecting there to be sand and there was none (in full disclosure, there was a “local rule” that said the bunkers weren’t actually bunkers, but I played them like bunkers). Ultimately, hit the generous fairways and avoid the bunkers, and it isn’t an issue. These are minor quibbles.
We ended the round and went into the pro shop again. We then walked around outside for a little bit, taking some pictures in front of the Payne Stewart statue. We then had to leave pretty quickly to get to the airport. It would have been nice to stay a bit and have a beer while watching golfers come in. But that’s just a reason to come back…
(Me at the Payne Stewart statue)