Featured Golf News
Work at Pinehurst No. 2 Completed; Reopens for Play
After 12 months of careful restoration, the famed Pinehurst No. 2 has reopened for play.
Ben Crenshaw and his architect-partner Bill Coore regained many of the elements that had been altered over the years from the original Donald Ross design. The 104-year-old course, which has hosted two U.S. Opens and other championships during its storied history, received eight new tees, which added 271 yards, bringing it to a total of 7,485 yards from the championship blocks.
Perhaps most significantly, the $2.5 restoration involved widening the fairways by an average of 50 percent to give players more options. In addition, trees were removed along with the rough, leaving only two cuts of irrigated turf: greens and fairways. Over 30 acres of grass were removed and replaced with Carolina's native hardpan, sand, pine straw and wiregrass, much like Ross's original creation.
"This place is what it is," Crenshaw said Monday. "We tried our best to uncover it."
The course will host the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in consecutive weeks.
During a press conference discussing the project, Pinehurst Resort CEO Bob Dedman Jr. along with Pinehurst president Don Padgett II and Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion, met with the media and discussed the restoration of one of America's iconic golf courses.
MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. It's great to have you at Pinehurst for a beautiful spring day, Monday after the Masters, after a very exciting Masters. It's a great pleasure to have you here. Thank you for being here. We've got a great day in store for you. After 12 months of restoration work, we're really excited to be able to introduce you today to the new Pinehurst No. 2. It's a dramatic transformation that you'll all have an opportunity to experience with our shotgun this afternoon. My name's Tom Pashley. I'm executive vice president of sales and marketing for the resort. I want to give you a brief overview of what the day's going to entail. We'll have opening remarks from our panel. We have our owner and chief executive officer, Mr. Bob Dedman. We have our president, Mr. Don Padgett II, and of course we have Mr. Crenshaw.
I'd like to thank you all. We've gotten great support from the media, both the North Carolina media, the national media and the international media. You've been very supportive of Pinehurst and Pinehurst No. 2. We want to let you know how much we appreciate that. We've got a great story to tell, and you're doing a fabulous job telling it. So thank you very much for all you do to support Pinehurst. Now I'd like to invite Mr. Dedman to start off the morning with his remarks.
ROBERT DEDMAN JR: Thanks. Welcome as well. Somebody asked me the other day what does it feel like for the restoration of No. 2, and it does remind me of one of my father's favorite stories and probably some of you have heard this before. Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a Texas tale? A fairy tale begins with "Once upon a time," and a Texas tale begins with, "Now you sons bitches ain't gonna believe this." (Laughing). It's hard to believe how dramatic the changes are. When we started this, we were trying to figure out how to position Pinehurst No. 2 for the next 100 years. It has an incredible legacy since 1907. Obviously it has an incredible impact on the game golf on the national and international level. We wanted to make sure whatever we did was consistent with the legacy and the history.
There were a few criteria when we started. Whatever we did, we wanted to make sure it was authentic. And the more we talked about it, and this goes back a little over three years ago, really discussing what is so authentic about the sand hills of North Carolina, the micro climate that we're in, the native wire grass. We had gotten away from that. The irony is over the last 25 years we've figured out how to really grow grass and grow it pretty well. We have six cuts of grass out there. And it was the triumph of modern technology or man over Mother Nature. And I think we all felt and realized we had gone probably in the wrong direction for Pinehurst No. 2. So we wanted whatever changes we made, we wanted to make sure they were authentic and genuine and consistent with the legacy.
Secondly, we wanted to make sure whatever we did was much more esthetically pleasing. And the irony of having all that green grass out there is when it becomes monochromatic like that, you don't see the strategy of the course that I think was certainly intended by Donald Ross. You miss it. Number one is a great example. I never even knew there were mounds right on fairway number one because it was all covered up with grass before, and there was no change made there other than stripping the grass. So you see things differently. Your eye sees things differently. But more importantly than that it is more pleasing to the eye also from a strategic standpoint, it's challenging to the mind. So it's the combination of esthetics and strategy that really does show through right now. I think it's had a dramatic impact on the look and feel, overall. I played yesterday afternoon, and to see some of the holes, the way it shapes and the strategy from tee to green. Pinehurst No. 2 has always been known for its greens complexes and the strategy around that. But now from tee to green and where you need to be on the fairways and where do you not want to be from off the tee, it is a significant difference.
We've also tried to be, with this restoration, more environmentally sustainable as well. Cutting the number of sprinkler heads from 1,150 down to 450 is significant. We'll probably be using less chemicals. But it's allowing mother nature to have her hands so the distressed turf really develops on its own. Those are three of the design criteria that we've had. We've had some incredible partners along the way. Our team here at Pinehurst, and you'll have an opportunity to hear from Don Padgett II, Bob Farren, Kevin Robinson on the golf course. We've got a great team here, but they've partnered with Ben and Bill. I consider them part of our team now as well. You couldn't find a better partner to have an undertaking process like this. Because I think a lot of us do view No. 2 as Donald Ross's masterpiece, and it's like messing with the Mona Lisa. And there were trepidations initially about what should be done, and should we undertake this? And I think we were all nervous at first.
We all realized it will probably be the smartest thing we've ever done, or the dumbest thing we've ever done. So it had that kind of an impact in thinking about it. But by the partners we've chosen with Ben and Bill, their love of the game, the knowledge they have of it, the understanding of the strategy, the intent of Ross on this golf course, I think they've been able to capture that. And I think Donald Ross would be incredibly proud to have them involved and the impact that they've had on this. And I can't thank Ben and Bill enough. You've all done a phenomenal, phenomenal job, thank you. I'd also like to mention the USGA. They've been great partners to Pinehurst for a long time. I think when you consider we'll host five National Championships in a 15-year period, that says a lot. But they had the confidence that we could do this, and not just make it playable for National Championships, but for the everyday golfer as well.
One of our last criteria was we want it to be fun. Not just for the low handicappers, but for all golfers as well, and I think that's what they've accomplished. The USGA has been incredibly kind and generous to us. They've been great partners. We're excited to have them back-to-back in 2014. First time that's happened in our nation's history. And I think this course is going to show so incredibly well. So I appreciate you all being here today and having the opportunity to tell you from my perspective -- I've only been here a little over 25 years -- but seeing this, and how this positions Pinehurst for the next 100 years. We've gone backwards to go forwards, and I think that will show, and you'll appreciate that later today. Now I'd like to ask Don Padgett to come up, our president. Don and I have worked together -- I don't know how many years now -- 30 years. He's been here at Pinehurst since 2004. He'll give you his perspective on what we've been up to.
DON PADGETT: Thanks, Bob. You know when you follow your boss you have to say well, I can't say what he just said. So I kind of have the honor to follow you, but also it's a little changing sometimes because I you this our script is a little bit the same. I think the one question that I can answer that a lot of people kind of want to know is how do we get to where we were at with the golf course? Why did we have to make such a radical change? One thing that's never really come up in most of the discussions that I've heard is '99, the golf course was fabulous. One of the reasons the USGA wanted to come back was the players, almost to a man, and I think, Ben, you played in that tournament, loved how Pinehurst No. 2 played. I'd never been around a championship, particularly an Open, where the golf course was never part of the problem if a player played bad. But if you think about it, '99 was the last year for the Balata golf ball. In that timeframe of 2000, 2001, the Tour players, some of them, picked up 30 or 40 yards off the tee. I believe that at that time it was very important that par be part of the Open Championship for the USGA. I think in coming here in '05, I think Payne won it 1-under par, the concern was would Pinehurst stand up with the '99 set-up? And I think the decision was it would not. And I think at that time, the four or five-inch rough came up, 400 new sprinkler heads came up, and the golf course character changed dramatically.
We kept that set-up through the '08 Amateur. And Mike Davis ran the '08 Amateur, and he started talking to Bob and I after it was over about how much Pinehurst had kind of gotten away from what had made it the golf course of choice for the Sneeds and the Hogans and the Palmers, and the Raymond Floyds. A lot of it wasn't there anymore, and it played dramatically differently. So I think that was kind of the embryo of that. David Fay also was in kind of favor of us trying to recapture the essence and the charm, and the mystique of Pinehurst No. 2. And over a period of time they had discussed with myself, with Bob, with Brad Kocher and Bob Farren about the possibilities of bringing some of the wire grass back, bringing the character back. Then, of course, conducting the Open, and now two Opens back-to-back. How can we do that? I think that one of the concessions that Mike has made is that you know if somewhere single digit or so, eight, nine, 10-under par wins the Open, and Pinehurst No. 2 plays the way that people expect it to play, that they're fine with that.
Mike's of the opinion that the greens complexes themselves can defend the golf course. We have added a little bit of length. I wouldn't say anything significant. Not as much as between '99 and '05. But I think had that not been the case, I'm not sure that Bill and Ben would have accepted the project if even par was going to have to win the Open. And that was a mandatory thing. I think that was a part of your consideration process. The other side of that is had they not accepted it, I'm not sure we would have done it. I don't know that Bob and I could have gotten comfortable doing it with anybody else other than Bill and Ben. We didn't know Bill as well. But I've known Ben since college golf, and Bob being a fellow Texan. I had known Ben and followed his career and known Ben for a very long time. So those were kind of significant time lines and significant pieces of this project coming to its fruition. That's why we stand here today and why we're all proud of it, and certainly proud for you guys to go see it later on this afternoon. With that, I think that is the most significant thing I have to offer. And I'll introduce the person you're all here really to hear, Ben Crenshaw, two-time Masters champion but also a friend of Pinehurst.
BEN CRENSHAW: Thank you, Don and Bob. I think that I've told people most of the day that I've been pretty fortunate in my golf life. I've had some wonderful things happen to me. In a tournament way, winning two Masters, and being involved in lots of other major championships as a tournament golfer. But I've said this before, when I was 16 years old, I hadn't been out of Texas. I played in my first National Junior Championship at Brookline in Boston. My head just spun off about golf history and architecture and playing on a national stage all in one week. And that started me on my golf career. My head's been in the book ever since about history and architecture. They're cousins because it's always fascinated me to learn about who people were who guided the game, who built the courses, where they were, who was involved, and how did they put things together? What people thought of, what writers talked about certain places. Pinehurst was always a leader since the turn of the century. The turn of the century, yes, there were a few courses in New England and New York, and around the Eastern seaboard, but people started coming down to Pinehurst at the turn of the century.
But obviously, the Tufts family and a young Scot named Donald Ross. When he got here, he was very happy about what he saw. It was sand that reminded him of Scotland, where he grew up at Dornoch. I think that he saw the long range possibilities. Then it wasn't very long that Pinehurst became a leader. It's rightly referred to as the St. Andrews in this country, and it's been that way for decades and decades and decades. It's had championships, but always there pervaded an atmosphere here that was different. People have accepted what this place is in its entirety, not only with No. 2, but with all the courses here that Ross and the Maples family and the Tufts family worked so hard on. I wanted to build golf courses some day during my career. In 1985, I met Bill Coore. He was suggested by a couple of friends of mine. He didn't want to be allied with anybody. He was perfectly happy by himself. He had been in the Army out of Wake Forest.
He called Pete Dye, and he got a job down in Florida at John's Island, and it started him on his career. He started from the ground up, believe me. But the more that we talked, it took about three months, and he did some soul searching. He finally said well, let's try this. Believe me, it's been one of the great blessings of my life to learn with Bill, to work with him, to meet people. We are blessed with a team who helped build our courses. They're so talented. Here, there was not so much machine work. There was a lot of hard labor. This is a very labor intensive process that we went through, because we took out lots of grass, and we planted lots of wire grass. But the bunker work, this gentleman right here worked as hard as anybody right here. He's talented. We had people from the outside that came in, from outside of our team, that wanted to be part of this process. But very simply, as Don and Bob alluded to, this course was always here, it was just in a different form. Yes, it involves the -- it's very easy to put people at fault, and that's not really what you want to do. Technology in golf has become what it is. We have bigger, stronger athletes playing in this game.
But there is a vast difference when you even think about the golf club, and forget the ball for a minute, which is completely different. But you consider a 45-inch driver today weighs 11 ounces, and a club that Jack Nicklaus played was 13 and a half ounces at 42 and 3/4 inches. Obviously, he could swing the newer club a heck of a lot faster. Combined with the components and the ball, yes. You can keep throwing up barricades in this game, I suppose, if you want to put it that way. But you have to ask yourself, is it interesting? Is it interesting, not only for the expert player, but for everyone who plays and comes here? Our decision, yes, we thought about the U.S. Open. And we have lots of friends at the USGA, and we talked about them considerably. But we finally came down to the realization that we wanted to do things in a long-range aspect for the resort itself. You want people to keep playing from all over the world. You want to keep them visiting Pinehurst. You want the members to enjoy it.
Bill and I hope that we tried to uncover what was in Ross's mind when he talked extensively about, yes, No. 2 was meant to be a stern test. The other course is pleasurable in lots of different regards. I don't think, in my mind, I don't think people understand how much of gems the one, and three, and other courses are. They're pleasurable. After all, he said, golf should be a pleasure, not a penance. And that says so much about playing the game. It was no one's fault in general, but it was just there. The course was there and conceived in a different picture. Yes, there was grass everywhere, and but that's okay. That happens all over North America and the world. As I said this morning to the member's group, Davis Moore, one of my dear old friends had a great thing to say about golf courses. He said, they're a living thing. And his inference was that things don't stay the same every day. You'd like for them to, but over a period of time, little lines change, outlines change, trees grow, this and that. A myriad of things happen as the course grows every day.
So you have to be vigilant. You have to be very vigilant in terms of how you present the course, how you maintain it, a million things. Bob Farren and his crew and all these guys that are working on it, they're so diligent. Superintendents don't get any credit, believe me. They should. Every day, they're just there every day. Every day they present the course for people, and they don't get the credit. The two most important people on any grounds are the professional and the superintendent. I'll tell you a story about the way Harvey Penick, my old teacher, used to look at it. Somebody would come in after a day, and somebody would make a hole out of a 7-iron shot or make a hole in one, and everybody would be happy. And Harvey would come over and say, congratulations. You've got to go thank the hole cutter for putting the hole right there (laughing). So it's always the nod to the superintendent, which was great.
One of the most fascinating things about this, obviously, the Tufts archives are maybe the most extensive in the world about having material with which to study. The depth of study was required, in our minds, to really go back. Obviously, yes, you do want to turn back the clock and look to see what was here, what the lines were, where the native areas were, where the tees were, what the edges of the bunker looked like. And you can pick those up on old aerials, it's fascinating. It is interpretive photography. Little like reconnaissance work. But also fabulous black and white pictures, and it's amazing that whether it was in sepia or black and white, you could pick up intricate details very readily. So that was so helpful. Don alluded to, that we didn't add much length to the course, but we widened some of the corridors. And one of the fascinating things that we did, which helped us at first, is they had a 75-year-old irrigation system here still servicing. We put flags where those were, and you could start to see the swings of the holes, very revealing.
And then we marked outside of those perimeters 40 feet on either side and the shapes of the holes in our minds definitely began to change quite considerably instead of having sort of parallel looking fairways, which, in our minds is totally different than what Donald Ross intended. He intended this to be a strategic course. We simply uncovered it. We'd take grass away, and there's sand right there. We're in the sand hills of North Carolina. That's what was here. And hopefully we've illuminated avenues of play. Yes, there is an element of luck, that a lot of times you hit it out there, and you'll get a club on the ball, and you can recover. Sometimes you might be behind a tuft of wire grass. But I think it was Dr. McKenzie who said there are those people who want to legislate luck out of the game, and it will cease to be a game when that happens. Because if you think about it, you know what's going to happen in golf. It's anything but predictable. How about yesterday? My God, I thought there might be an eight-way playoff. Anyway, I know what Don was getting at when he was alluding to future championships here. And God, I played in the British Open when Tom Watson won at Muirfield in 1980. He shot 12-under par. But the Scots said the wind didn't blow. They could care a less.
They present what they have in a natural form. If the wind blows, the scores will be higher. If they've got ideal conditions, they're going to be lower. Mike Davis is very interesting. He's taken a departure from USGA's standpoint, which I think is very interesting. Pebble Beach played very different, and Torrey Pines played very different. So there is a different presentation. P.J. Boatwright was a dear friend of mine. I loved him. But you knew what the U.S. Open test was going to be. There's no recovery from the rough there, but that's okay. This place is what it is. We tried our best to uncover it. We hope you enjoy it. Thank you.
MODERATOR: We'll start the Q & A with this. This photo starts with the 1940 aerial photo of hole 7, where you can see the shape of the hole and the sandy waste areas, and you had the 2005 U.S. Open set-up, and a shot that was just taken a couple weeks ago. So you can see how hole 7 evolved. Ben, I'll let you speak to that hole a little bit.
BEN CRENSHAW: Number 7 wasn't a problem, but we wanted to do a little something different. The foremost thing in my mind was the angle of the dogleg was too acute, which, to me, not only for a fine player, but those playing from the upper tees, it did not give you as many options as hopefully we've given today and what was on the ground in 1940. It was a hole that Donald Ross actually put together from another course. I don't know why that always presented him a problem, but it's a fine hole regardless. And Mike Davis wanted to push the tee back, which I was very skittish about because it's so close to the sixth green and there is a certain height there. I didn't want someone standing on the sixth tee looking at that beautiful green and seeing something back there in the form of a tee box.
So our guys did a beautiful job of blending that area back there in, so it's not noticeable. It's more of a modern length hole, I suppose, on 7 tee. But that one bunker in 2005, the inside bunker that you see always bothered me because it just cut down on people's opportunities. This is just one hole. For 1940, when you see aerials like this, there are so many things you can pick up from these things. You get a little magnifying glass and start looking. You see edges of bunkers, you see broken ground, you see things in different forms. Those were fascinating.
Q. Mr. Crenshaw, would you describe this project as intimidating? I think it was referred to as the Mona Lisa. You've done a lot of great things in your career, but would that be the right word to describe it?
BEN CRENSHAW: It was. The thought process, Bill and I did some soul searching before this, because we revere it so much. But we finally, in our minds, we had the courage of conviction to do some things that we thought were necessary. Interpretation and subjectivity are two different things. And there were just a few areas on the course that we thought were subjective. For instance, we added a fairway bunker on 13. That was never there. A couple of things like that that we made the decision to do that, but largely this is work that we felt was on the ground before. But still, this is a huge contrast of what people see today and what it was these last decades. We thought, yeah, this is going to be different.
We understand not everybody's going to embrace it, and that's fine. You go into architecture or art or whatever, and you're going to have criticism, that's what it's about. We could all go into the museum of modern art or a national art gallery in Washington and see things we don't like or like. But I know one thing. The majority of people who have ever been to Pinehurst or played at Donald Ross golf courses, really like his work. And there is a reason for it because it's timeless. It's embraced a lot of people. He's at the pinnacle of his profession.
Q. Ten years ago there were either people that got this place or there were people that maybe didn't get the strategic elements of it or it was acquired taste. Do you think what you've done here has made it easier for people to understand what Pinehurst is about on first sight?
BEN CRENSHAW: Well, we certainly hope so, Scott. In talking with Bill all these years, Bill and I have been together as long as Julie and I have been married, exactly 25 years, so we've talked so much. There is a presentation out on whatever the golf course is. You have limitations, opportunities, strategic components. You have choices. Narrow avenues with which to play limits peoples choices. That was one of the reasons why Augusta in six, seven years when things started to change, cut down on people's options. That's a different place. But on any golf course. Bernard Darwin, who was probably the preeminent golf writer that ever lived in the British Isles. He said, "Narrow corridors bordered by long grass make for bad golfers," because they're extremely intimidated. It suffers with the aspect of you want people to hit the ball.
You want to encourage them to hit the ball. But in order to have those choices, you have to have latitude, you have to have width. There is no question we have made a wider course here. But with swings to those spots encased in these areas of sand and wire grass. We've offered them those alternatives which reaches other people's handicaps. But it also fascinating the expert player too, who is trying as hard as he can to get to a fairway quadrant so he can attack a flag in some fashion. Just the options were limited before. It's nobody's fault. It's just a different form of strategy. But Ross talked about it extensively. He wanted this to be a stern test, No. 2, but he also wanted people of lesser skills to be able to play it as well?
Q. It seems you've reduced the sprinklers by a huge percentage. And it occurs to me a piece we did in our Raleigh Metro magazine with Jim Hyler from Raleigh who is I think still president of the USGA. And he was concentrating on the need to go to a faster running golf course, and to stop using as much water and to go to a more environmental, ecological construct. Was this part of your mission as part of your USGA conversations?
BEN CRENSHAW: Well, I think it was a happy sort of meeting ground. Bill and I have written and talked extensively about things and those conditions and how things get to be. We are fascinating, Bill and I are fascinated about color in golf. It's from a study of the British Isles and Australia and different places where you have different hues of color, so they go part and partial. It's not such a mandate, let's say. But it goes along with what we think that some places in their natural form are a little more needless, let's say.
Q. But there wasn't pressure?
BEN CRENSHAW: No, no, there wasn't.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.