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All Drives Lead to Pinehurst in 2024 – The U.S. Open on No. 2, and the opening of Golf House Pinehurst

by Crai S. Bower

For a golfer, there are few feelings that compare to entering the Village of Pinehurst. Most of us will never drive down Magnolia Lane at Augusta or play Pine Valley, but we can all visit Pinehurst, North Carolina, the “Cradle of American Golf.”

There’s no rocking this baby to sleep, however. Pinehurst remains uber active in 2024, welcoming the 124th U.S. Open, adding Golf House Pinehurst, the USGA’s second headquarters, and debuting the Tom Doak-designed No. 10, the resort’s first new course in almost 30 years.

The World Golf Hall of Fame has also returned to Pinehurst.

Though my caddie confided that 75 percent of the duffers who play No. 2 “should never step near the first tee box,” Donald Ross’s favorite design (his house is located on the third fairway) is far and away the most popular course at the resort. And who can blame us?

Apart from the greens, that generally run 10 on the Stimpmeter but will slicken to 14 for the national championship, No. 2 presents the exact layout the pros play. Why? Most U.S. Opens are infamous for their two-foot rough, but in 2011 Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw replaced the verdant fairway bumpers with beachy waste areas that are true to the original Ross design. They also filled these swaths of sand with 20,000 wiregrass plants, adding 20,000 more after the waste areas lacked bite during the 2014 U.S. Open.

A look behind the brilliant Coore-Crenshaw restoration reveals why every golf junkie should visit Pinehurst. Many restoration plans are cobbled together from historical images and a few architect notes. At Pinehurst one simply needs to visit the public library, specifically the Tufts Archives.

A bit of Pinehurst history. In 1895, James Walker Tufts used income from his soda fountain fortune to purchase 5,800 acres to establish a New England-style village in the North Carolina sandhills. His vision was to create a sanitorium for patients suffering from tuberculosis. When epidemiologists declared TB was among the most contagious diseases in history, Pinehurst’s quaint confines of cozy cottages instantly felt like a Petrie dish. Pinehurst transitioned from a health refuge to a recreation destination. To complete the facelift, golf was added in 1898.

A golf junky could spend the entire day exploring the Tufts Archives, from the photographs and heirlooms to binders containing the near entirety of Donald Ross blueprints. One student of the game who spent hours of study here was Ben Crenshaw, who first fell for natural golf design when playing The Country Club at Brookline while competing in the 1968 U.S. Junior Amateur.

“It was a tall order [to restore No. 2], knowing what it means to American golf,” he told me last year. “It was high pressure, and we immediately started diving into the archives. We would go to the library in town where we could also discern where the fairways were, and how natural some of the off-fairway areas looked like.”

A statue of Payne Stewart, commemorating his thrilling 1999 U.S. Open victory at Pinehurst No. 2, stands behind the 18th green.

Coore and Crenshaw’s final piece of the puzzle came from an unlikely discovery: the original single-row irrigation system buried along the middle of the fairways, proscribing their precise width. The duo removed the century-old plumbing.

“When we looked into the archives, we saw so many natural areas,” Crenshaw recalled. “What we saw was simply the sandhills of North Carolina.”

Not surprisingly, Crenshaw said the green structures required the least amount of work, their signature turtle-back elevations and subtle contours as evocative of Donald Ross as they are confounding to approach and putt on.

But enough about No. 2.

Unlike many destination dream layouts, there are plenty of other reasons Pinehurst has your number, beginning with the Gil Hanse redesigned No. 4. Many amateurs love to say they played No. 2, but they savor their round on No. 4. These 18 holes would claim top drawer status at most resorts, had the neighboring track not hosted the 1999, 2005, 2014 U.S. Opens, the 1991 and 1992 PGA Tour Championships, the 1938 PGA and the 1951 Ryder Cup.

Donald Ross designed the original No. 4, and he’d no doubt be pleased that Hanse, an apostle of natural golf architecture, received the call to update his blueprint. Playability, the fairways wide, the greens accepting, is only one factor that pleases players.

Don’t forget your accuracy though, danger lurks just off the greens, including a 60-foot hillside descent on the 140-yard fourth; the sixth green presents a great perch to view the property; and a rare lake hovers just left of the lengthy 215-yd par-3 14th.

It’s hard to out-buzz a U.S. Open course, but Tom Doak’s No. 10 is proving a worthy buzzsaw. A walk (No. 10 is walk-only.) among the dunes and undulations here will leave you mentally exhausted and physically spent. An elevation change of 75 feet didn’t sound like much to this alpine enthusiast, but all the nobs, valleys and crests take their toll.

The author takes a break while walking the walking-only No. 10 course, designed by Tom Doak and the first new course at the resort in 30 years.

Doak and his lead associate Angela Moser pull no punches here. It’s a taxing trip, but the bowls, backstops and semi-blind shots feel Irish linksy, i.e. so much fun. No. 10 might spank you, but you may well find yourself stating, “Please sir, may I have another (round).”

The USGA’s Golf House Pinehurst includes the USGA Research and Test Center. Visible through a floor-to-ceiling window from the staircase in the new stylish building, the research and test center will be front and center during the ongoing debate that surrounds adjusting the golf ball in 2028 to reduce distance.

In addition to administration, the six-acre Golf House Pinehurst campus features several outdoor seating areas and, inside the second building, the USGA Experience bursting with memorabilia and interactive exhibits. The World Golf Hall of Fame, which was founded here in 1974, completes the celebration of all things golf.

Or nearly so, because no trip to Pinehurst is complete without wandering into Tom Stewart’s Old Sport & Gallery. Tucked into Market Square, this massive collection spans from historic feathery golf balls to oil canvases of the world’s iconic golf holes composed by the masters of golf illustration. Curator Stewart’s indefatigable narration completes the master class.

The famous Payne Stewart statue, his leg cocked high and arm thrusting forward in celebration of his U.S. Open win here in 1999, resides between the clubhouse and the 18th green on No. 2. Obscured by impending grandstands, it will be moved to a more prominent location for the championship, where thousands of golf enthusiasts will no doubt pause for selfies to document their tucking inside the cradle of American golf.

Crai S. Bower writes scores of adventure travel articles a year for over 25 publications, including golf stories for American Way, Hearst Media and Journeymagazine, among others. He appears regularly on the American Forces Network as a travel commentator. Visit his site at