Perfection at Pinehurst: The USA’s spiritual ‘Home of Golf’

The US Open returns to Pinehurst’s No.2 course next month, back to where – for Americans at least – it all began.

For the Home of Golf, read the Cradle of Golf. While we cherish St Andrews as the sleepy, enchanting birthplace of the game, America look to Pinehurst as its spiritual home. Both names engender the same enviable mystique at what lies in wait, and neither reality is disappointing.

There are striking similarities between the two. Both are fairly remote, Pinehurst being a couple of hours’ drive from cities in different directions. Both have multiple courses of a rare caliber. Both have a feeling of being a place for discerning golfers, Pinehurst arguably to an even greater extent.

It feels as if it has hung on to its innocence a little more than St Andrews. There is an unmistakably authentic feel to everything.

The ‘Cradle’ label comes from the fact it was way back in the 1890s that Boston philanthropist James Walker Tufts built the New England-style village among towering pines and sandhills and recruited Leroy Culver and John Dunn Tucker to build the first nine holes. That was later extended to 18 holes and became No.1.

Pinehurst No.2 will host the US Open for the fourth time in 25 years

It was, however, the arrival of Scotsman Donald Ross – a revered professional from Dornoch – in 1901 that set Pinehurst on the path to becoming one of the world’s great destinations. His modifications to No.1 and design of iconic No.2 are the reasons for Pinehurst’s aura and legacy. Today there are more than 200 holes on the property, although No.2 remains No.1 in the eyes of the USGA. They’ve already penciled in nine national championships up to and including 2047, most notably the US Open and the US Women’s Open in five years’ time. Familiarity breeds only admiration.

No.2 is that rarest of beasts: a course able to host the world’s greatest golfers in one of the game’s great championships, but which also has the strategy, nuance, and entertainment to delight the club golfer

It incorporates the width of fairway that is in vogue now – just as it was in the 1890s – but, tee to green, No.2 constantly asks you questions; questions you often don’t have a coherent answer to. You’ll look down the hole, find the ideal spot from which to hit your approach (which is crucial, given the unforgiving greens), and then realize there are factors – slope of the land, bunkering, shape of the fairway – that make it very awkward for the everyday golfer.

The par-4 16th hole usually plays as a par-5 for members

The challenge predictably ramps up around Ross’ famous turtleback greens, which fuse great entertainment with a morbid fascination. The absence of thick rough means the putter is often a sensible implement to reach for, but then you might prefer to keep stubbornly chipping away with an iron, maybe even a hybrid.

Pinehurst was once again ranked No.3 in our benchmark 2023 list of the World’s Top 100 Golf Resorts, behind only Gleneagles and Bandon Dunes. It is indubitably one of the world’s bucket-list destinations, offering quality and quantity to its golf offering that no other single club or resort in the world can match.

With the opening of the Tom Doak-designed No.10 – considered by some who have played it to be at least the equal of No.2 – it will become even more alluring as a golfing playground with a long and distinguished history.

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Chris Bertram, Golf World Top 100 Editor

Chris Bertram – Golf World Top 100 Editor

He was born and brought up in Dumfriesshire and has been a sports journalist since 1996, initially as a junior writer with National Club Golfer magazine.

Chris then spent four years writing about football and rugby union for the Press Association but returned to be Editor and then Publisher of NCG before joining Golf World and Today’s Golfer as Senior Production Editor.

He has been freelance since 2010 and when he is not playing and writing about the world’s finest golf courses, he works for BBC Sport.

A keen all-round sportsman, Chris plays off 11 – which could be a little better if it wasn’t for hilariously poor lag putting which has to be seen to be believed.

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