It was a long, restless winter without golf. I played my last golf of 2022 in early November with rounds at Scioto, Old Town Club and Dallas National all scheduled through early December but postponed for various reasons. Then in January, I had ankle surgery that I'd been putting off for the better part of two years.
Since late spring 2021, I've been limping around with two torn ("shredded," the orthopedic surgeon said) tendons running down the outside of my left ankle. I wore a brace and could still mostly swing the club, but walking 18 holes was pretty much out of the question. And most days, it felt like my foot was on fire. I'm Irish, though, which means I generally figure if it's not bleeding, it'll probably be fine.
So, I put off surgery in 2021 ... and then again in 2022. But by late last year, I knew the time had come, and so I finally went in to have it done in January. The plan was that I'd be laid up probably until late April or early May -- immobilized in a boot for the first seven weeks following the operation and then managing my way through physical therapy for a couple of months. By mid-February, I was watching the PGA Tour make its way up the coast of California and going crazy over not being able to play. After six weeks in the boot, I was hitting balls at Top Golf ... using the event of a NASH kNOWledge fundraiser as an excuse to explain to my wife that it would look bad if I didn't hit at least a few (or a hundred) balls, considering I'm on the organization's board of directors.
Regular people -- and most medical experts -- probably look at that photo and think I'm nuts. But golfers understand. So, it's probably no surprise to anyone reading this blog that my first question to the surgeon the day he released me from the boot was, "When can I start golfing again?" I still had a couple months of physical therapy ahead of me, but after a bit of negotiating, he gave me the all-clear to play so long as I still wear a brace and don't try to walk a course for a while. That's all I needed to hear to set up my first round of the year during an early March trip to North Carolina. And where better to reacquaint myself with the game than Pinehurst Resort and Country Club?
Founded in 1895, Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina, has long been one of the quintessential golf destinations in the United States, if not the world. A precursor to resorts like Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, Streamsong, and a long list of other golf resorts that today are home to multiple courses among the best in the country, Pinehurst Resort and Country Club's nine championship golf courses and nine-hole short course -- The Cradle -- include three courses ranked among the top 100 public courses in America. Pinehurst No. 2 -- the Donald Ross masterpiece that has hosted multiple major championships and the 1951 Ryder Cup -- has earned the most notoriety and is generally considered the best in the collection. But Pinehurst Nos. 4 and 8 have also earned acclaim and high rankings. I played the No. 2 course nearly 20 years ago (and wrote a bit about it in a blog post two years ago). I hadn't been back to Pinehurst since. But with business in Charlotte, I saw an opportunity. And when I learned that I'd be able to ride a cart on the fairways of the No. 8 course (Nos. 2 and 4 are walking or cart-path only), it was an easy choice for me to target No. 8 for my post-surgery return.
Pinehurst Resort and Country Club's courses are open only to resort guests and members of the country club. I was fortunate to connect with a member of the club who was willing to host me for my round on the No. 8 course. That worked out perfectly for me on this trip, as my business kept me at a hotel in Charlotte. But having stayed at the resort's Carolina hotel in 2004, and recognizing the investments the resort has obviously made in the property since that time, I'm pretty confident in saying that it's worth every penny for those who come as guests of the resort and enjoy not only the golf but all of Pinehurst's other many amenities. For those who may be unaware, the USGA has made a major investment in Pinehurst, breaking ground last year on Golf House Pinehurst, which is scheduled for completion later this year and will be home to the USGA's equipment testing facility, a new immersive experience to teach visitors about golf and the role of the USGA, and more. Golf House Pinehurst also will become the new home of the World Golf Hall of Fame, when it relocates from St. Augustine, Florida, in 2024. The ongoing construction I witnessed was impressive both in its scale and in the obvious attention that's been paid to enhancing rather than disrupting the land and the community surrounding the property.
Pinehurst's No. 8 course is located about a mile north of the resort, itself. Designed by Tom Fazio in 1995, the course opened in 1996 and is often referred to as The Centennial, celebrating Pinehurst's 100-year anniversary. Fazio designed the course with crowned greens as a salute to Donald Ross and the No. 2 course, but he also took full advantage of the terrain and wetlands across 420 acres to create what Golf Digest has called one of his most versatile course designs. Ranked 76 on Golf Digest's current ranking of the top 100 public courses in America, No, 8 has very few homes bordering its holes and has earned a Signature Sanctuary designation from the Audubon Society. It offers players a peaceful round with few distractions apart from the beauty of the sand hills, forest and wildlife one encounters during the course of a round. The serenity today may be a far cry from the sounds once heard on this land, where the Pinehurst Gun Club once existed and where Annie Oakley gave shooting lessons and put on exhibitions once upon a time.
The course is long but eminently playable with five sets of tees stretching to 7,099 yards or playing as short as 5,153. I opted to play the white, or "Centennial," tees at 6,302 yards -- a little bit shorter than I usually like, but at lower altitude and in light of my recent surgery, I figured a little too short was probably better than a little too long. All distances mentioned throughout the remainder of this post will be from the Centennial tees unless otherwise noted. One other note -- the day I played the No. 8 course, I was invited to play the back nine first in order to avoid a charity outing with groups going off the front nine. The advantage was that I had the back nine entirely to myself. I only mention this because I am presenting my walk-through of the course here in traditional order, from Hole No. 1 to Hole No. 18, and readers may notice that the early pictures of the back nine are taken in early morning light which, for an untrained photographer such as myself, can prevent some challenges when trying to capture great photos. It's also worth noting that I played in early March, which means a lot of dormant grass. Where the course appears brown or yellow, that's just the seasonal nature of grass in North Carolina. I can assure you, playing conditions were fantastic throughout the course.
Hole No. 1 - Par 4 - 321 Yards
The opening hole on the Centennial course is an inviting par-4 that bends gently to the left. A 30-yard-long fairway bunker on the left side offers up a line to the green from the tee, and big bombers may want to give that aggressive path a shot, especially when conditions are dry, as the downhill approach just might propel a well-struck drive all the way to the green. It's about 220 yards to clear the bunker from the white tees, and more conservative players will find this hole easier playing from the right side of the fairway, avoiding the sand altogether and allowing the natural contours of the hole to bring a good drive back toward the center.
On the approach, it's easy to see a swale just short of the green that will likely collect even the biggest drives of those long-hitters who attempt to reach this green from the tee. Playing from farther up the fairway, most players are likely to find themselves with just a wedge or short-iron, at most, into this green. The shot plays a bit more downhill than this picture might indicate to a green guarded by just the one bunker, short-left. The green itself is crowned and will run off in all directions, effectively shrinking the area on which players can safely land a shot. This green also features a spine or ridge that runs from front to back. Players who can land their approach on the hole side of the ridge have a much better chance of scoring well here.
Hole No. 2 - Par 5 - 502 Yards
The second hole is a medium-length par-5 but will likely still play as a three-shot hole even for golfers of above average length because of how the hole narrows and the deep bunkers that protect the green from running a long second shot into the putting surface. For all but the longest hitters, thinking about how to play this hole in reverse may provide a strategy that takes some of the risk out of this first par-5. The ideal approach -- assuming a three-shot strategy to the green -- is from the wide landing area about 100 yards out from the green. So, the first two shots need only cover about 400 yards. Players may opt to hit a fairway wood or even a hybrid off the tee, choosing control over distance. Fro the white tees, it's only about 160 yards to clear the fairway bunker on the left. And from there, anything short of about 235 yards off the tee will stay short of the bunker on the right, where the fairway remains wide and inviting.
Having laid up well short of the bunker on the right, I needed only about 185 yards -- or a 5-iron -- to get to my 100-yard layup target. Aiming just left of this bunker afforded me the ideal line, as the fairway meanders a bit to the left before turning back gently to the right on the approach to the hole. It's worth noting that the fairway gets very narrow from this bunker on the right and remains so for about 70 yards, so there's a lot more risk than reward in trying to blast a big bomb off the tee on this par-5. Even if you can carry the 255 yards or so it'll take to get past the sand, you'll be hard-pressed to avoid the rough.
The narrow fairway and deep bunkers short of the green on No. 2 make it easy to see why trying to run a long, low second shot into this green is a low-percentage play. But laying up to this position, about 100 yards out, makes for a relatively easy wedge play into this green, which slopes predominantly to the left and features something of a Biarritz-style swale that runs across the center of the of the putting surface.
Hole No. 3 - Par 4 - 357 Yards
The third hole is a mid-length par-4 that plays uphill all the way from tee to green. The fairway slopes from left to right, but three fairway bunkers on the left make this a more difficult driving hole. Players may opt for something other than a driver off the tee in order to keep the ball in the short grass, as balls hit up the left side of this fairway will find their way to the right side of the hole. Some may even choose to layup short of the bunkers off the tee in order to take advantage of the widest fairway landing area, which will likely leave a mid- to long-iron approach to this green but may be the easiest way to avoid trouble on the opening shot. The first bunker is about 205 yards from the tee, and though it's not how I chose to play it on this particular day, I imagine two good shots with my 185-yard club (in my case, a 5-iron) would put me just about right where I'd need to be to set up a relatively easy par or possibly even a birdie on this interesting hole.
The uphill approach to No. 3 is better played long than short. Balls that don't reach the green or that fall victim to its false front can roll pretty far back down the fairway. There also is a deep bunker short-right of the green that can make for a challenging up-and-down. Take a little more club to account for the elevation change and aim for whichever side of the green the flag is on. There is a ridge that runs up the center of the putting surface from front to back. Balls played left of center will funnel off to the left, and balls played right of the ridge will funnel to the right.
Hole No. 4 - Par 4 - 406 Yards
No. 4 is a dogleg-left that plays to a blind landing between two large waste areas. The safe play is down the middle or even a bit right of center, but more aggressive players can take on the dogleg and bomb it over the right side of the left waste area. If successful, the drive will catch the downward sloping fairway on the other side and bound forward, setting up a short approach.
I've never seen one of these before, but I was fascinated by this viewing station set up to the right of the tees on the fourth hole. At first, I thought it was a bird house, but upon closer inspection, it turns out that if you look through the small window on the side of the box you can see a monitor with a view fed by a hidden camera farther down the fairway to ensure the landing area is clear before you hit your drive. I've seen plenty of bells on courses by which the group ahead can let the group behind know that it's safe to hit on a blind shot, but this was the first time I've ever seen this setup. I'm curious to know where else this solution might be employed.
The approach to the fourth green plays downhill once again to a two-tiered green that slopes from back to front. The three bunkers that guard the green leave a little room to play a running shot into this hole but aren't particularly penal unless you significantly short-side yourself on the approach or find an unlucky lie in the sand. Leave your approach below the hole on this green, and you've got a very real chance at birdie and a relatively easy opportunity to card a par.
Hole No. 5 - Par 3 - 116 Yards
No. 5 is the only hole on the front nine on which water is really in play (unless you completely top your tee shot on No. 6). You might not think that the lake would be an issue on such a short hole, but I was told by a caddie at the club that you'd be surprised how many folks just see that water off to the left and wind up yanking even a short club in that direction. The natural slope of the bank down to the water doesn't help wayward shots from finding the drink, either. For most players, though, this should be just a wedge or short-iron to one of the more interesting greens on the course. A small bunker in front of the green will catch its share of short balls. But even those that find the green have to be careful to avoid too much spin. The green slopes from back to front and right to left, and balls played with too much spin to the front of the green can easily spin back off the putting surface and even into the sand.
A mound in the center of the green further complicates the tee shot to the 5th hole, as it can send a well-struck ball in virtually any direction. Aggressive players may salivate at the idea of a 116-yard par-3, but conservative players may opt to simply play to the right-center of this green in hopes of setting up a relatively easy two-putt par.
Hole No. 6 - Par 5 - 565 Yards
The shortest hole on the front nine is immediately followed up by the longest. Playing uphill off the tee, this 565-yard par-5 is a beast of a hole that narrows as it winds its way between trees and sand to a small green far in the distance. Off the tee, trees right and left of the fairway threaten to snag, knock down and even send back any ball hit offline. The safe play is to the left-center of the fairway, inside the right edge of the fairway bunker. If you can play that shot with a bit of a fade, all the better, as the hole begins to turn back to the right just beyond the sand.
Finding a flat lie in the sixth fairway may be a rarity. Be prepared to play with the ball above your feet (for right handers), and be mindful of how that may affect your next shot, which plays to a narrower strip of fairway with long bunkers left and right and dense forest even farther left, just waiting to gobble up the shots of players who can't control the right-to-left movement of their balls played from a hook-lie.
Players who can keep their second shot up to the right side of the fairway and out of the sand will be rewarded with a wedge or short-iron approach to this green that slopes from right-to-left. A knoll in the front-right section of the green can send an approach quickly left, so the safest shot to set up a chance at birdie is to fly the ball to at least the middle of this green.
Hole No. 7 - Par 4 - 323 Yards
No. 7 is a short, straightaway par-4 that features a tee shot to a landing area that drops off below a ridge about 210 yards from the tee. A 70-yard-long waste bunker on the right side of the fairway ends just shy of 200 yards out and should be reasonably easy to avoid for most players whose tee shots carry at least that far. Balls that reach the crest of the hill will likely leave players with a downhill shot into the green, playing just a wedge or short-iron.
A deep bunker guards the left side of this green, but it's not enough to simply carry the ball to the putting surface to avoid the danger. Balls that go long run the risk of kicking down the hillside behind the green and into the pine straw or even deeper into the trees, making recovery near impossible. I was fortunate to record my first birdie of the season on this hole, chipping in from just off the green to the right after chunking a half-wedge on my approach shot. Turns out, the collection area just right of the putting surface offers a terrific uphill angle of attack to this green that slopes from left to right, and I was able to play an aggressive chip that rattled the flagstick and dropped into the cup almost as if I'd planned it.
Hole No. 8 - Par 3 - 177 yards
Hole No. 8 is a mid-length par-3 featuring a green that angles away from left to right but which slopes from right to left. The hole is protected by bunkers right and long. It's arguably a Redan-style hole, though the green is more receptive than most of the Redans I've played. A bit hard to see in this photo, there are a couple of knolls in front of and to the left of the green that could cause a ball that misses the putting surface to bounce in any number of directions and into any sort of good or bad lie. With the pin front-left as it was the day I played here, this was about as easy as a 177-yard hole can be, as the green is one of the least-undulating on the course, and there was a lot of room to simply get the ball onto the putting surface and set up a simple par. I can imagine, though, that the hole could be much more difficult on days when the hole is cut on the back right, over the deep right bunker and perched on the small plateau of green that is likely a challenge to reach in the air and to hold.
Hole No. 9 - Par 4 - 395 Yards
I played the ninth hole terribly but really enjoyed it as a finishing hole since I'd played the nines in opposite order this day. At just under 400 yards, No. 9 is not a terribly long hole. It does play uphill from the tee, but the elevation change isn't terribly dramatic. Curling like a quarter-moon around to the right, players can either aim at the left side of the fairway off the tee -- just inside the right edge of the long, left fairway bunker -- or they can challenge the right side of the fairway in an attempt to shorten the hole and aim at the blind landing over and beyond the waste area on the right. The fairway is fairly generous off of this tee, and it only takes a carry of about 160 yards to cover the left edge of that waste area.
This is where the approach should be played from -- about 150 yards out, in the middle of the fairway. A 90-yard-long waste area on the right and a series of bunkers to the left narrow the approach to this green considerably, but the putting surface itself is guarded by only one bunker short-left. Like the third hole, a ridge runs up the middle of this green, so players will want to play to the left or right half, depending on where the pin is located during their round. Be careful not to leave your approach shot short, however, as balls that fall short of the green will collect in the area well below the putting surface just beyond the waste area and will make for a challenging up-and-down.
While the previous photo depicted the angle from which the ninth hole *should* be played, this picture shows you the position from which I played it after my bold attempt to challenge the right side of the hole turned into an ugly slice that had plenty of distance but no sense of direction. I still liked the angle, at least for a photo, with the pine trees, pine straw and barren land of the waste area so prominently on display. Happy to say I did play a rather nice punch from the pine straw that stayed under the branches and made its way up and onto the green ... though it subsequently rolled back down into the collection area and resulted in a bogey by the time it was all said and done.
Hole No. 10 - Par 4 - 387 Yards
The 10th hole is a downhill par-4 that plays straight out to a generous landing area. It'll take a carry of about 220 yards to blow your drive by the fairway bunker on the left, so players of average length may want to favor the right side off the tee.
From the right side of the fairway, the hole offers up a lane between the two front bunkers for players who want to run a low shot into this green that slopes predominantly from back to front. The green also features a bit of a punchbowl valley in the front-left quadrant where balls will tend to collect and from which it can be quite challenging to putt to pins on the back half of the green.
Looking back up the hole from behind the green on No. 10 illustrates just how different a hole can look depending on the angle of the sun.
Hole No. 11 - Par 5 - 547 Yards
No. 11 is likely a three-shot par-5 for all but the longest players. The driving area is effectively narrowed by a large waste area that stretches all the way to about 260 yards off the tee on the right. Players may want to favor the left side of the fairway to avoid the risk of having their tee shot kick down into the sand. Fairway bunkers to the left are a good 265 yards off the tee and aren't likely in play for most players but may offer some help as an aiming point, particularly for players capable of aligning to the bunkers and playing a fade back to the fairway.
The second shot is on No. 11 is all about setting up the approach -- deciding whether to try to play beyond the next set of two fairway bunkers farther down the fairway to play a wedge into the green or whether to layup to more of a mid-iron length short of that second set of bunkers. The one place you don't want to be for your third shot is in the sand.
The approach shot on No. 11 plays to a green that slopes from right to left and front to back. Players hitting into this green with longer mid-irons may want to play a little less club and allow for the ball to run out toward the center or back of the green, while players approaching with a wedge may want to play a little extra spin in order to hold against the slope. The green is protected by a long, deep greenside bunker on the right that can spoil the hole if you've hit a couple of good shots from the tee, so players may want to play more toward the left side of this green in order to steer clear of any bunker trouble.
Hole No. 12 - Par 4 - 320 Yards
The 12th hole is arguably my favorite on the course and certainly on the back nine. A short hole, this is a bomber's delight. Big hitters, who crush it down the right side of the fairway just might find themselves able to run their drive down the sloping fairway and into this green off the tee as the hole bends gently from left to right. But there is plenty of risk in the form of a giant waste area that runs down just about the entire right side of this hole. The safe play is up the center-left of the fairway, over the crest of the hill, setting up just a short wedge into this green.
From the left side of the fairway, the entire green opens up to you, giving players the option of flying the ball all the way to the hole or playing a little pitch and run. A couple of knobs just over top of the right-front bunker will kick balls back and to the left, so players may want to play a bit farther left or long, depending on the angle of attack, to take some of the unpredictability out of the approach shot. Don't lose sight of the bunker behind the green, however, as recovering from there could be a three-shot endeavor for anyone who goes long on this short hole.
Hole No. 13 - Par 3 - 165 Yards
The 13th hole is a mid-length par-3 that plays slightly uphill, which can make it a bit difficult to see exactly what you're getting into as you tee off to a putting surface that slopes away from you. Waste areas left and right really shouldn't be much of an issue unless you severely underclub. Better to be short of the hole and on the apron than long, where balls will run down the hill and collect well below the green. Unless you're hole-hunting, the best play may be to simply hit the club that will carry you to the front portion of the green and let the ball settle somewhere between the middle and the back to set up a possible birdie and a relatively routine par.
Hole No. 14 - Par 4 - 363 Yards
No. 14 is unique on the course because it's the only hole that requires a forced carry of significant length with water in play. This hole reminded me a lot of the second and 18th holes at my home course, Pete Dye Golf Club, playing across water to a par-4 with an angled fairway that can reward risk-takers who bite off big chunks of the hazard ... and can punish those who try but fail to carry the water. In this case, it's about a 180-yard shot to fly the fairway bunker. And that's a pretty good line, but players who take it may want to hit something other than driver to avoid running through the fairway at about 235 yards. You can play more to the left, but the fairway does begin to narrow as it gets nearer and nearer to the green. As I stood on this tee with driver in hand, looking at a line about midway between that fairway bunker and the greenside bunker in the distance, I swear in my head I heard that old Clint Eastwood line from Dirty Harry, "You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?" After about a minute of pondering that, I punked out and went back to the bag for my hybrid, which turned out to be the right play for me that day.
My ball wound up on the right side of the fairway, which was fine, given the back, middle hole position. Ideally, the play is from the left-center of the fairway, which opens up the entire green. The putting surface is protected by a deep V-shaped bunker front-right and a waste area behind. The green slopes from right to left and back to front, making it particular receptive to a high fade if you can hit one. If not, you may want to try to play your approach slightly right of the pin and allow for the green to feed the ball back toward the hole, provided you can find the putting surface and avoid the sand.
Hole No. 15 - Par 3 - 145 Yards
No. 15 is a short par-3, probably no more than an 8-iron for most players. The green slopes from left to right, and balls played to the right side run a very real risk of finding either the long greenside bunker or, worse, the marsh. It is far safer to play your tee shot out to the left, where even a ball that misses the green stands a better-than-decent chance of catching the slope and kicking down to the putting surface. There is another bunker long that you definitely do not want to have to play out of, but it would take a pretty significant mis-hit -- probably either a bladed iron or a serious error in judging the wind -- to wind up there on most days.
I took this picture from left of the 15th green just because I liked the look beyond the flag and over the marsh up the 16th fairway on the left and the 18th fairway on the right to the clubhouse.
While I was taking that last shot, the friendliest beverage cart girl I think I've ever met rolled up and asked me if I'd like her to take a picture of me. I explained that I'm a golf blogger and that people don't pull up the website here to see pictures of me! We got to talking, and she asked how I was enjoying the course. I was playing without a caddie, and she gave me a few tips for some of the upcoming holes. Then she said she wants to be in the blog. Well, I'm not usually that guy taking pictures with the cart girl, but we settled on a selfie, and I promised I'd include her in my write-up. She actually was terrific; I saw her a number of times throughout my round. And it turned out she once had a roommate who was a big fan of my hometown Pittsburgh Penguins, so we talked a little hockey. As an ambassador for the club/resort, she was the epitome of southern charm and friendliness that made a fun round even better. So, if you play the No. 8 course and you meet Kamryn, tell her you read about her here in the blog, and be sure to tip her well! And, Kamryn, if you see this -- promise made, promise kept! Thanks for being awesome.
Now ... back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Hole 16 - Par 4 - 332 Yards
The 16th hole is a cool, short par-4 that plays down a lane of fairway between 80 yards of bunkers on the left and a 45-yard-long fairway bunker on the right. The fairway is fairly wide, but it looks narrower because it angles from right to left, and the sand creates the illusion that it is pinching the landing area down to almost nothing. It'll take a drive of about 230 yards to fly it past the bunkers, and the ideal shot is one that starts at the sand on the right and draws back toward the center of the fairway.
The approach on 16 is to a crowned, multi-tiered green. The right side of the green sits up significantly higher than the left, which can make putting awkward or downright frightening, depending on the direction in which your ball is moving and your distance from the hole. A bunker short of the green protects the right side from balls played along the ground, forcing you to fly your ball to the hole when the pin is tucked back behind the sand.
Hole No. 17 - Par 5 - 464 Yards
The 17th is a reachable par-5 that bends gently from left to right. A large fairway bunker left and a much larger waste area to the right demand that your tee shot either be straight or long (of course, straight AND long is best), as it'll take a drive of about 250 yards to blow by their sandy dangers.
I saw this guy off to the right, in the waste area, as I made my way down the 17th fairway, and I wondered just how bad your round needs to be before you decide to set fire to the golf course!
From this spot in the fairway, just shy of the far edge of the waste bunker, it's about 215 yards to the center of the green. There are bunkers short and right of the putting surface, as well as a marsh -- all of which spells disaster for the player who pushes or slices the long attempt to reach this green in two. If you're going for it, play for the left side of the green. Balls that find the putting surface will move from left to right and put you in position for an eagle attempt.
Players who opt to layup on 17 will likely find this to be the easiest par-5 on the course to birdie with just a simple wedge to a green with a bit of slope but not a terrible amount of undulation. Put the ball on the same side of the green as the flag, and go ahead and sink that tweeter.
Hole No. 18 - Par 4 - 417 Yards
The closing hole is a stout test to finish your round. There's nothing tricked up or fancy about it (apart from the fancy view of No. 8's fine clubhouse). But it's going to take two darned good shots to reach the green on this long, uphill par-4, followed by some excellent putting to post a par or better. The ideal drive is long, straight and favors the right side of this fairway that slopes from right to left. Balls played to the left side of the fairway may look good off the tee but are just as likely to bound down into the rough or, worse, the fairway bunker, as they are to remain in the short grass. The pond in front of the tee box and the bunker just beyond may offer a bit of visual intimidation for those who are prone to that sort of thing, but it only requires a carry of about 130 yards to reach the fairway from the white tees, so those hazards really shouldn't be in play for most players.
Players may want to club up as they set up to hit their second shots up the hill to the green at 18. A large, deep bunker front-right will swallow up the shots of players who don't pull enough club to reach this green. And two more bunkers left of the green will catch the shots of those who don't play far enough toward the center of the green to keep their balls on the putting surface. No. 18 features one of the most undulating greens on the course, with a swale that runs across the middle of the green. Players who fail to land their approach shots on the same tier as the hole will have a heck of a time two-putting this fair but challenging green.
Pinehurst No. 8 was a fantastic place to launch my post-surgery golf comeback. I would have liked to have carded a couple more birdies and a few less bogies, but the course is a lot of fun and was in fantastic shape. The staff were absolutely terrific -- from the bag drop to the pro shop to Kamryn on the beverage cart. Architecturally, it's maybe not a match for its big brother, Donald Ross' No. 2 course, but it was easy to see why it holds a place of its own within the rankings.
Of course, no visit to Pinehurst would be complete without a stop at the main clubhouse to visit Payne Stewart. It's been nearly 20 years since I last saw this statue honoring the late winner of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and he looks as classy as ever. Can't wait to get back to play the No. 4 course, Pinehurst's new short course (The Cradle), and maybe even a few of the other courses that may not be ranked but -- from what I've heard -- are an absolute blast to play.
Have you played Pinehurst No. 8? Drop a comment below or send me an email at email@example.com to let me know what you think of about the course or to share any thoughts you might have about the blog.