5th Hole / 576 Yards / Par-5
Architect: Donald Ross (1907) with updating by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (2010)
Pinehurst, NC, USA
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Elasticity. No better word outlines the brilliance of the 5th hole at the famed #2 Course at Pinehurst Resort.
Renowned architect Donald Ross was actively engaged for the bulk of his life at his famed North Carolina creation along with other courses in the immediate Pinehurst area. In fact, the house where Ross lived is literally just across from the 5th green.
The 5th has played a major role in the three U.S. Opens held at Pinehurst in 1999, 2005 and 2014, respectively. The elasticity dimension stems from the hole being played as a long par-4 for the first two championships and then adjusted to a par-5 hole for the most recent Open held eight years ago. Amazingly, five additional U.S. Opens are scheduled to be played here between 2024 and 2047.
When played as a long par-4 the hole presents a daunting challenge with players hitting a long iron into the elevated turtle-back green that rejected all but the finest of approaches. Some players expressed frustration that such a long shot was called upon to a target that was hardly viewed as receptive.
In the first two championships the presentation of the 5th featured an abundance of rough situated on both sides of the fairway clearly not in alignment with what Ross originally envisioned.
In 2010, the Dedman family, the owners of Pinehurst, engaged the duo of Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, to bring back to life the true characteristics of the property and its inherent linkage to the sand hills region.
Coore was quoted prior to the work commencing as stating -- “We’re trying to uncover it, not recover it,” Coore said of the project. “We’re trying to take what Ross left and perhaps bring it back to the character and definition of what was once here. In short, we’ll bring the strategy back, and reinstate its character.”
Manicured and overly watered perimeter areas were removed -- replaced with original wire grass Ross intended.
The 5th smartly showcases that distinct charm and character. Play is commenced from a teeing area that looks out over what's faced. Playing now as a par-5 the hole rises slightly and turns left. The longest of hitters can attempt a go for the green in two shots but the risks are ever present for those seeking such a huge reward.
Although the fairway is amply wide, wire grass aligns on the far right and left sides. While in most instances players will still have the wherewithal to play a second shot from its grasp there is also the very real possibility for uneven lies with balls that find close proximity to the growing gnarly strands of grass facing an even problematic outcome.
The green is perched above the fairway and placed on a diagonal from lower right to back left. Players missing left of the target will find balls descending far below and then encountering a terrifying pitch back uphill to the elevated green. Missing right is only slightly better but then one encounters a green that falls away making plays from that position anything but conventional.
The grass just off the putting surface is cut short and provides a firm footing. Approach shots must be gauged with a jeweler's touch as those that err even slightly can quickly run-off away from the preferred landing area.
Internally the green has a number of vexing movements that must be accounted for with the surest of strokes.
Par-5 holes are often viewed by world class players as easy fodder. Providing a quick birdie or even eagle on the scorecard. The brilliance of the 5th at #2 is that nothing is yielded without the soundest of executions implemented.
Like an honest judge -- no bribes are accepted. You present your evidence with golf skills front and center bolstering your case. Your ultimate verdict is then determined.
Pinehurst #2 has always celebrated vintage golf shotmaking and saluted players relishing the challenge. How appropriate that the soul of Donald Ross embodied throughout the #2 Course is immediately near where he actually lived.
When you leave the 5th green look to the Ross house and give a courtesy bow to the man who brought to life a gem of a design that has long been rightly honored as the epicenter of American golf.
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Photos and rendering: Courtesy Pinehurst Resort