My Quest to Check Off Golf's Best Experiences
The Golf Bucket List
Pinehurst No. 4 is a good course and a solid test. With pot bunkers everywhere, it's a different look to the other courses at the resort. Some might like the variety, some might think they're a little dull since there is really no diversity in bunker shapes or sizes. If you're going to play at the Resort, this should definitely be on your list, however, I'd say there are a couple other courses in the sand hills that I think of more highly. With that said though, with so many excellent golf courses in the Pinehurst area, it's not a bad thing to be a few courses down the list and doesn't mean you're not a solid golf course. I'm looking forward to playing Pinehurst No. 8 in a couple months and will see where No. 4 stands up to the other main competitor for championship level rounds that aren't played on No. 2.
#18, Par 4, 400 Yards
A tough finishing hole and the hardest hole on the side, by handicap. Avoiding the sand is the key here. It's down the left side on the first shot, and the crosses and works its way down the right on the approach. A par definitely earns you a cocktail on the veranda and will more than likely win a bet or the match.
#16, Par 4, 368 Yards
It's only 224 yards to the waste area on the left, so judge your tee shot carefully. Laying back isn't necessarily a bad play since this isn't a terribly long hole. Bunkers guard either side of the front of the green.
#17, Par 5, 535 Yards
22 Pot Bunkers make the 17th look like the surface of the moon in spots. They're on the left off of the tee and then all over the place on the 2nd and 3rd shots. Laying back to about 100 yards from the green will avoid the bunkers in the area of the green. However, don't be careless on the approach shot as the green is 50 yards deep and being in the wrong section will put you in risk of a three-putt.
#15, Par 4, 367 Yards
This one is a cool par 4. 21 pot bunkers in play, with a few flanking either side of the green, and the rest on either side in front of the green. A run-up shot is really not to this small green, but you should be coming in with a short iron or wedge anyway. A fun and good-looking hole.
#14, Par 3, 189 Yards
Now to the other side of the pond. The 14th keeps the pond on its left side with three pot bunkers on the right to get in the way of a conservative bail-out. The green is over 45 yards deep and two-tiered, so get your club right.
#13, Par 5, 500 Yards
On the 13th hole, we get back to the pond that contributed to why Fazio saw such potential in this site for his re-design. This is the same pond what was hit over on the 4th, and will not come into play on the 13th and 14th holes, and it's used beautifully. On the drive, sand is on your left, and it's roughly 260 yards to get to the pond on the left from the tee. The pond stretches from there down the remainder of the left side and must be navigated on your second shot, or avoided by a lay-up. I had 260 in, tried to lay up, and hooked it into the water...not much of a lay-up! This is a great looking hole and one of the highlights of the round.
#12, Par 3, 186 Yards
This third downhill par 3 and another green that angles away from the player to the left with pot bunkers on the left as well (like #10). There's plenty of room to land the ball on the right half of the green. If the pin is back left, good luck!
#11, Par 4, 401 Yards
Plenty of width to let it fly off of this tee. The three pot bunkers on the left are only 220 yards to clear from the tee. Waste is on either side of the fairway from there. Pot bunkers guard the front of the green, so the safe route would be to aim to the middle of the green, but don't go too far or you'll face a fall-off behind the green.
#10, Par 4, 388 Yards
The right side of the fairway is the best angle to approach this green, but the safest line off the tee is done the left...pretty typical golf course architecture. The trouble on the right is in the form of pot bunkers at 245 yards from the tee. Avoid the bunkers that flank the green on the left and the one that protects the short right and you'll have a chance to score on this relatively easy hole.
#9, Par 5, 507 Yards
Lots and lots of pot bunkers here. On the yardage book, I counted 26 of them! It's about 250 to carry those in the landing area from the tee. From there, the next requirement is to avoid all of them that front of the green. Keep your ball on grass on this hole and you can score, but that's easier said than done. If not, you'll be doing plenty of raking!
#7, Par 4, 410 Yards
Sand, sand, and more sand. Waste area runs the length of the hole on the right, which is a subtle dogleg right itself. If you can avoid it, there are no others sources of trouble. The only hole without a single pot bunker on the entire course, but plenty of sand makes up for it.
#8, Par 4, 382 Yards
From the blue tees, it's 251 yards to clear the cluster of pot bunkers on the right. Pot bunkers are short left of the green. Just keep it safe on this one and you can walk over with a par. Done be silly/greedy and play for more.
#5, Par 4, 427 Yards
A long and narrow par 4 here. Two set of pot bunkers flank the fairway with the first set on the right and set further from the tee on the left. I hammered my drive into the trees and associated pine needles on the left...not the preferred line of play! The front of the green is open, as are many of the greens on No. 4, allowing for a run-up shot. Since you'll probably be coming in with a longer club, this makes the shot more playable for the average player.
#6, Par 3, 176 Yards
The second one-shotter on the side is a bit downhill with a waste area on the left and two pot bunkers short and right. Strangely, the white tees are typically on one of the tee boxes on the left, which is a harder angle into the hole. The blue tees are a bit farther back, but a much easier angle. Didn't make any sense to me.
#4, Par 3, 169 Yards
The fourth is probably the most photographed hole at No. 4 and one of the most photographed holes in the entire resort. When the azaleas are out behind the green, this is probably a site to be seen. However, in January, they're just bushes! The hole is downhill with a pond in the front guarding the right half. Bail out at your own risk as two pot bunkers protect the left side as well.
#3, Par 4, 398 Yards
Two clumps of pot bunkers are down the left side of this hole. I took a dangerous line and got lucky to be safe in between bunkers in the second clump. A steep slope fronts the green, so hit a shot far enough to get all the way there.
#2, Par 5, 487 Yards
A very reachable par 5 with just pot bunkers getting in your way. It's 296 yards to reach the right set of bunkers on the left side of the fairway, so I wasn't worried about those. I had 230 yards left into the green from my drive, so a smooth 3 wood would have been plenty to get home. I didn't pull it off, but oh well. Pot bunkers are on the right of could be a layup one and then around the green as well.
#1, Par 4, 368 Yards
Your round at #4 starts off adjacent to the Thistle Dhu putting course, and experience in itself that isn't to be missed. The first is a dogleg right with waste on the left and through the fairway, and your first look at the Fazio Royal Dornoch pot bunkers on the right. The pot bunkers are more penal than the waste area, so while the right side gives a better angle into the green, aim right at your own risk. Pot bunkers are on the left side of the crowned green.
There's more to Pinehurst than just the famous Number 2 course. Pinehurst Number 4 is one of 8 courses that make up the Pinehurst Resort. While it doesn't get the attention, notoriety, or professional majors that its big brother draws, it is still a strong golf course, and one that's worth playing if in the Pinehurst area. In fact, when the USGA needed a second course to co-host the first two rounds of the 2008 US Amateur, they used #4 as the complement to #2. The Pinehurst Resort is not cheap and most package deals give full access to the seven "other" courses at the resort, with a surcharge to play the famous #2 course. If you're looking to save on that surcharge, and still wand a good golf experience, the conventional wisdom is to look to either #4 or #8. This review will focus on #4, which I played in January, 2013, the day before I played #2. We took carts at #4 and caddies at #2, but #4 would have been plenty walkable, as is the case with any of the give courses (1-5) that occupy the main clubhouse known as Pinehurst Country Club.
Number 4 was originally built in 1919 and routed by Donald Ross. However, the course has gone through many iterations since, and what exists today is really nowhere close to Ross's original design. In fact, there was a time where the management of Pinehurst determined that the course was unnecessary and actually closed it. When it re-opened in the 1950's, the course was a re-design by Robert Trent Jones with only six Donald Ross holes kept. Tweaks and change through the year by Jones, his son Rees Jones, and Pinehurst owner Richard Tufts were not terribly popular, after which the club hired Tom Fazio to come in and start fresh on #4. In doing so, Fazio took a good piece of land and built a solid championship-caliber course which opened in 2000, the year after the US Open at #2. Fazio and his team apparently looked for inspiration in their design from Pine Valley, Royal Dornoch, and the neighboring #2. What was created and unique at Pinehurst is a course with pot bunkers everywhere (Royal Dornoch). In addition, waste areas a-plenty (Pine Valley) and some #2-style inverted tee cup greens.
While I was mildly disappointed with #4 relative to my expectations the course is still good. I expected to be "wowed" but left "pleased" with the experience. There are some good holes on #4, but nothing that was completely unique in my opinion. Regardless, part of enjoying Pinehurst is enjoying the entire experience, rather than simply the golf holes. The feel and history of the Clubhouse, the Carolina Hotel, and veranda overlooking the 18th at #2, the Putter Boy statue, the village; it's an endless list of experiences that make Pinehurst what it is, the golf courses notwithstanding. No matter whether you play #2, #4, or a course that isn't even at the resort, every golf needs to make a trip to Pinehurst. If you're not going to play the courses at the Resort, at least stop by for a drink and to sit on the veranda. It's worth the trip!
So, to my review of #4. I played the Blue tees, which were 6,658 yards and a rating/slope of 71.7/129. Going back a set of tees takes you to the Gold tees, which were 7,117 yards and 74.2/135...quite a difference. Blue tees are quoted below: