Superintendent Has No Doubt Pinehurst
Will Be Ready
By David Shefter, USGA
Far Hills, N.J. -- The calendar might say it's the middle
of December - a time of year that brings a chill to most of the
country and golf takes its annual hiatus - but in the Sand Hills
of North Carolina the only thing that is dormant is the Bermuda
At Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, there's plenty of
activity taking place, especially on the famed No. 2 course,
which in 23 short weeks will host its second U.S. Open (June
16-19) in six years.
|Seven months away from the U.S. Open,
Pinehurst No. 2 is getting into championship shape. (USGA
Unlike many of the U.S. Open courses, especially those in the
northeast, Pinehurst can stay open during the winter months,
creating a different challenge for the maintenance staff. In the
winter of 2003, Shinneock Hills, the site for this past
year's Open, had snow on the course, making it unplayable.
The club also shuts down in the winter.
Pinehurst is also a resort, so guests can play the course up
until two weeks prior to the championship, although it currently
isn't up to Open conditions. Green speeds are at 10Â½ on the
Stimpmeter as compared to 11Â½ to 12 for the Open, and the rough
is non-existent with the dormant Bermuda.
But superintendent Paul Jett and his staff have plenty of
preparations left before the world's best players descend on
the 7,214-yard, par-70 Donald Ross layout. While they can't
do anything with the grass until the spring when the Bermuda
comes back to life, work is being done to other areas of the
The native wire grass, which exists throughout the property,
is being replenished on four holes (three, eight, 11 and 12).
"It still gives some of the old Pinehurst look to the
golf course because that's what the rough used to be,"
said Jett of the clumpy-type of grass.
Edging is also taking place where the Bermuda meets the pine
straw. Jett, who has been at the No. 2 course for the past
decade, said the staff is pulling the straw back to create a
clean line. Some low-hanging branches are also being trimmed.
In lengthening the course by some 39 yards from the 1999 U.S.
Open, several new tees - holes two, four, seven, 11, 12 and 14 -
were constructed. Jett and his staff continuously top-dresses
these areas to get them smoothed out and firm. Fairway widths
have already been established, so it's a matter of waiting
until early spring when the Bermuda returns to begin the final
"The yardage that we did add brought some of the fairway
bunkers back into play," said Jett. "What little bit of
yardage we got, we made the most of."
The bunkers required little work other than their usual
maintenance. "Everything with the bunkers is set," said
Jett, "other than periodically going through and continually
checking the sand depth."
To make room for the corporate village that has become a
fixture at U.S. Opens, a road is being constructed in front of
the 15th tee and behind the 16th tee to allow the tractor
trailers to get into the driving range.
Yet while the maintenance crew can draw on the experience of
1999, no amount of expertise can control the weather. Jett
can't magically wave a wand and get the ideal amount of warm
weather and sunshine to get optimal growing conditions for the
Bermuda rough. Six years ago, a cool and wet spring created
challenges for Jett, but they were able to get the rough to the
USGA's recommended height.
So far this winter, temperatures have been quite mild, yet
Jett can't make forecasts for the coming months.
"I haven't looked at a Farmer's Almanac in
years," said Jett. "And even if I did know, there
isn't anything I can do about it. We'll figure it out as
we get closer to [the championship]."
Ideally, the course will begin to green up come March. By the
end of the Masters in mid-April, the rough should start to
"We have to have some warm weather in the spring,"
said Jett. "That's really the only issue we have. In
1999 . we had to push the Bermuda pretty hard to get it where it
needed to be. We can obviously do that, but if Mother Nature
would help a little, that would be nice."
If that happens, the golfers who compete in June will discover
the same course they played in 1999. That means rough at around 3
inches, green speeds in the 11Â½ to 12 range and a challenging
golf course that will test all aspects of their game.
Six years ago, that's what the public saw and it turned
out to be one of the most memorable moments in U.S. Open history
with Payne Stewart holing a 15-foot par putt at the 72nd hole to
edge Phil Mickelson by a stroke.
"I can't see any reason why the players won't
love it this time," said Jett. "They will pretty much
find the exact same course that they left in '99."
David Shefter is a staff writer for the USGA. E-mail him
with questions or comments at