Pinehurst No. 4 Review
Pinehurst No. 4
Teacher’s Comments: If I had just one course to play at Pinehurst, it would be No. 4
I think that if I had one course to play at Pinehurst, it would be No. 4. (that said, I have not played No. 1, No. 7, or No. 9)
Pinehurst No. 4 is fun without being easy. Challenging without being frustrating. It is a jigsaw with bright colors to help you find the right piece, but that leaves it to the player to make the tab fit the slot.
A jigsaw puzzle is exactly what came to mind when playing Pinehurst No. 4. The sandy wastes that run along the edges and extend into the fairways looked to me like the loops and sockets of a jigsaw. The bulges and holes appear naturally random, but I am certain that they are not. Gil Hanse, who is the latest architect to reimagine the classic Donald Ross course is too good for that.
I had a good time finding the pieces of the puzzle at Pinehurst No. 4. It will take a few more rounds to begin to make them fit.
Pinehurst No. 4 has a carefully calibrated natural beauty. Working from period photos and maps, Hanse moved a lot of earth to recreate the look and feel of a Donald Ross course that largely had been lost to time. No. 4 had been closed during the depression, and in subsequent decades had been reworked by Robert Trent Jones, Rees Jones and Tom Fazio. (I find it interesting that Hanse more recently was called upon to restore another Donald Ross classic that had been remade by Robert Trent Jones — Oakland Hills South)
The revival of No. 4 looks as though it has been there forever. Holes flow naturally from tee to green to tee with nary an interruption. Tee “boxes” are more teeing grounds, with a continuous flow of closely cut grass. The sandy wastes look as though they are trying to reclaim what is naturally theirs.
No. 4 is adjacent to the legendary No. 2 and in my mind complements it nicely. It looks a little more rugged and perhaps less refined (deliberately so). It requires a few more heroic shots than No. 2. A player can get into a more trouble around the fairways.
At the same time, I think No. 4 is easier on the mid handicappers (of which I am one). The greens complexes simply are much less hostile.
My favorite hole was the par 4 third. From the teeing ground, it is an intimidating sight. The uphill shot looks as though it must clear a vast sea of sandy wastes and natural grasses.
It’s an illusion, though. Behind the initial waste areas — which can be cleared with an iron — is a fairway that can be reached with an iron. What makes the wastes seem deeper are two large, steep bunkers set in the face of a rise in the distance.
A drive flying the bunkers left will leave a relatively short, and straight shot into a large, flat green.
To take the left bunkers out of play, the line off the tee should be to the right. That will bring the waste areas on that side into play, but will avoid an automatic one shot loss with a miscue into the left bunkers.
A shot from the right side of the fairway is likely to require an angle that crosses that side’s waste areas. One of my playing partners hit a good dive right, but fell short with his second into the very end of the right side waste area.
The green on three is really interesting: it is immense, and nearly square. It reminded me of my home course — Washtenaw Golf Club — which dates to 1898 and had square greens in its original designs. A restoration underway at Washtenaw will restore those square greens.
Another spectacular hole is the par four fifth. The number one handicap hole rises to a crest, then runs down to the 100 yard mark before rising again to the green. The waste areas on the right are in play, as two of my group discovered.
The elevated green on Pinehurst No. 4’s fifth hole is protected by more large bunkering below and to the right.
The photo above is a good illustration of the continuous flow of the course. The shot is taken from the area where the tee box for the third is located, and shows the tee box for the fifth. It is just a continuous flow of grass.
On the back nine, I really enjoyed the short par 4 sixteenth. Beginning with a narrow corridor, it widens significantly toward the green, with a large landing zone and collection area on the left. The green is on a mound, but that’s ok, because the approach likely is with a wedge.
It is always fun when a hole is tee shot-wedge. As a short hitting senior, I don’t get a lot of chances to do that.
At its longest, Pinehurst No. 4 is a beast, stretching to 7, 227 yards with a slope and rating of 138/74.9. Play it forward for maximum enjoyment. Seriously.
Pinehurst No. 4’s tees are at:
Conditions on the late March day I played were superb. The course was not the emerald green that would emerge a couple of weeks later, but it was nonetheless in great shape. The greens were smooth; the fairways played fast. Not once did I think that I would have been better served by playing deeper into the spring or summer.
It is amazing that Pinehurst can keep its courses in such good shape throughout the year. I am certain that a lot of that is due to the sand base. There is a course local to GolfBlogger World Headquarters that is rumored to be built across a former sand pit. It also is
That Pinehurst is in good shape regardless of season should not be surprising, though. For the nearly the entirety of its one hundred-plus year history, Pinehurst has billed itself as America’s “Winter Golf” Capital.
For this Midwesterner, having the opportunity to play in such pleasant conditions in late March (when there is snow on the ground in Michigan) was absolutely delightful.
I honestly think I could play this course every day for the rest of my life and never be bored.
The Pinehurst No. 4 review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com on May 13 from notes and photos taken on a round played March 30, 2021. Read the Pinehurst No. 5 Review and ALL of GolfBloggers’ hundreds of golf course reviews at the links.
A photo tour from my play at Pinehurst No. 4 follows