Pinehurst No. 5 Review
Pinehurst No. 5
Teacher’s Comments: It won’t be the main dish of your Pinehurst trip, but should definitely be one of your appetizers
Pinehurst No. 5 was a fun introduction to America’s best known golf resort. As I discovered on later rounds, No. 5 has some of the characteristics of the better known No. 2 and No. 4. It also somehow felt familiar to this Michigan golfer, with its tree lined fairways, gentle elevation changes and water.
I admit that I had not done my homework and set out thinking that No. 5 was an old Donald Ross course. Indeed, nothing during my round yanked me out of that illusion. I have played more than a few Ross courses, and this one fit the mold.
As it turns out, No. 5 was designed by Ellis Maples, one of North Carolina’s first family of golf architects. Maples’ father was the longtime construction superintendent for Donald Ross and Pinehust’s greenskeeper. Ellis Maples supervised construction on Ross’ last design, the Raleigh Country Club. In his career, Ellis Maples designed dozens of courses, mostly in North Carolina.
Pinehurst No. 5 opened in 1961. As originally routed, the first hole started just outside the main clubhouse on what now is the Cradle, Pinehurst’s short course. It then crossed Beulah Hills Road for the remainder. The first hole now has been moved to the other side of Beulah Hills Road.
Ellis Maples grew up around Pinehurst, so I am certain he was quite familiar with the property. I imagine that — when tasked with routing the course — he already knew what to do. This small rise would be perfect for a green — and for the next tee box. The low area here could be the start of a hole that rises to the top of that ridge, turns right, and then falls back down to a green. And this hillside offers a perfect tee box for a par three over a pond to a green framed by ancient pines.
I don’t know how much dirt was moved to create Pinehurst No. 5. I want to believe that it was very little because the course feels as though it was dictated by the land, rather than the other way around.
What the land dictated is a gentle course with a good deal of variety. There are more elevation changes than I thought I would see and water is in play on five holes. Five doglegs right and five left — of varying degrees — add interest.
I found Pinehurst No. 5 to be quite enjoyable. In spite of no warmup and suffering from stiffness from a long drive, I walked away with a respectable score. It was the friendliest of the courses I played at Pinehurst (#2,, 3, 4, 5 and 8).
My favorite hole was the 434 yard par 4 eighth. From the tee, it is an uphill dogleg right, with a bunker just beyond the trees on the inside corner.
From the bend, the fairway tilts down, running left to right, while growing wider. Nearer to the green, it takes a final dip downward, and then up to the finish.
The signature hole is perhaps the par three fifteenth. It is known as the “Cathedral Hole” for its background of ancient pines, which are said to resemble the pipes of an organ.
While not as well known or acclaimed as Numbers 2 and 4, Pinehurst No. 5 has much to recommend it. In appearance, it is more a resort style course, with receptive fairways and greens complexes that will challenge, but not frustrate.
What Pinehurst No. 5 has in common with its sister courses is its unforced feel and a routing that flows over the rolling landscape. Bermuda surfaces and troubling (if smaller) fairway bunkers add to the similarities.
In what is perhaps a downside, No. 5 does wind its way through housing developments. There are houses on the fringes of every hole. Fairways and rough are wide enough, however, that only the very worst of shots should end up in someone’s backyard. If you review the photographs below, you’ll see tht the houses are largely unobtrusive.
Pinehurst No. 5 has five sets of tees, ranging from 6, 828 yards to 5, 223. At its toughest, it has a rating of 73.1/135. The middle tees, at 6, 147 yards come in at a 68.8/126.
Conditions when I played — a cool March day — were quite good. At no point did I think I would have had an improved lie, a better roll, or a smoother putt if I were playing in high summer.
Pinehurst’s bermuda grass was as much brown as green, but real golfers know that bermuda will go dormant and dormant is not dead. Players traveling to Pinehurst in the shoulder season should be reassured that they will find conditions worth playing.
In ads going back to the turn of the 20th century Pinehurst has advertised itself as “the winter capital of golf” This Michigander was MORE than happy to play Pinehurst as I found it that week. I would play there every March for the rest of my life if I hadn’t taken a vow of poverty and become a school teacher.
GolfBlogger’s Pinehurst No. 5 Golf Course Review was first published May 6, 2021, based on notes and photos taken on a round played March 29, 2021. Read the Pinehurst No. 4 Review and ALL of GolfBloggers’ hundreds of golf course reviews at the links.
A photo tour of Pinehurst No. 5 follows.