Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Talking No. 2 With Crenshaw and Coore

I spent two hours Tuesday with Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore at Pinehurst where they're in the process of restoring Pinehurst No. 2 closer to what it was when Donald Ross was still alive and tinkering with what many consider his masterpiece.

Among the things I learned:

-- Crenshaw and Coore were initially reluctant to take on the project because they wanted to be certain they wouldn't mess up No. 2. They understand what No. 2 means to so many people and they gave careful consideration to how they would handle the project if they took it, which they did.

-- They aren't sure whether to call it a restoration, a renovation or something else. What's clear is they are taking great care to do what they -- and others around Pinehurst -- think is the right thing. They have spent hours researching and analyzing the archives, studying overhead photos of the course taken in 1943, in an effort to bring it back to what it was. There's an almost reverence about working on No. 2.

Standing on the par-3 17th tee Tuesday, they had aerial photos from '43 with them. They spend a large amount of time studying lines on each hole, in an effort to bring back the strategic elements Ross built into the layout. This is not a project they will hurry through.

-- Coore and Crenshaw are exactly the right people to do this project. They aren't looking to put their 'brand' on the layout. Their goal is to peel back some of the things that have changed the course over time while largely leaving the greens and green surrounds untouched.

To hear them talk about what they're doing, it's evident Coore and Crenshaw feel honored to have this opportunity.

-- When it's complete, Pinehurst No. 2 will have a sandier, wispier look than it does now. Crenshaw says it will look "scruffier" which is how it was meant to be given its Sandhills location. Already, more than half of the irrigation heads on No. 2 have been cut off, meaning the area that will be watered will be cut by about half.

-- More than three acres of turf (rough) have already been removed from between the 13th and 14th fairways. The turf, by the way, was donated to a local baseball field. The areas off the fairways will be converted to sandy ground dotted with the native wiregrass that will be hand-planted.

Though it will be months before Nos. 13 and 14 will be complete and grown in, it's obvious the look will be dramatically different around the golf course. It will bring back the essence of Pinehurst golf.

They've also expanded some natural areas at Nos. 11 and 12, where the first part of the project is being done. Coore said it's critical that the natural areas look natural, not similiar from one hole to the next.

-- They're doing the project in segments in an effort to minimize the impact on play. In November, the course will close until March so bunker work can be done. While acknowleding some of the greens are now more dome-shaped than when Ross created them, there are no plans to rebuild the greens. There are a handful of spots where small work may be done, perhaps raising or lowering the edge of a bunker or slightly altering the edge of a green.