Why this bucket-list course (and its secret souvenir) was my favorite I played in 2023

A view from tee on the par 3, 17th hole on the Pinehurst No.2 Course which will be the host course for the 2024 US Open Championship at The Pinehurst Resort on May 11, 2023 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Playing a golf course that's preparing to host a U.S. Open is a ton of fun — even when you know it might very well eat you alive.

Getty Images

I’ve been lucky to play some great golf courses this year, including a couple that have hosted major championships, but when it comes to picking my favorite based purely on the golf, that’s easy. That distinction belongs solely to Pinehurst No. 2.

It’s hard to argue that Pinehurst isn’t the home of American golf when you consider the number of courses at the resort and in town, and No. 2 is at the forefront of the conversation. Each course has its own unique identity, including the short par-3 course The Cradle, which offers up a welcoming and friendly place to hang out with a few clubs and a cold beverage.

(And by the way, The Cradle is a great first stop when arriving at the resort if you’ve never experienced playing a golf course with large runoff areas or pitching and chipping off tight Bermuda grass. Trust me, if Bermuda is new to you, a trip around The Cradle can be a huge help.)

Why Pinehurst No. 2 is a special place

You can feel the history of Pinehurst everywhere. Christian Hafer

There are a lot of courses with history and stories to tell, but to me, what makes Pinehurst No. 2 so special is the way that history lives all around you. Everyone from the shuttle drivers to the caddies, they are all happy to share little pieces of it everywhere you go.

The caddies are especially helpful on the course and also share all kinds of details about the property, including information on the original routing, Donald Ross’ Dornoch Cottage and where some of the most famous shots were hit (along with the disastrous ones).

Another one of my favorite bits about Pinehurst is that the town is walkable, making it a great place to grab coffee, have a quick lunch, settle up to a bar or just head to the town center and take a moment to soak in the classic architecture. Plus, when it comes to the resort, the full experience is first class all the way, especially around the holidays.

The Carolina Hotel dresses up for the holidays. Ryan Barath/GOLF

So about the caddies

Even though I’ve spent a lot of time in and around golf, I’ve spent more time carrying golf clubs than ever having my clubs carried by someone else, but I must admit that having the opportunity to experience a golf course with a caddie is quite the treat.

The author (left) with his trusty caddie Chris. Ryan Barath/GOLF

Having a caddie at Pinehurst is about way more than having someone help lighten the load and help with yardage. As mentioned earlier, they’re storytellers, personal motivators, joke tellers, nerve-calmers, and most importantly they help you get a better understanding of what might be the most intricate and complicated greens you ever encounter.

Consider them sherpas of the links, and when trying to tame Ross’ masterpiece, it’s great to have someone who’s done it a few times by your side. With so many hidden features in the architecture temping you to take on certain shots, Pinehurst is a puzzle from start to finish, and as my caddie told me, keeping it away from trouble can be the difference between saving a bogey or making triple.

So here’s a big shoutout to my caddie Chris, who I cannot recommend enough. He not only helped guide me on the greens, but he also found a few golf balls that had no right being found.

The secret souvenir

Much has been said of Pinehurst No. 2 over the years, but one of the many things that makes it special is a souvenir you can’t buy. It must be earned while navigating your round of golf, and that souvenir is the Deuce coin.

The only souvenir you can’t buy at Pinehurst — the Deuce coin. Ryan Barath

What is the Deuce coin, you ask? It’s a metal coin you earn from The Deuce bar in the clubhouse if you record a 2 on any hole on No. 2 (and trust me, they ask for proof!). Other than memories, this was the one thing I wanted to leave Pinehurst with, and as my round on No. 2 was coming to a close, barring some extraordinary circumstances, I had one last chance on the par-3 17th.

I’ll spare you the full play-by-play, but when the ball left the face of my 6-iron with its usual left-to-right flight, I thought it was doomed for the front bunker, but in fact, it was just the right club and settled about two feet from the hole. Birdie.

It might not be the type of history that gets filed away in the Pinehurst archives, but it’s a shot and round of golf I won’t soon forget.

Exit mobile version