‘Crisper to the eye’: Pinehurst No. 8 firmer and faster after recent facelift
Call it minor surgery. A cosmetic enhancement. A little quest to get its “mojo” back. But, Austin Powers jokes aside (“throw me a frickin’ bone here”), Pinehurst No. 8 just needed a little tweak. And, after my recent round on this 25-year-old Tom Fazio gem, I’d say the short wait — the course was closed between May and September this year while the work was completed — was certainly worth it.
Opened in 1996 and built to commemorate Pinehurst’s centennial, Pinehurst No. 8 incorporates everything that is special about this golfing Mecca. That was the goal. And that’s what was accomplished.
Exquisite sandy terrain peppered with pine. Wetlands. Subtle elevation changes. Natural playing corridors that are ideal for golf holes. Extensive waste areas. Exposed rock. Wild contours. Perfect ponds. It’s all there. And architect Tom Fazio took full advantage.
However, as time ticked away, certain things — especially when you’re dealing with Pinehurst’s extraordinarily high bar — needed to be addressed. And, in the case of Pinehurst No. 8, a little massage to retain the “mojo” was in order.
“Believe me, we deliberated long and hard on this one,” says Pinehurst’s Head of Golf Course Maintenance, Bob Farren. “It’s a special course. We wanted to get it right. However, at the end of the day, we all agreed that Pinehurst No. 8 did not need any architectural or routing changes. The design is solid from start to finish and it remains that way.”
So, without question, the biggest changes golfers will notice are the visuals. Hundreds of trees were removed and this has significantly enhanced sight lines and opened up the beautiful, long-range views from the clubhouse.
“The bunkers were also a key factor in the facelift,” says Farren. “Pinehurst No. 8 is unique in that multiple bunker styles are incorporated in the design. There are ragged waste areas that blend into turf, rectangular sod-wall bunkers, and artistically shaped bunkers with the type of clean and contemporary edges that many Fazio courses are known for. We renovated all of them. The course looks crisper to the eye.”
In terms of how it plays, there are a couple of additional changes that will not likely go unnoticed by Pinehurst’s discerning clientele. The greens have all been resurfaced with TifEagle bermuda, a strain of grass that is gaining traction in the moderate North Carolina climate. And, last but certainly not least, thanks to Fraze-mowing the fairways (a deep and aggressive mowing application that completely removes thatch), extensive drainage work, as well as sand topdressing, a much firmer, faster No. 8 is now the reality. It was how the course was originally designed to play.
While the “in nature” setting of No. 8 is often touted as its finest virtue, this recent re-calibration is, currently, the talk of the town in Pinehurst. And that’s fair. After all, it’s not often you play a course with this much mojo.
Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. You can follow him on Instagram at @andrewpennerphotography.