July 14, 2019 By: John Dell — There hasn’t been a lot of fanfare with the renovation of Pinehurst No. 4, but that will change as the U.S. Amateur comes into focus.The tournament, one of the USGA’s oldest, will be next month at No. 2 and No. 4.
Gil Hanse, the award-winning architect who brought No. 4 back to life, is excited that the best amateurs in the world will get a crack at taking on the renovated No. 4.
“When we were doing the work, it wasn’t about building a championship golf course, but we wanted something compatible to No. 2,” said Hanse, who along with his business partner, Jim Wagner, also designed the course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“And the fact that this big tournament will be on it this soon is quite an honor.”
No. 4, one of the nine courses at the Pinehurst Resort, was closed for several months while Hanse worked on bringing back the layout to resemble the land around the resort.
It reopened in Sept. of 2018, and being good enough to be a part of the U.S. Amateur means something.
“It’s fantastic that our team put in all this work and my business partner, Jim Wagner, and I will take some satisfaction in that,” Hanse said. “Hopefully it will be very competitive matches and the condition of the course will be perfect. As architects, we have to always keep in mind that the players are the stars. We’re just creating a stage, and if the golf course is the story, then something is wrong.”
The 119th U.S. Amateur will be Aug. 12-18 with a field of 312 golfers. Both courses will be used for the stroke play and match play portion with the championship match of 36 holes on both courses. It’s the first time the championship will be on two courses, and Fox is scheduled to broadcast all 36 holes.
Hanse and his wife will be at a wedding the weekend of the U.S. Amateur, and he’s not sure he’ll see any of the championship match live on TV.
“I’m going to have to tape it because we are going to Colorado,” Hanse said.
Hanse did a nice job of exposing more of the sand areas on the course that sits close to No 2. There are also plenty of cross bunkers, and he blended in the native wire grass close to or in the waste areas.
“It was really more of a re-connection to the landscape,” Hanse said. “Through the various changes made to the golf course, it became a little detached from the natural ground. So our goal was to restore the ridges and put the valleys back and then utilize a great piece of land.”
One of the more interesting holes is No. 16, a narrow par-4 that is straight away and measures just 321 yards. Golfers will get a chance to drive the green, which will make the match play fun to watch with plenty of strategy involved.
Hanse has heard plenty of good comments about No. 4 since it reopened.
“One of the caddies told me that course No. 4 plays more difficult in comparison to good players and easier for average golfers,” Hanse said. “And that’s a good compliment to what we did to No. 4.”
Hanse, who graduated from Cornell in 1989 with a degree in landscape architecture, worked with Tom Doak for several years before Hanse started his own company some 25 years ago. He also designed The Cradle, the nine-hole, par-3 course that is as good as a par-3 course that you will find anywhere. That course sits next to the practice putting green at Pinehurst Resort.
Hanse was asked what he expects when the U.S. Amateur gets underway next month.
“If we put together a setting for some good golf to occur, then we’ll be happy,” Hanse said.