August 12, 2019 By: Adam Woodard — On nice days when Gil Hanse and his team were renovating Pinehurst No. 4, the famed golf course architect would walk across the grounds of historic No. 2, Donald Ross’ masterpiece design that’s played host to nine USGA championships, in order to get to No. 4.
“There was one morning where it was just beautiful out and I was crossing hole No. 10 on course No. 2 and I saw we had finished hole No. 9 on No. 4, and it felt like it belonged,” remembered Hanse. “That was the moment I felt we had done something really special here as it relates to course No. 2.”
When Hanse and his partner, Jim Wagner, were tasked with redesigning No. 4, the goal was never to try and compete with No. 2. Instead, they wanted No. 4 to be compatible with No. 2.
The two looked at old aerial photographs of No. 4, not to recreate holes, but to employ similar bunker patterns and green structures. The goal was to reconnect and reestablish the aesthetic feel of No. 4, restoring the natural beauty and magic of the Carolina sandhills.
“It was our hope to build a golf course that echoed a lot of the sentiments and philosophies that Ross employed but really to try to hearken back to the origins of golf in Pinehurst and the aesthetic rejuvenation of course No. 2.”
Both Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 will play host to the 119th U.S. Amateur this week, with 312 of the world’s best amateurs from 27 different countries all vying for the Havemeyer Trophy. For the first time in history, the 36-hole final match will take place over two courses, Nos. 2 and 4. Both courses will host one round of stroke play. The first five rounds of match play – through the semifinals – will be held on No. 2.
If anywhere is capable of making USGA host-course history, it’s Pinehurst. The scale of the facility makes Pinehurst a perfect host, especially after its 2014 achievement of hosting both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in back-to-back weeks.
“It’s a town that’s completely committed to golf,” said Hanse. “I think it’s our St. Andrews.”
Hanse will tell you that the most challenging aspect of his latest redesign was “the reverse mindset” of trying to put the landforms of the Carolina sandhills back in place that had become disconnected from the original layout.
“We were oddly qualified to try to recreate nature, even though we prefer to work with nature,” said Hanse. “Changing those gears in our mindset was the most difficult aspect of it. Once we got that moving forward, then it became a little bit easier.”
The list of courses that Hanse has worked on resembles a bucket list the average golfer would only dream of visiting: Winged Foot, Los Angeles Country Club, Ridgewood, Merion, The Country Club, and not to mention his original design of the 2016 Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro. Despite that impressive list, his time spent at the Cradle of American Golf was unique.
Hanse called living in Ross’ house “one of the most meaningful opportunities ever extended” to him.
“To live in Donald Ross’ house and to work on a canvas right next to his masterpiece, you can’t replicate that,” Hanse explained. “From an experience standpoint, I think it’ll be hard to do anything that’ll compare to this.”