Pinehurst’s No. 1 and No. 3: Often Overlooked Donald Ross Designs That Are No Less Impressive
Donald Ross is one of golf’s greatest architects, yet two of his creations at Pinehurst, “The Home of American Golf,” are largely overlooked by visiting players.
In fact, Pinehurst Nos. According to a resort spokesperson, Pinehurst Nos. 1 and 3 have the lowest play of the nine resort courses.
The reason, in a word, is length — or more precisely their lack thereof.
In the case of No. 3, which opened in 1910, its 5,155 yards and par of 68 seem puny compared to the 7,588-yard length of iconic No. 2. No. 1, which opened in 1898, is only marginally longer, measuring just 6,089 yards from the tips.
Yet, if you look beyond the yardage, there are plenty of reasons to play two of Donald Ross’s earliest works. No one knows that maybe more than Pinehurst Director of Agronomy Bob Farren who, with the exception of two years in the early 1980s, has been with Pinehurst for 40 years.
The two nines of what would become No. 1 were designed by two other men, but a year after he signed on at Pinehurst in 1900, Ross reshaped and unified them into a single course. No. No. 1 features some of the same design elements that No. 2 has some of the same design elements as No. 1. These include bunkers located a few yards from the green and fairway bunkers along the fairway side with the preferred approach angle. Today’s version lacks the sandy areas, punitive domed greens, and false fronts that made No. 2.
Because No. 1. was built without heavy machinery. Very little earth was moved so it follows the natural flow of terrain. No. 2. It’s a great example of Ross “finding” holes in terrain rather than creating them.
Nowadays, No. 1 is a parkland course with turf to the tree line, a condition that the owners in the latter 20th century allowed to make it more playable. Ross’ tenure however, No. 1 was made more playable by the abundance of sandy waste areas. Ross’ tenure, however, No. 1 was very similar in appearance to No. 2. 2,” Farren says.
A 1981 renovation tamed No. Pinehurst has resisted the temptation of restoring No. 1’s greens to make it easier — less domed, flatter. 1 back to its original state, just as Bill Coore or Ben Crenshaw did to No. 2 in 2010-2011.
Scroll to Continue
“If we were to go back — and we wouldn’t do this — but if we were to go back and try to completely restore No. 1, there would be a portion of our membership, a fairly large portion of our membership, that would not be pleased with that because it would become too difficult.”
No. 1, far and away the favorite of Pinehurst’s members, is as close as you’ll get to a pleasant walk in the park as any of the resort’s 18-hole courses. It has only two par 5s and those, holes four and 18, are just 466 and 426 yards long, respectively. The result is a course that is more forgiving than any other Pinehurst course.
No. 3 is a completely different story. It is as short as a coiled rattlesnake. Despite its lack of length, it plays tough on and around its tiny greens, which have a boatload of break for their size — so much so that after a partial restoration in 2017 using aerial photos from the 1930s and 1940s, Pinehurst’s members complained they had been made too difficult.
While No. While No. The next phase of Ross’s work was when he began to incorporate difficulty into his designs. Farren actually refers to No. Farren refers to No. 3 as “a miniature version of course No. 3 as “a miniature experience of course No. 2.”
No. 3 lost some acreage in 2017 when “The Cradle” was built on what used to be its first hole. By splitting and shortening other holes and reducing their pars, the course lost about 500 yards in length, and par was reduced from 71 to 68.
“If you’re playing into a 90-yard par three or 80-yard par three, like the second hole on No. Farren states that 3 is the fair way to expect the golfer. “If you hit the green, you’re within 20 feet of the hole because they’re really small greens.” Their average size is just over two-thirds of those of No. 2.
Players who sniff at No. If you are a 3 player and have poor short games, you may feel dazed by the lack of yardage. Missing the green can often come with a heavy price. Not all holes are short. Two long par 3s — No. 12 at 196 yards and No. 14 at 191 yards — plus a tough uphill, 386-yard well-bunkered 18th hole demand respect.
This fall, as you’re looking at golf getaways, one way to experience Pinehurst — and to play No. 2 — is through what the resort calls its Donald Ross Package: two nights and three rounds for $1,508 per person, double occupancy, plus tax and a resort charge. There’s a $195 premium if you include a round on No. 2. Only resort guests are allowed to tee off at Nos. 2, 4, or 8 are the most popular of the nine resort courses.
Should you find yourself shut out of your first choices or you’d like to add an extra afternoon round, Nos. You can see the original plans of Pinehurst’s legendary golf architect by going to Nos. 1 and 3.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.