No. 4 Not Playing Second Fiddle at Pinehurst Resort Anymore

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

PINEHURST, N.C. -- For those who are still not convinced that golf course architect Tom Fazio can work miracles with a piece of land, the defense submits Exhibit A: Pinehurst Resort Course No. 4.

Three years ago, Fazio did what legendary designers Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones Sr., and contemporary Rees Jones couldn't do - design a memorable Sandhills layout that could look Pinehurst's No. 2 course right in the eye, and say "bring it on."

"No. 4 is such a wonderful modern course," says Matt Massei, Pinehurst Resort's director of golf. "Mr. Fazio did an outstanding job. Over the last 50 years it had become a hybrid of several designers. Ross did the original, then Mr. Jones came in and tinkered, and Rees (Jones) came in and tinkered, but it didn't really have an identity."

Instead of putting his indelible stamp on the course, Fazio checked his ego at the door. He opted to craft a tribute to the Sandhills region, its championship golf courses, and its father emeritus, Ross. Ironic, considering that Fazio was given carte blanche to alter the course however he saw fit.

After studying the property for months, Fazio's chief discovery was that there were generous portions of unused land around the course that could be incorporated into the original layout. Like a cardiologist during a bypass surgery, he created five new holes by combining existing holes with the newfound real estate.

Fazio completely revamped the opening hole by turning the arrow-straight par four into a hard dogleg right that incorporated the original par three-second hole. He then created a brand new downhill, par five second hole that completely usurped the original third hole.

Clear as mud? From there it gets a little less confusing.

On the majority of the holes, Fazio left the original routing in place, but added waste bunkers (see holes seven and 18), false fronts to the greens, and even turtle shelled a few putting surfaces in honor of Ross. When the dust settled, a new resort course with 180 bunkers and a cadre of clever holes stood in place of the original design.

"His vision was just remarkable, and his respect for this region and Ross was incredible," Massei says. "That is why we call it is Fazio's tribute to Pinehurst. No. 4 has its own identity now, but it fits in with the family as well."

The timing of No. 4's opening helped in establishing that new identity, right after a wildly successful U.S. Open at Ross' legendary No. 2 course in 1999. The course was under construction at the time of the Open, in June, and the first and 18th holes were actually used to house corporate tents. But that didn't stop the Resort from getting the word out about Fazio's surgical maneuvers.

Today, that word of mouth advertising has been more than enough to sell golfers on No. 4's wares. Pinehurst staffers, caddies, and constituents agree that No. 4 is arguably the best course on property.

"The heritage and history of Pinehurst is based around No. 2., the Ryder Cup -- the Senior Tour Championships and the U.S. Open - these events are what we are known for," Massei says. "But we get it from our guests a lot that they get more enjoyment out of playing No. 4 and also No. 8. If you play No. 2 and you play No. 8, and then you play No. 4, you'll see No. 4 is a great marriage of the two."

As the years go by, Fazio becomes more and more a part of Pinehurst Resort's history and lore. He designed No. 8, which opened in 1996 to rave reviews, and he and his uncle George designed the underrated off campus No. 6 course back in 1979.

"When it came time to redesign No. 4, we just thought that Mr. Fazio's experiences here lent themselves to the job," Massei says. "I don't know if there was any formal selection process, but it turns out he was sure the right man for the job."

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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