PINEHURST, N.C. - The greens steal the show at Pinehurst Resort, from the infamous upside-down saucer greens of U.S. Open host Pinehurst No. 2, to the small greens of Pinehurst No. 1 and Pinehurst No. 3.
On the contrary, the greens on Pinehurst No. 7 are some of the resort's largest. But hitting them is tough for another reason: about half of them are elevated. It makes for dramatic, demanding golf on the most severe terrain of Pinehurst's eight courses.
It's clear to identify what Jones' formula was when designing No. 7: spotting greens and tee box sites at the course's highest points, and putting fairways in between.
Pinehurst No. 7: Good advice
Mention to any staff at the golf course that you're teeing it up on No. 7, and you'll get the same response: "Take enough club on the approach shot; no one ever goes long."
That's pretty sound advice for the first-timer here. Even if you do go long on the many elevated greens here, in many cases, it's an easier chip shot than short.
No. 7 originally opened in 1986 but closed in 2002 for 10 months for a redesign at the hands of Jones, which included rebuilt green complexes, some added length and bunker reshaping. Compared to Pinehurst No. 8, it's 75.5 rating is 1.4 shots higher. Off the tee, No. 7 is demanding but also plenty of fun, as driver is the play almost every hole from many elevated tees.
Much of it is due to the approach shots, toughest on long holes such as the 462-yard dogleg second hole, and the toughest par 3, the 207-yard 13th that requires carry over a waste bunker uphill to a blind green. Other holes that don't feature elevated greens still require long carries, like the scenic 17th that is a bit out of character compared to the 17 other holes at Pinehurst, a result of Rees Jones' finger bunker.
Two instances where an elevated tee shot doesn't translate into an elevated approach will in all likelihood become your favorites at the seventh, if anything due to a little relief. The sixth, nicknamed "Vista," features a straightaway shot down to lowlands, where you stay for the remainder of the front side.
And, thankfully, Jones gives us all a break on 18, which tumbles almost entirely downhill to a green sitting in front of a pond (really only in play if you skull a wedge approach or bunker shot). It's named "Down 'n Home," and at 600 yards, it's a good thing the course begins to tumble downhill starting at where a good drive should land.
Pinehurst No. 7: The verdict
Only Pinehurst No. 2 played from the U.S. Open tees plays longer than No. 7, which has the longest middle-back set of tees of the bunch at 6,819 yards. With so many uphill approach shots and carries, it plays every yard.
Because of both the length and the severity of terrain, No. 7 falls pretty low on the totem pole for women and senior golfers at Pinehurst, who will likely prefer shorter courses like No. 1 and No. 3, because No. 7 has few chances to play the ground game into the green. As for scenery, No. 7 checks in behind Pinehurst No. 4 and No. 8, and homes encroach a little less than Pinehurst No. 6.
As for facilities, No. 7 has a full driving range and practice greens but little in the form of a clubhouse, other than a small grill, but there are no locker rooms, just restrooms.
Casual dining at Pinehurst
Clubhouse facilities at No. 7 are pretty modest compared to the other dining options available at Pinehurst.
The Ryder Cup Lounge at the Carolina Hotel was recently tripled in size and features sandwiches, pub grub and full dinner entrees, as well as a dozen beers on tap (changing seasonally). Just down the road from the Carolina Hotel is the Holly Inn, which features the casual Tavern for dining. It's small, but in pleasant weather, it expands to an outdoor patio.
You can also head off resort property into the village for a few more options. Darling House is a small pub that offers fare like a Scotch Egg, plus a variety of burgers and sandwiches.
It's a small joint, so if you have a hard time getting a table (which can be a problem on the weekends), try Dugan's Pub, which has more seating.
Pinehurst No. 7 fast fact
Part of the land on Pinehurst No. 7 used to be a nine-hole employee course, and Rees Jones uncovered several old Ross bunkers (including behind the fourth tee box).