Pinehurst No. 8 Golf Course Review

50 Words or Less

Pinehurst No. 8, the Centennial Course, has the Pinehurst feel with some updated design ideas.  Arguably the most beautiful course at the resort.

Introduction

When I relayed the details of my most recent trip to Pinehurst, the most common response was, “They have eight courses at Pinehurst?”  Due to its relative youth (the course opened in 1996) and standalone location, Pinehurst No. 8 gets overlooked by many resort guests.  However, No. 8 is a favorite among Pinehurst’s members.  In this review, I’ll tell you why the members love it so that you can be smart enough to book a round there on your next trip to North Carolina.

Practice Facilities

Pinehurst No. 8 is a standalone facility that sits a couple miles from the Carolina Hotel and the main clubhouse.  As such, it has its own practice facilities.  The range is huge, full of well-marked targets for sharpening your long game, and just a flip wedge away from the first tee.  On the other side of the first tee is a practice green and short game area.  It’s everything you can ask for.

Customer Service & Amenities

In addition to having its own practice facilities, Pinehurst No. 8 also has a very large clubhouse all to itself.  Underneath the mint colored roof, you’ll find a fully stocked pro shop, bar and grill, and locker room.

As I’ve noted in everything I’ve written about Pinehurst, the service is outstanding.  I made a new friend in the starter, a gentleman who used to officiate college sports and shares my affinity for my alma mater.  As at all the Pinehurst courses, caddies are available, and they can really help at No. 8, as I’ll discuss more later.

Beauty & Scenery

Pinehurst No. 8 is built on 420 acres that include ten acres of lakes and marshland.  The addition of water to the pines and rolling terrain makes No. 8 arguably the most beautiful course at the resort.  It’s also a good reflection of the course design: unique but also recognizable as part of a larger whole.

The playful, often dramatic contours of this course keep your eye constantly engaged.  The elevation changes are nearly constant.  Architect Tom Fazio’s routing makes excellent use of both the water and waste areas, maximizing their function while also giving golfers holes of respite.

Tee Shots

It took exactly one tee shot for me to find out that, unlike No. 2, Pinehurst No. 8 does have rough.  The fairways are average to slim, but there is always a substantial amount of rough on at least one side.  To find the trees, water, or waste areas, you need to hit a very poor shot, choose a very bad line, or both.

With tees ranging from 7,099 yards to 5,153 yards, you don’t need to be a bomber to play here.  It should be noted, however, that the elevation on this course takes much more than it gives.  If you’re debating between two sets of tees, play the shorter set and enjoy your round.

On many holes, the biggest challenge off the tee is choosing the correct line.  A lot of the fairways are snaky, wriggling left to right, and there are several spots where the right play looks extremely aggressive.  This is where your caddie can really help you out.  Hole #4, shown above, is one example where our caddie put us on a line that none of us would have chosen but turned out to be perfect.

Finally, the movements in the fairways at Pinehurst No. 8 tend to be large.  Referring again to #4, there’s a substantial downslope that can add at least ten yards to your drive.  Driving it well is not the defining test at Pinehurst No. 8, but it can provide an enormous leg up on your competition.

Approaches

Though no part of your game will get a free pass at Pinehurst No. 8, iron play is the one element that will most dictate your score.  The greens at No. 8 are larger than No. 2 (30,000 square feet larger), but they aren’t huge.  In a nod to Donald Ross, many of the greens at No. 8 are crowned like those at No. 2, so the square footage can be deceiving.  Your ball can land on the green but end up in a bunker or collection area.

Speaking of bunkers, No. 8 has more greenside bunkers than No. 2, and they are often closer to the green.  Where No. 2 will mess with a golfer’s depth perception by putting a bunker ten or twenty yards short of the green, No. 8 places them in the more conventional position directly next to the green.  Depending on your prowess in the sand, this can make No. 8 feel easier or more difficult than No. 2.

One thing that Tom Fazio does well is scaling the size of the green to the hole.  For example, the long par 3 #8 has a much bigger green than the shorter par 3s or 4s.  This makes every hole feel fair, like you always have a shot at the green in regulation.  The flipside of that is that the larger greens can bait you into taking on risky shots or not choosing specific targets.

My two final points on the approach game relate to strategy.  As you play No. 8, you’ll see that one side of the green is often dead.  That may come in the form of water, a steep bank, or a deep bunker.  You can typically see this from the fairway and you should aim accordingly.  Finally, as I’ll discuss more shortly, these greens are quick.  If you have the ability to stay below the hole, try to do so.

Greens & Surrounds

The greens and surrounds are where Pinehurst No. 2 most clearly displays its blend of new ideas and classic concepts.  As you see above, Tom Fazio was not afraid to used the crowned greens that Donald Ross made  famous at No. 2.  However, the collection areas are generally less severe and there’s plenty of rough as well.  While I absolutely love No. 2, No. 8 offers more variety around the greens in that one hole may have you putting from fifteen yards off the green and another could have you pitching from the rough five yards off.

The large greens are Pinehurst No. 8’s last line of defense.  The difficulty begins with their speed.  I’d estimate they were around an 11 on the day I played, which is fast enough to be scary on downhill putts.  That speed combined with how smooth they are means that straight putts are virtually nonexistent.  Even when you’ve avoided the big contours with your approach, you can expect a few inches of movement on any putt outside ten feet.  Once again, a caddie can be a huge help to your scoring.

Overall Design

Pinehurst No. 8 is a wonderful addition to the resort because it fits in while also adding something new.  Tom Fazio knew he couldn’t recreate No. 2 [full review HERE], so he took some of the signature elements, blended in his own ideas, and made the best use of the land he was given.

Like Pinehurst No. 2, Course No. 8, will challenge every part of your game, but it puts particular emphasis on your iron play.  If you can drive it in play and hit quality iron shots, you’ll have chances to make birdies.  However, if your ball striking is shaky, you need to bring an A+ short game to salvage pars.  This is not a particularly penal course, but it won’t give up good scores easily.

Favorite Holes

#4 – Par 4 – 464 Yards

Easily my favorite hole on the course, and the number one reason to get a caddie.  The correct line off the tee looks wildly ambitious, but it pays off with a drive that bounds down a massive slope leaving a wedge into a challenging green.

#8 – Par 3 – 236 Yards

I don’t typically like long par 3s, but this one is beautiful and the green is big enough that it makes the whole thing feel reasonable.  A large strip of fairway makes the only real sin being short and right.  Because the green is so large, hitting it in regulation is no guarantee of par.

#14 – Par 4 – 404 Yards

This tee shot (shown above) is too pretty and too much fun to not include.  The copse of trees on the far side of the fairway make this more than a “bite off all you can chew” drive – you need some precision, too.  Unless the pin is on the right half of the green, play for the middle lest you bring the water back into play.

Conclusion

The challenge of building a new course at Pinehurst is considerable.  With so much history and so many well-established courses, the bar is very high.  Tom Fazio did a remarkable job with Pinehurst No. 8, paying homage to Donald Ross while incorporating his own vision of course design.  The next time you’re at Pinehurst, play where the members play and book at round at No. 8.

Visit Pinehurst HERE

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

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