PINEHURST, N.C. - At Pinehurst Resort's main clubhouse, home to courses No. 1 through No. 5 as well as the golf academy, you could hardly fit even one more short, par 3 on the golf-saturated property.
So when the time arrived to expand the resort's membership and golf courses, Pinehurst looked elsewhere.
The Pinehurst No. 6 course represents the first step in the next generation of golf at Pinehurst Resort. It was the first course built away from the main clubhouse, where the first five were constructed in succession from 1898 to 1961, culminating with Ellis Maples' design of Pinehurst No 5.
Owners since the start in 1895, the Tufts family sold the resort to Diamondhead in 1970. When new ownership sought to increase membership and add real estate, they planned another golf course and decided that the main clubhouse, already home to five 18-hole layouts, was tapped out.
So for the first time, a golf course at the resort shifted away from the main clubhouse, coinciding with the development of new real estate and set on more spectacular, hillier land. Pinehurst No. 7 came along in 1986, and the No. 8 course joined the group as the final new golf course in 1995.
George Fazio designed No. 6, which opened in 1979, and his nephew, Tom, served as the site manager. As we all know, golf has changed since the Jimmy Carter administration. So Tom Fazio returned to the golf course in conjunction with the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 for a redesign and enhancement that transformed No. 6 into a championship test. The golf course remains worthy of hosting some of the resort's many prestigious events. It features crowned greens and runoff areas, a la Pinehurst No. 2, and that's no accident. Fazio tried to emulate the playability of No. 2 when possible.
Be sure to loosen your muscles before teeing off, because you'll need to hit some shots out of the gate. The opening hole, a straight, uphill par 4, plays as long as 441 yards. A dogleg-left par 5 awaits on the second hole. Each of the three par 5s, in fact, follow the same path at Pinehurst No. 6.
The back nine, more spectacular than the front, starts with a long par 4 that was converted from a par 5. It features an elevated tee, moves gently downhill, threads a needle between two ponds and heads back uphill to the green. Most tee shots on Pinehurst No. 6's back nine are elevated - none more so than the two par 3s, including the 13th. With a large pond left and behind the green, it invites higher winds, making club decision a little more complicated.
Every Fazio golf course, it seems, culminates with a long par 4, so brace for it here, too. It's a straightaway look of more than 400 yards with a relatively narrow landing zone, and it plays to a deep, elevated green.
Pinehurst No. 6: The verdict
Pinehurst No. 6 is less spectacular than Tom Fazio's other Pinehurst designs, No. 4 and No. 8, if only because of the stronger housing presence. But the back nine, in particular, delivers its share of moments.
A little shorter with fewer elevated greens, No. 6 plays a touch easier than No. 7 and No. 8. But it's still championship caliber and hosted the 2010 College of Charleston Pinehurst Challenge in March. It's championship slope rating remains a tough 74.4/139, slightly higher than the newest of Fazio designs at Pinehurst No. 4.
The golf course features a stand-alone clubhouse and practice area. Practice facilities expanded in 1998 to include multiple chipping and putting greens, a favorite of members and not as busy as the main clubhouse. Situated deep in a residential development, it's the longest drive from the main Carolina Hotel. Plan for about a 10-minute shuttle ride.
Stay and play at Pinehurst Resort
Walk-on green fees at Pinehurst No. 6, as well as No. 4, No. 7 and No. 8, are $265. For a better rate, tee-time privileges and a complete Pinehurst experience, stay at the resort. The historic Carolina Hotel dates to 1901 and serves as home to one of golf's great breakfast buffets and a newly expanded Ryder Cup Lounge for lunch, dinner and drinks. Guest rooms are spacious and classically decorated - all recently renovated and upgraded.
During U.S. Open time, players often stay in the historic Holly Inn. The original hotel on the property, it houses the 1895 Grille, home to one of the world's great mac-and-cheese sides sprinkled with chunks of lobster. For larger groups, villas and condos are available.