Pinehurst No. 2 won't have the look or feel of a typical U.S. Open when the season's second major is contested across its fairways and greens this summer. What it does offer, according to architect Bill Coore, is a glimpse into the future of golf as water conservation becomes an issue of increasing importance.
Coore teamed with Ben Crenshaw during the winter of 2010-11 to oversee a "revitalization" of the famed Donald Ross design, and in so doing stripped the course of any rough, leaving only sandy areas and wiregrass along the fairways. The process led to the removal of nearly 40 acres of land, the irrigation and maintenance costs for which can now be deferred to other areas of the resort.
"There is room in the world of golf for this," Coore said Monday while standing near the first tee at U.S. Open media day. "This may look like golf in the past, in terms of the presentation of the course, but in many so many ways, this is golf of the future.
"In today's world, with water issues, environmental impact issues, the costs associated ... the majority (of courses) are going to have to go more in this direction."
Coore's outlook on the future of the game was echoed by Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA.
"At the USGA we would say the biggest threat, the biggest threat to the game long-term is water," Davis said. "Whether it's right now in certain parts of the country or a hundred years from now, water is going to be the thing that ultimately is going to affect the game the most.
"I think that this is a great, great story of what Pinehurst has done to say ... we don't have to irrigate 150 acres anymore. We can cut that down. And this is a story, we can get drier, firmer fairways and we hope that this kind of shows the golf world that this can be done other places too."
According to a 2012 report from the USGA, the average golf course spends 41.9 percent of its irrigation budget on rough - larger than any other single area of the course.