Brown is the new green for Pinehurst fairways

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Don’t adjust your television settings when watching the U.S. Open. There probably isn’t anything wrong with the picture.

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Pinehurst No. 2 looks different this year with the restoration of native wire grass. Officials hope the new look will send a message to courses about water usage.   GERRY BROOME/ASSOCIATED PRESS
GERRY BROOME/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pinehurst No. 2 looks different this year with the restoration of native wire grass. Officials hope the new look will send a message to courses about water usage.

Pinehurst No. 2 is supposed to be brown, at least around the edges.

And with the men’s and women’s U.S. Open tournaments at Pinehurst in consecutive weeks, golf’s leaders are banking on the look being popular.

They want brown to be the new green.

“The mindset that golfers have is that we have to be lush, we have to be dark green,” U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis said earlier this week. “We’re hoping, as an organization, that maybe this sends the signal.”

When Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw restored Pinehurst No. 2, they cut down the acreage of fairways and they restored a lot of the sandy waste areas and native wire grass.

They also changed the watering system to the original center row system. That has helped Pinehurst reduce its water usage on No. 2 from 55 million gallons to 15 million gallons each year.

“It was meant to be that the primary central parts of the fairways would be watered and kept to the point that, as you see them, quite green, but the water would decrease in volume as it went further to the edges to the point that once it got to the edge there was really no water going there,” Coore said.

While Augusta National Golf Club is famous for its vast expanses of green, the home of the Masters Tournament can also afford it. The course is also seasonal, and is closed during the summer months when its famous bentgrass greens would struggle in the summer heat.

“We happen to think that, long-term, water is going to be the biggest obstacle to the game of golf, more than participation, more than anything,” Davis said. “And I think certainly, in certain parts of this country, we’re already seeing it. It’s not going to just be a question of cost. It’s a question of, will you be able to get it?”

Less water use also will reduce golf maintenance costs in other areas. There will be less use of fertilizer, and less mowing areas to maintain.

The browning of Pine­hurst No. 2 has not kept scoring down, at least not for Martin Kaymer. The former PGA champion set a record for lowest score through 36 holes with consecutive rounds of 65.

A heavy rain Thursday night helped soften up Pinehurst, and Kaymer took advantage.

“There was lots of rain that made the golf course playable,” he said. “Because I was expecting the golf course playing a lot firmer and obviously that rain helped a lot last night and you could still be aggressive. We had perfect greens in the morning, but still you have to hit good shots.”

Both Davis and Coore were quick to point out that the brown look isn’t for every golf course. Different grasses require different care.

“There are certain grasses, ryegrass would be one, if it turns this color, guess what, it’s dead,” Davis said. “So we’re not saying everything has to be tinged, but the message we’re saying is, less water on a golf course is a very good thing.”

Golf courses around the world, notably in the United Kingdom and Australia, have embraced this style since the game was introduced. Coore said he and Crenshaw were walking the course earlier this week and ran into Jane Crafter, a former LPGA player from Australia.

“(The Australians) would think it’s a fabulous U.S. Open Championship, but there would be no discussion like is going on here right now,” Coore said. “What’s all this brown about? What’s all this sand? What’s all this native grass about?

“That just wouldn’t be, because this is golf as they’re used to. But here, it’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal. So I totally understand what you’re saying. People could look at this on television and go, ‘Oh my God, Pinehurst quit maintaining the course.’ ”


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