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*Unofficial* Review of The Cradle, Pinehurst, N.C.


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I'm sure there are ways to have more fun on grass than I had today in two loops around The Cradle, the par-27 9-hole loop at the Pinehurst resort designed by Gil Hanse at the same time he reworked Pinehurst #4, but none come immediately to mind. The Cradle is easy yet diabolical, relaxed yet testing, and has a really chill vibe (including music playing on speakers around the course, which they finally got around to turning on as I neared the end of my second round).

The course got its name because Pinehurst describes itself as the Cradle of American Golf, as depicted on this sign overlooking the course.

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The scorecard yardage is 789 yards; as I played it it was around 760, the estimate because I forgot to note what the sign said on the sixth tee, which is 58 yards on the card. Many people could play it with wedges and a putter, as the longest hole today, #4, was 130 yards downhill. I'm not quite capable of wedge-only, but the only time I got out my 8-iron was on #4, and I was over the green both times, as my tee shot landed on the slope 20 yards in front of the green and ran onto, across and off the back of the green. My two shots were essentially identical, except that the second one was 15 feet farther to the right.

Part of the chill vibe at The Cradle is that you can have unlimited free replays (green fee is $50) if course traffic permits. In this case, morning players had to be clear by noon to permit the start of a shotgun tournament, but I was able to play two loops in 1:50 and finish just before noon. The starter gave me the thumbs up as I came off the last green for finishing and getting out of the way of the tournament. Plus the warmup area is oval with one pin set in the middle, and you're hitting foam balls. Hard to be too serious when you're whacking foam balls.

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You tee off from turf mats; I don't know if that's the case in the summer or not, but certainly in February with dormant grass everywhere but on the greens. The threesome in front of me was two adults and a kid, I'm guessing age 10 or 11. He needed a wood for that 130-yarder, and he was having a hard time getting his tee into the ground next to the mat, so it must have been firm. Certainly shots short of the green were bouncing, reminiscent of Scottish links. No water out there, but acres of sand which you occasionally had to carry to go at the pin, while other greens were completely open in front for run-up shots. Such as #1, here.

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Hole by hole:

#1, 113 on the card, 101 as I played it. Huge green, undoubtedly the biggest on the course. Hit the green both times, three-putted for a 4 the first time, used one of the undulations to my advantage the second time to guide my birdie effort close enough to the hole for a par. More on that later. You can't really see the undulations from the tee, but boy are they there.

#2, 85 on the card, played 79 today. Needed to carry sand to reach the green; I underclubbed the first time and finished on the beach. Got out and two-putted for a bogey. Second round, I hit my tee shot to about 12 feet and two putted.

#3, 66 on the card, played 58. I parred it twice, making an 8-footer for par the first time, and setting a personal record the second time by missing a 4-foot birdie putt. I've never blown a 4-footer for a bird before, mainly because I'm very rarely that close to the hole. My tee shot peeped over the edge of the cup as it trickled by to stop 4 feet away. There have been 1,988 holes-in-one at The Cradle; I did not make it 1,989. The guy in front of me said the "gallery" of about 20 preparing for the tournament was why I missed. The truth was that I missed because I pulled the damn putt.

#4, 127 on the card, played at 130. As noted above, I hit 8-i both times, landing short and rolling through the green. I'd hoped to carry the second attempt a little farther and avoid that bounce down the slope, but I didn't. Got up and down for par the second time, the last of four straight pars to open the second round (another record for me).

#5, 56 on the card, played 63. Uphill, but a weird yardage, and both tee shots landed on the green and trickled off the back. Three-putted the first time for my only 5 of the day, two putts the second time for a bogey.

#6, 58 on the card, uphill, forgot to note the yardage on the sign. Parred it both times after hitting the green. The second time, one of the volunteers for the shotgun tournament was standing nearby watching, and after I hit the green, he asked if he could take a swing (he said he was a hunter, not a golfer, and furthermore has a shoulder injury). I told him my dinged rotator cuff didn't prevent me from swinging, and handed him a wedge. He got the ball airborne, but it bounced through the green. He had a few choice words for Gil Hanse's green complexes after that, but I told him for a complete non-golfer he had made a creditable swing. He then followed me the next couple of holes but took no more swings. On the first round, I left a birdie putt on the lip, closer to a 2 than on that 4-footer I yanked on #3.

#7, 92 on the card, played 96. Kinda between a 9 and a PW for me, with the pin up front so I didn't want to go too long. Left both tee shots a little short and couldn't get up and down either time.

#8, 80 on the card, played 69 uphill. Hit the green both times and two-putted for par twice.

#9, 112 on the card, played 106, a bit downhill and you had to be concerned about rolling through the back; the two adults in the group in front of me both bounced it over the green. I put it on the dance floor twice, three putted the first one, parred the last hole.

Scores: 34 and 29, my lowest 18- and 9-hole scores ever, and the closest to par as well (-7 and -2). 

My overall impression: A whole lot of fun. You could make big numbers out there by hitting it into the scrub dotting the waste areas, or just into the bunkers. You could also make big numbers by three-jacking every green. I had three three-jacks on the first round, none on the second. But it's a great test of your short game, both from the tees and if you need to get up and down. A very useful assessment of my game within 100 yards (encouraging).

Gil Hanse must have had a lot of fun designing the greens. They were ... interesting. Slick, deceptive. There were elephants buried under a couple of them, maybe two elephants under #1, and I had to bank one off one elephant to make a par on my second round. I don't think I ever had a straight putt; if it looked straight, it wasn't, and I misread more than one. It was entirely possible to putt off some of the greens if you made a bad read or a bad stroke, and I nearly did that once. Longest putt I made was 12 feet for a par on #2, 2nd round. A couple of greens had Donald Ross-style crowns, particularly #6.

Would I play it again? In a minute. Twice. Or three times if there's no shotgun tournament in the way. There are a lot worse ways to spend two hours of your morning than whacking it around The Cradle twice. Didn't threaten any of the course records (see below), but next time, who knows?

 

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Edited by ILMgolfnut
Adding pix

Obsessed with chasing the dimpled orb.

More about me:  WITB type stuff

 

Fit For Golf tester 2024

 

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