With the USGA’s announcement that future Open championships would now be decided by a two-hole aggregate playoff instead of the longstanding 18-hole tradition, we asked around and took a look at what might be some of the most fun two-hole combinations should there be a playoff at the 2024 U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2.

A few things to start:

  1. It would be hard to imagine one of the holes not being the 18th. That’s where the grandstand seating 10,000-plus is always built. It’s also the scene of perhaps Pinehurst’s most famous moment. So, we’ll definitely look at 18th-hole scenarios, but for fun, we’ll look at a bunch of others as well.
  2. Many people have wondered how a 3-hole playoff might be more ideal. That’s a reasonable consideration, but we’ll stick to two holes*.
  3. In each scenario, we chose two holes relatively close to each other.
  4. We know the USGA will make this decision; we’re just having some fun with it.
  5. We’re using yardages from the 2014 U.S. Open.
    *Well, we bend the rules for one of them.

Finally, when we posed the question on Twitter and Facebook, a lot of the initial answers were the same. So we’ll start there.

4th Hole, Par 4, 529 yards
5th Hole, Par 5, 576 yards

When the pars of these two holes were changed to more reflect Donald Ross’ original design, two-time U.S. Open Champion Curtis Strange remarked that he always considered that two-hole stretch a par-9, anyway. The holes do feel like a packaged deal. It’s a tremendous spot on No. 2, and the 4th and 5th may make for the most dramatic-looking tee shots anywhere on the course. Of course, they’re also pretty far away from the clubhouse and most spectators.

17th Hole, Par 3, 205 yards
18th Hole, Par 4, 451 yards

This seems like the most logistically likely scenario. And while the 18th certainly gave us Payne’s moment in time, the par-3 17th has perhaps been even more instrumental in deciding Pinehurst’s U.S. Open champions. In 1999, Payne knocked it stiff to take a 1-shot lead over Phil Mickelson (see above). In 2005, Michael Campbell made birdie to slam the door, and in 2014, Michelle Wie made a rollicking birdie putt down the hill to clinch her major championship. Oh, and Tiger Woods bogeyed 17 on both Sundays in 1999 and 2005, ending his hopes. Big-time hole.

14th Hole, Par 4, 473 yards
13th Hole, Par 4, 315 yards

An idea first raised by Pinehurst resident and former PGA Tour player Darron Stiles, and it’s a beauty: Play the long par-4 14th, with its devilish green, then come back up the hill and play the 13th as a drivable par-4. (Ed Hardin of The Greensboro News-Record had the same thought within minutes of Darron.)

What a delicious idea. It works for proximity to the clubhouse, and the reverse routing of the two holes is extra cool. It’s one of the prettiest spots on No. 2 and features the widest expanse of sandscape and wiregrass. And that area as the sun is going down? Divine.

Throw in a front-right hole location on 13, and the potential for calamity is palpable. We like this one.

16th Hole, Par 4, 528 yards
18th Hole, Par 4, 451 yards

Keeps 18 in play, but includes one of the toughest holes not just on No. 2, but in U.S. Open history. And seeing the B-roll of Payne’s ridiculous save on 16 in 1999 never gets old (see above).

3rd Hole, Par 4, 320 yards
6th Hole, Par 3, 242 yards

Play the 3rd as a drivable par 4, and then walk over to play the 6th, one of the toughest greens and bunker complexes on No. 2. Here’s the beauty of this – the potential of someone going eagle-birdie and winning a two-hole aggregate with a score of FOUR. (A score of 9 or 10 isn’t out of the question, either.) Sure, it’s far away, but Deuces on the Deuce to win!

The Cradle

Probably our most popular response when we posed the question. (Y’all really like The Cradle.) The options are seemingly endless here, so much so that we’re throwing out the two-hole aggregate. Options include:

  • Playing the entire 789-yard course. It only takes an hour for us to play, so let’s see the pros.
  • First ace on the Punchbowl, The Cradle’s 3rd hole, wins.
  • Want just two holes? Fine. Two holes, one club.

And finally:
On the 4th tee, a player can see all nine greens of The Cradle. Here’s the game: Each player gets nine golf balls and plays one shot to each green. A couple of greens are simple chip shots, though with greens running away from the player. Some would be 200 yards away. Champion is the player who hits the highest percentage of greens in regulation.

A ball-striker’s paradise.

And if there’s still a tie? Turn up the music.

Thistle Dhu awaits.

Have other ideas? We’d love to hear them. Comment below or tweet to us @PinehurstResort.