Date: June 15, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes @ US Open

An Open course like no other

Forget Rory, Tiger and Jordan.

The name you need to know this week is Mike Davis.

The USGA executive director holds the keys to what looms as one of the most memorable US Opens in living memory.

And whether those memories are positive or negative could well hinge on decisions in the coming days.

Today, as the sun beat down with uncustomary potency in the normally lush Pacific North-West, the parched fairways and greens of this already radical golfing odyssey are already on the brink of torturous.

It was hard to believe that this was Sunday – a full week before the most crucial day of the year’s second major – because so many players were pounding this beast of a course.

Just trying, some no doubt in vain, to plot a path through a course that will test in a way no other US Open course has ever done.

And that’s not to downplay the severity of previous USGA tests at their national championship; that is purely to say that this type of course has never been seen in North America.

Nor anywhere else, for that matter.

It’s unique.

The residents of University Way, almost an hour south of Seattle, love this playground because it is exactly that.

The Chambers Bay Golf Course is but a part of a thriving public area that has to be seen to be believed.

An old quarry has been transformed into a 950-acre public space that has a dog park, a huge playground, countless walkways – some through the course – and a path and bridge to a beach on the shores of Puget Sound that is the stunning backdrop to this visual masterpiece.

In short, it’s very public. So much so that it doesn’t even have a fully-fledged clubhouse.

Every golf magazine in the country is screaming about it being the Open Championship in the United States; about it being St Andrews in Washington.

And for a country that throws up occasionally tenuous claims to others being true links courses, this legitimately holds its own, perhaps barring the enormous elevation changes.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s spectacular, will present superbly on television, looks a lot of fun and the variation it offers from different tee boxes might make the course manageable to players of various abilities.


But this week, with the world’s best in town, it’s going to be played off some seriously tough tees. It’s going to be played drier than it has in its been at any point in its first decade.

Oh, and the greens are, let’s be honest, as rough as any in major championship memory.

The greens are defined from the incredibly tightly cut “fairway” surrounds by a ring of painted white dots that will probably not show easily on TV.

But they will almost certainly play a role in the way the tournament pans out.

Rulings on whether balls are on or off the greens could easily become farcical.

That also tells you that even if you then consider the fairways “mint”, the greens are rugged by almost any standard, particularly of major championships.

Perhaps it’s best to leave that summation in the hands of a bewildered Charl Schwartzel, who was clearly bemused by what he’d seen when he left the 18th green.

Asked what he made of it, the 2011 Masters champ said, very matter of factly: “Ummm, not sure. Is it a golf course?”

“I think it’s a course that involves a hell of a lot of luck. You don’t only win by luck of course; you need to hit good shots.

“But most guys aren’t of the mindset to be able to shoot the scores you’re going to see here and remain focused.

“I think you will see a tournament won (in a total score) over par, especially if it stays like this.

“If you get off on the wrong foot on Thursday, the hardest thing is going to be to accept what is going to happen out there.”

As for the greens, the normally affable South African was even more scathing.

“You play a golf course like Muirfield Village (in Ohio) and you’ve got the most perfect putting surfaces you could ask for and then you come to the US Open and you’ve got surfaces that a good putt doesn’t really matter,” Schwartzel said.

“They roll so badly that a good putt misses and a bad one goes in. That’s the most difficult part for us. You practise and a good putt goes in the hole, so you’re going to have to work on accepting what is going to happen out there.

“You’ll just have to be mentally stronger, I suppose.”
Aussie Jason Day was far less daunted by what he’d seen, but still had strong hopes that the USGA would go easy, particularly if the weather remains hot as forecast.

“It’s amazing – there’s a lot of pitch and undulation on the greens (and) you just have to even have imagination to see where the greens are with the little white dots (defining their boundaries),” the Queenslander said.

“They’re gonna get quick, but I’m hoping the USGA don’t lose them, because if they do it’s going to be a little tough.

“They need to keep the greens around 10 or 11 (on the stimpmeter) because if it does get windy around here, the balls will start rolling off the greens for sure if they don’t.

“But right now it’s great.

“It’s a unique place for a US Open and very different to what we’re used to. It’s still a lot of golf course, but it’s pretty amazing and all about the attitude you come into an event like this.

“My first couple of looks at it … I think once I’ve had a few more chances to look at it I’ll know where I need to go.

“We have par 4s and 5s switching, hitting across fairways, drivable par-4s, but I’m excited about the week. 

“You have to have a lot of creativity and there’s going to be a bit of luck involved, but you definitely need to know where you are going to land it on the greens and just come up with a plan.

“You’re going to have to just grind it out – it’s still a US Open.

You’ll need a lot of patience, and a lot of planning.

“Normally we have a tree-lined fairways and a lot of rough for this tournament and you know where to hit it. This one, there are so many different ways to attack and plan around it what you need to accomplish with regards to pin placements, but there’s going to be a lot of frustrating moments out there this week.”