We are only one week removed from the US Open and watching the action at the rather dull layout at the TPC at River Highlands over the weekend has made consider last weekend’s latest version of our national golf championship.
Two of the last three years, the USGA has went ‘outside the box’ with host course. In 2015, we were treated to the visually stunning Chambers Bay, which featured one tree on the entire course, a links-style layout with humps and many bumps (thanks to poa annua) on the putting surfaces. The conditions of the greens and the difficulty in spectator sightlines and access led many to criticize the event.
Move now to 2017 and we were treated to the visually stunning Erin Hills in Wisconsin. With its fescue-lined fairways, the course treated the gallery and viewers to record-setting low scoring for a US Open. If I closed my eyes and just listened to the commentators discuss the low scoring, I would have thought they were playing the Bob Hope Desert Classic. Hope and Gerald Ford would have made good Pro-Am partners for Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman in the final group last weekend.
As you can probably tell, I wasn’t a fan of it. Yes, I can applaud the USGA wanting to grow the game and try using different golf courses. But I don’t think the site of the United States Open is a main determining factor in growing the game of golf. While the most visible even the USGA run, making the biggest impact on growing the game starts on the local level with courses, country clubs, local golf professionals, etc. I can discuss this more in another blog. I want to focus on the US Open right now.
Long ago, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decided on a rota of clubs that would host the Open Championship. There are essentially 10 clubs (with Royal Portrush joining in 2019) that they use for the Open. That’s it…. that’s the list! Essentially, every club hosts the Open once in a ten-year span (with the Old Course typically hosting once every five years). The R&A know the sites well, they know how to setup the course, they know how spectators will get around/see the golf. Essentially, there is not a lot of reinventing the wheel when it come to the R&A hosting at one of their sites. The Open Championship has an identity…you play on a true links golf course and the scoring depends largely upon the weather conditions.
Yes, last week did not feel like a US Open. And it just wasn’t the scoring. While Erin Hills looked like a spectacular golf course and it has received great praise since it opened, it just didn’t feel like a course for a US Open. Maybe a PGA, maybe a World Golf Championship…but not a US Open.
The USGA needs to take a page out of the R&A handbook and come up with a 10 course rota here in the US that are designated as sites for the national golf championship. These should be classic, old-school American designs. You know…the US Open type of course we all grew up with…tight fairways, rough up above your ankles, greens stimping out at 13, par being a great score…that’s what I am talking about. This is the US Open identity! I’m not saying create another Massacre at Winged Foot…but let’s have the US Open stick to the classic designs and layouts! Here are my suggestions for a 10 course rota:
The Country Club
Los Angeles CC
The Olympic Club
Alternates: Oak Hill, Southern Hills, Baltusrol, Congressional
I know geographically it may not be perfect…but these courses are some of the most classic and best designs in the US and have shown they have the infrastructure and space to host a major golf championship. And there is no doubt, to use the words of Sandy Tatum, these courses ‘would identify who they [best players] are.’