usopen115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay

On the eve of the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay on the shore of Puget Sound, USGA executive director Mike Davis laid down the gauntlet to touring pros: don’t expect to breeze into town the week of the Open, play a couple practice rounds, and have a chance to win. Davis believes that to expect to compete, players will have to spend time to learn the unique attributes of the first links course to host a U.S. Open.

Not all players are convinced they need to disrupt their busy schedules to devote a half dozen practice rounds at Chambers Bay. “What’s Mike Davis’s handicap?” quipped Rory McIlroy. Webb Simpson remarked sarcastically: “We’ll play for second.” Nevertheless, there is no doubt that both players and fans will experience a radically different U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, a publically-owned course carved out of striking dune land that once was the site of mining operations. The 7,742-yard par 70 tract designed by Robert Trent Jones features enormously wide, undulating and firm fairways, dramatic elevation changes, and fescue grasses which are not typically found in the United States.

Oh, and there is only one tree on the course: the “Lone Fir” near the 15th green. Given his errant driving of late, this must please Tiger Woods. Davis commented that the decision to bring the U.S. Open to Chambers Bay was “a little bit of out of the box thinking.” He emphasized that the links course demands a different type of strategy. “It’s what happens when the ball is on the ground, not how far it goes in the air.”

Davis also noted that this will be the first time a U.S. Open has been played on a course with 100% fescue grass, which flourishes in the British Isles, New Zealand, and the marine zone of the Pacific Northwest. Fescue is a thin-bladed grass, which doesn’t grab the golf ball – it tends to skid and roll. “You’ve got to think about what happens when your ball hits, where it’s going to bounce and roll,” said Davis. He said balls on the fescue greens will “roll beautifully,” with little bounce.

In keeping with the USGA’s new philosophy of environmental consciousness and water conservation, the fescue grasses at Chambers Bay grow slowly and require less water and fertilizer. Fescue grass also turns brown in hot weather, so don’t expect to see the lushest Open course. The USGA plans to introduce some new features at Chambers Bay. For the first time, two holes will change par during the tournament. Both the 1st and 18th holes will alternate between par 4s and par 5s. The par-4 16th hole will play as long as 423 yards and as short as 287 yards. And the 227-yard par-3 ninth hole has two different tees: one creating a downhill shot with a 100-foot drop, and another creating an uphill shot.

Expect to see constantly-changing winds off of Puget Sound play a huge factor in the championship. Holes will play radically different from day-today, and even from morning to afternoon. Fittingly, the name of the par-3 3rd hole is “Blowout.” Just when you thought the USGA had exhausted all of its diabolical tricks to make the U.S. Open the toughest test in golf, the teeing grounds at Chambers Bay have sparked a new concept: placing tees on slopes. Yes, tees on slopes. Hitting off a flat lie apparently is not challenging enough for Davis. If this happens, there should be some colorful press conferences.