There has been so much chatter from players, media, and fans the past several weeks about the “unknown” 2015 U.S. Open venue Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, right outside of Tacoma. However, there are a number of story lines/facts you will no doubt be able to repeat in your sleep before the first players tee off Thursday morning for the 2nd major of the year. Settle in front of your television, and let's hope for a great four days of PGA Tour golf.
- First U.S. Open held in the PNW
- Chambers Bay was designed by Robert Trent Jones II and opened in 2007
- Chambers Bay only previous USGA event was the 2010 U.S. Amateur won by Peter Uihlein on his 21st birthday
- The course was built on a defunct sand-and-gravel quarry...perfect for growing the 100% fescue turf.
- The ‘Chambers Basement’ bunker is the deepest bunker in U.S. Open history at 10 feet deep. It’s situated just over 100 yards short of the 18th green. It has a full flight of stairs to get in/out.
- The course will be one of the longest (between 7,200 - 7,600) in U.S. Open history featuring the three longest Par 4’s ever in the competition (546, 537, and 534 yards)
- Mike Davis (USGA Executive Director) holds the keys to the mysterious course set up
- This is very unnerving for players because the course has so many different possible tee boxes and pin locations that it’s very hard for Tour players to plan strategy during their practice rounds. In fact, holes 1 and 18 will alternate par. One day Hole 1 will be a Par 4 and 18 will be a Par 5. And the next day they’ll switch. Funky.
- There is only one tree (The Lone Douglas Fir) on the British-links style layout behind the 15th tee
- For the first time in seemingly forever the TV coverage will all be on FOX (instead of ESPN and NBC/Golf Channel)
Whew. A lot to digest even before trying to figure out who might win. In my estimation the winning player will demonstrate a few qualities:
- Hit the ball a looooong way. With a course exceeding 7,200 yards with elevation changes of over 100 feet on some holes, they are going to need to be in position to try to putt for birdies vs. trying to save par with 1-putts. If they don’t, they will take heed to play approach shots like a British Open; running the ball up the front of greens and letting the ground do the work.
- Have an exceptional short game full of imagination. The greens are huge and undulating. The fescue turf is unlike anything PGA Tour players see during the year. It’s hard without a lot of “give” which makes spinning the ball extremely tough. Fescue it meant for the ground game and the Texas Wedge.
- Be in excellent physical condition. Everything I’ve read and heard is that walking the course alone is a marathon. Doing it for four consecutive days under Major championship pressure is going to be the ultimate grind. And if you’re a spectator the worst thing you can do is show up in flip flops or sandals unless you’re going to be in the bleachers all day.
In conclusion, this might end up being the most divisive U.S. Open ever. Yes, ever. That goes for players and spectators alike. If you hated last year’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 because the course was “too brown” around the edges...do not adjust your HDTVs. This year is going to be brownish with a dash of splotchy greenness. Hate to break it to the majority of folks, but fescue grass doesn't show up pretty and green like Bermuda or Kentucky Bluegrass in-person or on TV. If you like seeing players make really long, crazy putts and throwing up their hands like they’re confused it went in...well this might be the tournament for you. If you like seeing players shoot double-digits under par, probably not going to happen.
**Ethan Zimman is the Nextgengolf City Tour Director of Media and Campaigns.