This year’s U.S. Open will be held at Chambers Bay Golf Course, just outside of Tacoma, Wash. It’s the first time the links course — one of the few true links courses in the United States — has hosted a major, and it’s already creating a buzz because of a number of, shall we say, interesting features, even by the diabolical standards of the USGA, which crafts each U.S. Open track into a finely honed torture device.
So let’s take a look at everything this weird course is bringing to the table.
There’s only one tree on the course, and it’s not even in play.
The lone fir tree (pictured above) stands behind the green on the par-3 15th hole, standing sentry over Puget Sound. John Ladenburg, the former Pierce County executive who spearheaded the Chambers Bay project, told the Seattle Times he demanded that the tree be kept during course construction “as a reminder of the area we are in, where there are billions of trees. It reminds people where you are.” At the U.S. Open, players at the 16th tee will tee off right under the tree. Expect it to become a star during the Fox Sports telecast.
Holes will change par during the tournament.
Wait, what? I’ll let Shane Bacon of Fox Sports explain:
For one, Nos. 1 and 18 will switch pars during the tournament, the first time that has ever happened. One day you might start off on a 598-yard par-5, with a friendly fairway and a birdie opportunity right off the bat, and the next you might be trying to squeeze a tee shot in between a brutal fairway bunker and ankle-high rough on a 496-yard par-4 first.
Two sets of tees on one hole? Two sets of tees on one hole.
Again, here’s Bacon, who played the course during Monday’s media day:
The par-3 ninth hole has two different sets of tees, and while you sit at home thinking, What’s so different about that, understand that one tee plays dramatically downhill to a green with bunkers guarding all parts of the right side and the other tee is an uphill carry of some 240 yards. It is two holes in one, something you’ve never seen before on a golf course and definitely never seen before in a major championship.
Want to talk about changing the approach for Rory, Justin or Patrick? The 16th can play 423 yards to an inviting pin position somewhere in the middle of the green one day and a drivable 287 yards the next, to an area of the green so skinny that even Ryo Ishikawa would feel self-conscious.
About those tees boxes: Some could be on a slope.
Usually, golfers tee off on totally flat surfaces. But maybe not at Chambers Bay. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis unleashed this little bombshell on Monday, per Golf Digest:
“One of the things that’s unique to this is the architects put in what they refer to it as ribbon tees, these tees that just kind of meander. And it allows us to put tee markers where we want. And in some cases we may end up putting tee markers on slight slopes as opposed to you think, well, you’re always going to have teeing markers on very flat areas. But there may be some where we give the players a little downhill slope, a little uphill slope, a side slope. So that’s interesting.”
Davis later said, “I don’t care whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate or you’re one of the elite players in the world, hitting off an uneven lie is always going to be more difficult,” and that “Virtually every hole out there we will be playing from different teeing grounds on different days.”
The grumbling already has begin from some pros, who by nature are not known to be fans of bizarre innovation. Longtime pro Ian Poulter has the scuttlebutt.