Why golfers are freaking out about how tough the US Open course is

Chambers Bay Golf CourseAndrew Redington/Getty ImagesJordan Spieth plays a practice round at Chambers Bay.

The U.S. Open is always the toughest tournament of the year on the PGA Tour but this year’s championship is being played Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington — a course that is only eight years old and is unlike anything that has ever been seen at a U.S. Open.

This has led to some harsh criticism from the players. After playing the course in April, Ryan Palmer said Chambers Bay “is not a championship golf course” in an interview with USA Today.

Listening to the players speak about the course, there are several big reasons the course is going to be tough and why some players hate it.

1. The unknown.

Tiger Woods explained to the media on Tuesday that nobody knows how the PGA organisers will set up the course and it will have a huge impact on how the course is played. In addition to highly variable hole placements on large greens, the course can play anywhere from 7,300-7,900 yards depending on where the PGA decides to set up the tee boxes from day to day.

“It’s certainly different for a U.S. Open, that’s for sure,” Woods told the media. “We normally play pretty traditional golf courses where it’s back tees, narrow fairways, high rough, and super-hard, fast greens.”

The tee areas on some holes are extremely long, and where the box is set up will have an impact on both yardage …

… and the angles the players have to use off the tee:

2. It’s a links course.

There is only one tree on the entire course, more like the traditional Open Championship courses in Great Britain. There are also large seas of bunkers.

3. But it’s a links course unlike any other links course.

“Unlike any links golf we play, we don’t have elevation changes like this,” said Woods. “You are going to get some funky bounces out there. Balls are going to roll and catch slopes.”

4. The greens are large and unforgiving.

The greens are huge and many are predicting that the greens are going to be hard and fast, with Woods describing 70-80-foot putts that have to travel over large mounds.

“The green complexes are something else,” Palmer told USA Today. “With some of the pin placements, you will see some guys play it 30 yards left, 30 yards right or 30 yards long, and next thing you know you’ll have a 2 footer. Or you’ll be 75 feet from the pin … Every green has like five or six greens on it.”

5. It is not even clear where greens start and end.

Some recent warm weather has dried the course, something that has left what appears to be no discernible transition from fairway to green. In some cases, the edges of greens are marked with white markers. 


6. The course is extremely dry.

Graeme McDowell noted that the course is so dry that as fast as the greens are, there are places where the fairways are even faster.

Here is what the 5th hole looked like last August.

And here is what the same hole looks like this week.

7. That speed is also going to have a bigger impact than usual on tee times.

“I think one of the more dramatic things I have noticed is how different it plays from morning to afternoon,” Woods said. “It gets so much faster and drier. You just feel it as the day wears on, how much this golf course can dry out and it certainly will. The morning times versus the afternoon times are just very different.”

That extra speed may come in handy on the fairways when they are straight. But on the greens and other fairways, like No. 11, it will be nightmare.

8. And don’t forget the sprinklers.

Woods said it will be interesting to see how the sprinklers will impact the tournament noting that they are so close to the greens players could land on them and be forced to take a drop.

“Sprinklers are literally sometimes six inches off the green,” said Woods. “Some of the hole locations, if you fire at it, you are firing right over sprinklers where you need to land it.”

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