2015 US Open at Chambers Bay will be One of a Kind


Course bashing in the run-up to a major is a long—if not particularly proud—golf tradition. Every time a major tournament comes along we get a familiar chorus: The course is too hard. It is not fair. Whoever set up the course is being unnecessarily diabolical.

Ian Poulter, a stalwart in the whining and complaining department, started things off with a bang by blasting Chambers Bay Golf Club while making clear he has never actually seen it himself.

Usually by the time the first shot is hit on Friday the criticism is long-forgotten and the focus turns to the players and their pursuit of a major championship. Like nearly everything else about the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, this year could be different.

The one thing everyone can agree on is the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay will be unique. The U.S. Open has never been held in the Pacific Northwest or on a links-style course. Chambers Bay, on Puget Sound in University Place, Washington, is both of those things. The firsts do not end there.

Chambers Bay is a 7,742 yard par 70, making it the longest course in Major Championship history, at least until next year. Holes number 1 and 18 will switch from par fours to par fives and potentially back again during the tournament. Some major championship holes have switched pars from one year to the next but never during the same tournament. Even the holes that do not change pars have some drastically different tee boxes. The par-four 16th hole can play more than 400 yards or less than 300, depending upon the pin placement and which tee box is used.

Even the tee boxes themselves will be unique. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis has said tee markers may be placed so that the players will be hitting their tee shots off of slight downhill, uphill or side hill lies. Pretty much every golf tournament everywhere is played with flat tee boxes. Uneven tee boxes shouldn’t be much more than a minor inconvenience for the world’s best players, but it is just one more idiosyncrasy the players will have to contend with on a course most have never seen before.

That is where most of the intrigue in the run up to the U.S. Open lies. Chambers Bay is just eight years old, and the only notable tournament it has hosted is the 2010 U.S. Amateur. The U.S. Open has had some ridiculously difficult layouts in the past, but at least there was some familiarity with those courses for the players and their caddies. Many U.S. Open participants will not see the course until the week of the tournament. That could be a problem.

Mike Davis says it will take more than just two practice rounds to figure out the course. In fact, it has been suggested it could take as many as 10 practice rounds to really get a handle on how to attack the course. It makes sense too, considering all of the different tees and all of the possible pin placements. Some of the holes are actually two holes in one. Some players think it could take as many as eight hours to play a practice round. As you can imagine, the players are not exactly stoked to spend their free time playing eight-hour practice rounds weeks before the U.S. Open.

Despite what most of the players will tell you, there are some things to like about the tournament. After all, Chambers Bay was designed to host a major. Like most links courses, Chambers Bay presents players with a number of options from tee to green. The fairways are extremely wide by U.S. Open standards, but the sloping nature of the fairways and greens should make accuracy just as important as ever.

Golf Instructor Brian Mogg, who has played and taught at Chambers Bay, believes the emphasis on shotmaking at Chambers Bay will cause the cream to rise to the top. That is what happened, Mogg argues, at the2010 U.S. Amateur. Peter Uihlein defeated David Chung in the final and those two players were the hottest golfers coming into the event. Mogg likes the top players like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar to separate themselves with their shotmaking abilities. In fact, Chambers Bay could be Garcia’s best chance to ever win the U.S. Open. Garcia’s game doesn’t fit the typical U.S. Open mold, but is versatile enough to put him in contention at Chambers Bay on Sunday.

Spieth may be the favorite this week, considering he competed in the U.S. Amateur in 2010 and his caddy Michael Greller has worked there roughly 50 times. Spieth and his caddy already have a good idea of what to expect from Chambers Bay. Fans and most of the players will have to wait until June 18 to see how the course acquits itself.