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Shinnecock Update: Restored But Also Narrowed

Golfweek's Bradley Klein visited Shinneock Hills as the legendary layout prepares to host the 2018 U.S. Open.

He is the first expert on site to comment on the recent narrowing revealed by Jaime Diaz at Golf World and writes:

A recent push to narrow the fairways marginally has seen the grounds staff convert seven of the layout’s 50 acres of shortgrass to rough. The idea is to create more strategic twist and turn to the fairways consistent with Flynn’s plan and to bring more fairway bunkers closer to the line of play. Fairway widths are still on the relatively generous side for U.S. Open, 28-34 yards in the championship landing areas. But their delineation pays close attention to the lay of the land and the role of airway bunkers.

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Reader Comments (36)

Would someone explain how adding rough, which presumably pushes fairway bunkers further from the fairway cut, brings the bunkers more into play?
Why does the USGA think it compulsory to screw around with every golf course the US Open is held on? Too much money and time on their hands
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIan B
@ Slouch - I am assuming they would add the rough to the opposite side of the fairways near the fairway bunkers thus making it harder to avoid them while staying in the fairway.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
"Why does the USGA think it compulsory to screw around with every golf course the US Open is held on?"

10.5.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Fingers crossed for USGA mucking.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
Well, at least the USGA is holding a US Open at Shinnicock. We should be plenty thankful for that!
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHardy Greaves

You are probably correct, but my god is that an awful approach to architecture.
" I am assuming they would add the rough to the opposite side of the fairways near the fairway bunkers thus making it harder to avoid them while staying in the fairway."

Do we see what it's come to? This is Shinnecock we're taliking about.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Ian B nailed it - too many "experts" involved

Hardy makes a good point though, if Bevacqua were running the USGA we'd be at a Chambers Bay every year
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterOle Tom Morris
I know I'm in the minority here but I think this is a good thing. I don't want to see another Erin Hills where the fairways are so wide that I think I would have hit most of them and I'm an 18 handicapper. I just think they have to find ways to challenge the pros without counting on howling winds. Narrow fairways seems like a good idea to me. My guess, they are still too wide.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew
Andrew, I'm with you. A few years ago it was decided in the architect/course-reviewer community that watering grass and allowing trees to continue existing was akin to drowning a bag of kittens. So, now that your fairways are brown and there aren't any trees in sight the new hip thing is eliminating rough and focusing on fairway bunkering. Here's the thing, though: no matter how strategic bunker placement is, if they are the only thing that needs to be avoided they will be avoided... and easily. What we end up with are courses designed only for the visual. Giant hole after giant hole with wide, curvy fairways bordered by bunkers drawn up on an etch-a-sketch which are profoundly uninteresting in practice. And, of course, since the USGA is unwilling to take on the distance issue and narrow's a no-no the games future is with Erin Hillsian 9,000 yard behemoths of boredom in mid-of-nowhere.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrBunsenHoneydew
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPG
I’m with DrDew
I’d rather play a course covered in trees planted in the 50s by guys who drank all day at work because I like how the trees outcompete grass and block cool views.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
Dr Honeydew,

If you've gotten to the point where you are taking away the option of playing away from a bunker, you've lost the thread of the game. I think it's nuts that classic courses let this happen. The USGA was founded by members of Shinnecock, et al. They should tell the USGA to either rein in equipment or build and maintain their own course to host the championship.
Way to accurately interrupt my comments, Don. Interestingly, your knee-jerk, froth mouthed, little anti-tree tirade there proves my point. Your mind appears to be completely closed to the possibility a tree could be an integral part of any golf hole, anywhere. Never did I say that courses need be tree-lined or tree-covered. A course should be designed to best fit the land it is built on instead of bowing to whatever is the current fad. Oakmont doesn't need trees but places like Augusta and Pine Valley do... even if it's for nothing more than to frame the holes themselves. Heaven forbid you ever have to look at a single tree on any course built on land once covered with trees. Trees absolutely always get in the way of "cool" views.... someone really needs to take an ax to that damn Lone Cyrpress once and for all so we can all get a better look at a rock in front of the ocean.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrBunsenHoneydew
Slouch, I'm not saying players shouldn't have the option of playing away from bunkers, I'm suggesting that if "strategic" fairway bunkers are going to be a courses only defense then the course has no defense. Why is it that a thin fairway and a slightly thicker cut of rough is more offensive to people today than a series of sand filled holes that will need to migrate further and further down any given fairway to stay in that era's landing zone as runaway technology continues to go unaddressed?
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDrBunsenHoneydew
We’d probably agree on 95% of trees then.
I do worry that the trend of being anti-authority is what’s really in vogue today and in our niche of sports and culture the authority is the USGA and I guess people who believe in wide open golf.
10.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
Amateur golf architects always have "great" ideas.
Unfortunately, few of them work.
USGA have proven themselves to be amateur architects.
10.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterObserver
It is very hard to provide "width" for the best players without making it easier for them.

Erin Hills was set up for bombs away, and with little wind, and a bit of rain, guys just unloaded.
Forgetting the distance for a moment, the huge difference in today's players as far as attacking
Golf courses is the height they can hit it. Jason Days 6 iron was topping out north of 125 feet high.
And that's basically a FOUR iron from Jacks heyday. Hitting shots that high are tough to defend against.

Tightening up and making them worry about direction is boring, but effective...hale Irwin at Winged Foot
And L Nelson at Oakmont produced what many thought were the definition of the US Open back then.
if it's windy and dry at Shinny, it will be a proper stupid US Open
10.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
This modern madness of narrowing the Fairways is, at best false economy, as it only caters for the better golfer while frustrating the very players we need to come and start playing golf.

This was one of the very early lessons learnt by the old designers way back in the mid 1800’s but seemingly forgotten by modern Clubs, Green Committees and Designers.

By doing so you are pandering to a smaller market of efficient golfers while discouraging the very new life and blood required to keep the game alive – then this is not the only modern error, but it is and will be quite significant in the long run by clubs being forced to close for lack of new Members.

Quite frankly its simple common sense but clearly way beyond the ability of some.
10.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
@ Ian B

Alas it’s not just the USGA, those buggers at the R&A feel they have the right to re-design a course they have selected – after selecting it as the course to hold The Open – that selection, was I presume based upon what they found, so why have it changed? – The R&A do not possess the divine right to make changes to other people’s courses and certainly not courses owned by the People Public Courses), yet they did just that at TOC St Andrews a few years ago.

I am minded of the changes Colt made to Old Tom’s New Course in St Andrews in the 1920’s, he changes it from being on par if not better than TOC to what we have today – it did not go down well with the Golfers at that time nor the People of St Andrews but surprise, surprise The R&A were happy – so we have today a course that has lost much of its excitement and while its good it is no longer great – That’s down to the meddling of the R&A, proving that even back in the mid 1920’s they did not know what they were doing – alas still don’t.
10.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
Tom Morris can you please give me a link to a few reviews of The New Course before Colt's work, that hold it as good or better than the Old?

I don’t recall reading that in Darwin or Hutchinson etc. But then like you I'm getting older and I suspect one of us has memory problems.

Agree re Dawson at the R&A steamrolling 4 courses onto one just a few years ago.
10.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBelowpar

When the New Course was opened it was not as many expected, so early reviews were not that good but Old Tom own opinion of the St Andrews courses showed that while he loved TOC, his best work was in The New. It remained much the same under Hamilton while TOC suffered under his guardianship. The New Course more or less remained unchanged until Colts mods in the early 1920's.

You will, I trust forgive me for not being that taken by Darwin or for that matter Hutchinson - recently had a short e-mail chat with Ran (Golf Club Atlas) on the subject of Darwin (re his comments on Royal North Devon Golf Course).
10.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
So is having to hit the driver accurately a bad thing?
North Texas,

I think the main point of consternation is the paranoid search for a perfect set up as though they can control the one thing that has the ultimate impact on scoring...Mother Nature.

They've had SHGC as the host venue for several years, and endorsed a dramatic widening of the fairways during that time only to get gun shy at the 11th hour.
10.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
Dr H (and North Texas Golfer),

My point was, the course is plenty narrow for 99.9 percent of golfers, and pretty much everyone who has played Shinnecock from July 2004 until now. That the USGA is punishing playing away from the bunker for 99.9 percent of players so that they can host the Open for 4 days suggests a complete and utter insanity from the USGA in its blindness to what is going on.

My guess is that we agree on that.
Never mind the fairway width - the fact that the course now has crossing holes (the 5th and 18th) due to the pursuit of more yardage is far more disturbing.
10.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
I'll admit the thought of a crossing holes never entered my mind during the round, when I looked for possible locations to add length. I guess we're just not as free-thinking as the USGA, Hawkeye.
10.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Did they move the 5th tee across the 18th fairway?
10.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS

Sorry, I forgot to state a few references where others thought The New Course at St Andrews was as good as TOC.
- There is an article in the Edinburgh Evening News on Saturday 15th June 1895 Page 2 - that give various opinions on the New Course, however J H Taylor "considered the course a capital one, which, in his opinion, should rapidly improve and might eventually be as good The Old Course and certainly more sporting". Then in Hutchinson's book British Golf Links from 1897 he states "in many respects the Old (Course) and New greens closely resemble each other he goes on to say that approaching the Greens requires ever more accurate shots, In 1902 H Fleming states that the New golf course .. differs in many respects from the Old one, and in some excels it.
Colt took the sporting heart out of the New Course and we have today a course that no longer represented the great game of golf and golf course design. Colt started the dulling of Golf Courses and moved away from penal, which is in fact the very essence of a golf course as it tests the golfer. Many think Colt to be one of the best course designers, however my own feeling is that he started the decline of golf course design and through that the game, itself. The New Course, was, pre 1920's a very sporting course that gave golfers the same as TOC but had a greater collective array of hazards both natural and manmade to make it thrilling to play - Today, it’s a shadow of its former self. I would also question if Colt’s ideas where original his, I suspect that he acquired them from previous designers who understood the game in more detail than perhaps he did!
10.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris

Sorry missed off the article by W Herbert Fowley from 1907 “Through The Green – was published in the Sheffield daily Telegraph on Monday the 12th August 1907. He moans that neither Hamilton or even Old Tom spent enough money on the New, as he highly rates it
“This is one of the finest courses to be found anywhere, and if it were situated anywhere but at St Andrews its praises would be sung by many who now know nothing of it”.
He goes on to say “ Let me advise all who visit St Andrews to play over the New Course before they leave, and let me tell those who have not yet been to the ‘home of golf’, that there are many, very many, who before leaving have said that they consider the New Course better than the Old”.
I trust that I have provided enough contemporary evidence to substantiate my comment.
10.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
@JS: Yes, they have moved both tees so far back that they cross each other just in front of each hole’s tee. And from what I could see on the aerials, the 16th tee is now just off the 5th green and left-to-right hitters will have to fly their drives over the edge of the 15th green.
@Dmac, let’s free our minds, there’s gold in them hills! ;)
10.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
It’s a shame.

Won’t use those tees but for maybe once each as well, based on precedent.
10.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
The H.S. Colt diatribe, we can do without. He's proved his worth.
10.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
Recall a SHGC members comment in '04, after mine "I look forward to working with you NEXT time" which he responded,"There won't be a next time." OUCH. I also recall '86 and the start of player #4, Scott Williams. He missed the 1st fairway by INCHES to the right with a 4-WOOD. It took 4:58 minutes to FIND his ball. Then, he took an unplayable. PJ Boatwright did not worry about being loved. He only wanted to identify the best.
@ FC

That your opinion, the facts do not back up your opinions - I have stated an example, its well documented. Accept it or don't, but think you will find it hard to prove otherwise. As for his ideas, well suggest you do some in depth research and you may be surprised i.e The Hasting East Hill Course being one to look at - its now closed but the history is there, if interested.

My question is, has he proved his worth, was many of his ideas, his or from others?
10.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris

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