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Erin Hills Fallout: Shinnecock Hills To Be Narrowed After Restoration Widening

In light of the recent brouhaha over player comments at TPC Boston's forced layup that caused driver-hugging players to go down another fairway, Jaime Diaz concludes for Golf World that recent distance gains are going to keep leading to more setup and design dramas. He says the big picture of recent course setup issues suggests "a day of reckoning is coming."

Much of that conclusion is based on this disheartening news out of Southampton.

Next year the U.S. Open is going to a Golden Age classic, Shinnecock Hills, artful in the extreme, but also shortish. It’s the kind of venue that is most at risk of being overrun by the modern game.

In the last few years, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw restored the course. The fairways were widened (up to 60 yards), the greens expanded, and trees were removed. Visually, the result was spectacular, and the club’s members have loved the changes.

The USGA, too, initially sang the restoration’s praises, but recently officials have reconsidered their original setup plans at Shinnecock. The fairway width—done to create more strategic angles and options—was deemed too wide (perhaps in the wake of Erin Hills). Native fescue rough is now being planted on the edges of the fairway to narrow them back down. The course won’t be as narrow as it was when it held the championship in 1986, 1995 and 2004, but it will be narrower than what was originally planned on for 2018.

Why? Diaz concludes...

So that the art of Shinnecock can be brought out rather than overrun, the decision was made that long and crooked has to be punished.

In an odd way I wonder if such a high profile change to such a high profile course this late in the game is being implemented with the full knowledge that this reinforces the need for a variable distance ball?

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Reader Comments (75)

Sounds like they are making the rough tougher not changing fairways. Seems like a change easy to reverse on June 18th
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
Horrible idea. Horrible precedent.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike Clayton
Wow how the US Open has declined in stature.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterWest Coast Vibe
Why would Shinnecock allow that???
Shinnecock should have said "go elsewhere, goodbye"
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMartiH
Can't they just say it is a par 64 and leave the course alone
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJ21
Horrible for sure, Mike Clayton. Unless you don't mind our National Championship becoming a 20-under laughingstock. You can't have your cake and it too, complaining about the distance problem and then advocating for fairways up to 60 yards wider. And when players blast it as far as they do now, there is no such thing as a strategic angle with a wedge in your hands. Fine for member play but not the U.S. Open. Tree removal is a joke. The last time I played it there wasn't a tree in play worthy of hanging a USGA official from. Might have an impact on crosswind difficulty in a few places but it's more about opening up the vistas. If it's not as narrow as it was in '86, '95 and '04, put the Kleenex box down, suck it up and get on with it until the ball is addressed. This was a no-brainer prediction after Erin Hills.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
A Far Hills Lobby conversation:

Between Mike Davis, and some of his inbred Committee members and any golf fan(amateur) with a brain, two eyes and a spine:

Fan: "Mr. Davis and your (inbred) Committee members. why do you keep altering/butchering classic designs to artificially try to defend an elusive number?

MD: "Because we are trying to define the best robot capable of surviving such an endurance exam."

Fan: But isn't it obvious that won't work, it's very boring and the USGA is demonstrating the very definition of "insanity?"

MD: "Obvious,boring, insane?"

USGA Committee(blueblood) member with cocktail in his/her hand butts in and says: " My dear cretinish golfer, don't you know what is truly obvious? We seek to not only identify the best golfer, but obviously make sure we protect the line of Brinks trucks leaving on Sunday afternoon!" "Furthermore, boring is what we do goes best with our Tanqueray and tonic." "We'd be insane not to protect these paths to becoming Lords of Augusta and elsewhere." "Lastly, it is our genetic right to rule over you whilst ignoring reality."

Fan: "Errrr.....I was mostly referring to the ball being out-of-control."

MD & Blueblood(s): I do believe we've budgeted a few francs to studying that further!.....move along, nothing here to see!"
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLong Ball
Whatever. Crapify the world. Onwards and backwards.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered Commenterso
No matter what they do, the only thing that will protect the course from these outrageously talented players - Shinnecock or any other - is wind. Someone will be long and straight enough to take it apart, even with 12 yard wide fairways.

I am bored to death with driver - wedge TV golf, but until we amateurs stop buying $600 drivers and top grade balls, nothing is going to change. And here is the rub - I'm better now at 49 (longer off the tee, better around the greens, lower handicap) than I was 20 years ago, despite 2 major hip surgeries and another one coming. Do I want to go back to spinnier balls and smaller drivers? No, not really...but at some point, the game is going to have to bifurcate or players like me are going to have to sacrifice way more than the PGA players.

The USGA and the R&A are walking a very fine line. If they go draconian and banish the current balls and / or clubs, there will be the inevitable lawsuits, but worse they could simply be ignored. That could create a problem that is more troubling than the current one.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBDF
Well, we don't want another Erin Hills, now, do we?

If the greens at Shinnecock are sped up to within a millimeter of their life and there is a real risk of putting the ball off the green into bunkers or long rough then perhaps the course may stand a chance.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGreg B.
They've tried that here already, Greg B. See Goosen 2004, one of the finest putting exhibition I've ever witnessed (until Spieth showed up) and the only player composed enough to get it under par. If that's the kind of stimp the USGA goes with, I'll take Spieth right now for 10 large. My wish is simple; player should sweat and not have a candy dish of birdies at their disposal. And I want to see those beads of sweat slightly discolored by blood.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Someone above said something about tree removal being a joke. Not sure exactly what they meant by it but I thought about the course I played last Friday here in North Texas. Pretty much every fairway was tree-lined and you had to hit your driver straight. I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of it! Loved it! I actually had to hit my driver straight in order to score unlike my home course where I can hit it anywhere. It was such a pleasure to stand on a tee box and know you have to hit your driver straight and then actually do it. Not many courses left that make you hit your driver straight for the entire round.

For those of you who got to play it, the old Pecan Valley course in San Antonio, where Boros beat Palmer in the 68 PGA, was like that. Man, that was a fun course to play and one of my favorite course I've ever played.
No matter. Shinnecock and many of the other great courses around the world will be underwater soon enough. The golf industry's inability to manage the relationship among the ball, the players, and the courses sensibly is an apt metaphor for our species inability to manage the relationship among our technologies, societies, and the planet.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFXF
They have already screwed up the game beyond repair, so why not destroy a few classic courses as well?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterC
You don't hire a contractor to grow native grass longer. You do it because you are changing out acres of turf.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterChief Pete
Why all the concern about 'par'? It's just a number...

Let them play the course and score whatever they can. Lowest score still wins. Who cares if it's 30 under 'par'?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
Hey, Bud. Why are you wasting time here when there are record books to be burned in the name of ratings?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
If I were blessed to be a member at Shinnecock, I would have zero interest in hosting the US Open. I just don't see enough upside.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTighthead
I could care less about 'record books'. The first record holders used hickory shafts and gutta percha balls. Ya think we should go back to using those to preserve 'records'?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
Sorry for the confusion. I did not say intend it was all good.

I read artical to say they were not changing ANY fairway lines, making this an easier thing to reverse than most other courses where they move fairway lines, tinker with bunkers and soften slopes on greens.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
IF this is true, and they are actually narrowing the width of fairways that were recently widened, it is indeed a pathetic joke and Shinnecock should tell the USGA to find another venue.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
Why does the USGA not take the US Open abroad?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAllen Robertson
Either introduce a tournament ball for every player or start building 8200 yard crapfests like Erin Hills.
I'm hitting my driver farther than when I was 25 (a long time ago)...the powers that be sacrificed it all for $$$ years ago.
It's all so sadly predictable.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered Commenterjjshaka
Shinnecock IS another example of the USGA wrongly addressing a problem of their own creation. They let the distance cows out of the barn by failing to effectively regulate equipment/ball. Ruining old classic courses to try to mask their mistake is simply wrong headed. Better they admit their mistake by properly reeling back or introducing a tournament ball, or abandon these venues that are no longer suitable to today's distance.

Hate to lose a course like Shinnecock from the rota, but if this is what they have to do to it... It's time to move on.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
Whether anyone is a fan or not, golf architecture goes in cycles and the cycle the last 20 years has been tree removal. This has gone WAY too far as evidenced by the US Open at Oakmont. It was still a good tournament but the character of that course has been permanently altered and not for the better. Now the USGA is starting to figure out that driver and wedge is really a boring game to watch. But, what to do about it? You can’t plant 75 foot trees along a fairway. You have to start with smaller trees and then wait for nature to nourish the tree and it will grow. Please, please stop denuding the golf courses. Leave the major trees in play.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Laszlo
Maybe I was too harsh in my response, Bud. But I thought you'd get the point. A segment of the roll-back-the-ball advocates want to see the classics destroyed by the modern game to make the case. What they seem to ignore is the new eyes they are attempting to attract for their own financial interest, couldn't care less. We live in an instant gratification world. The governing bodies will continue to do fluff and half-assed measures such as deep rough, narrow fairways and lightning fast greens to make it appear they care about scoring. When in reality, all they care about is that the cash keeps rolling in. I'll stick with that until proven otherwise.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
I play in small city tourneys and have observed firsthand high swingspeed players render course design moot when it comes to scoring and course management. It was a novelty years ago when Daly bombed it over trouble and Tiger cut dog legs. Now that is the norm and the entire PGA Tour is playing a game with which Bobby Jones is not familiar. For a lot of fans that is ok just like a lot of fans enjoyed the steroid era of Baseball. But power alone shouldn't be enough to be a great golfer just like home runs alone don't make someone a great ball player. It is the responsibility of the USGA and R and A to maintain a balance of skill sets that allow better players to distinguish themselves, not just the highest swing speed players. There should be more to testing a player in a major than driver distance, wedge game and putting. A major should instill fear in a player when a difficult shot lays ahead. Thanks to the USGA lack of governance they have removed it at the highest level.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered Commentermunihack
Mike Davis needs to go.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
@ FC +100000000, he's been a problem for a long, long time. Surprised he hasn't changed the name from the U.S. Open to the Mike Davis Cup.

Chamblee says that they need to have an 8,000 yard course. That won't matter either. Guys will still find a way to get it well under par.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon
Regulate the ball. Make it curve more, not go as far, whatever.... until the USGA, R&A, Masters, PGA Tour bring the ball back under control this is a death spiral that will be the end of professional golf.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterT. Ferris
Always the fear of restorations. They want to rip out 50-60+ year old trees because trees are out of fashion. I remember someone bringing up the idea that trees might come back into fashion. "No, of course not!" was the response. I am sure the sansabelt guys were saying belts will NEVER come back. A relic of the past...

Yet, the assessment bills keep coming...
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR
Why are fairways 'up to 60 yards' wide beyond scrutiny for a major championship?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGriffin
I thought the deal w/ Erin Hills is players who played well scored well and those who didn't got smoked.

Isn't that the measure of a good open course? A nice wide distribution of scoring based on play.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
DMac, it sounds to me like a certain score has to be recorded or it's somehow not the US Open? Has Davis and his boys gotten to you? It's just not possible for even par to be the winning score unless they manipulate the golf course. And we know how silly that is and what's transpired when they went down that road.

Put the tees back; put the pins in difficult spots on fair but firm greens, and hope the weather cooperates with some wind. If not, is a 10-under winning score the end of the world? Some of the greatest major championships have been some of the lowest scoring. Why does does it have to be "The Massacre at Winged Foot" (1974) to prove who can survive the most ridiculous setup?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Trees are beautiful. Trees give landscapes definition. Trees inspire players to be creative when stuck behind one. Oakmont is now a wheat field with 18 flagsticks, and so is apparently Shinnecock. I'm not sure I even want to see the 14th hole without trees framing the wonderfully meandering fairway, and whoever thought 50-yard wide fairways on a 7000-yard course was going to make the best players of today play more strategically is an idiot.

And a little memory check for everyone: Nobody played for angles on the wide fairways of Augusta 30 years ago either. Everyone swung their persimmon drivers at their balata balls at full throttle off every tee that provided the opportunity. A 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus hit short irons into seven of the ten Par 4s and irons into two of the Par 5s during his final round 65. And we still have quite fond memories of that round, don't we? Paradise is long since lost, fellas, and it didn't start with the Pro V1.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
FXF...very disappointed to visit this fine site only to run into a veiled version of a lamentation from another ill-informed global warmanista...
09.6.2017 | Unregistered Commentersurfmeister
Brandon, thank you for that hundred million affirmation. That may be some kind of a record, as was Jug McSpaden's 8,101 yard monster Dub's Dread when it opened in 1966.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
Any time enough people decide on something the contrarians squirt out the other side and I feel that happening on the tree thing.
09.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
Hawkeye, how do we know the restoration at Shinnecock was done exclusively for the U.S. Open? I don't think it was. And are you saying C&C are idiots for the 50 yard wide fairways or the USGA or membership? Thanks for clarification?
09.6.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv

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