Eye On Design: The U.S. Open On Modern Links Courses

Enthusiasm for this U.S. Open isn’t exactly off the charts and I’m guilty of having shared that sensibility given a new venue and a major championship return to this market in less than two years. However, on Sunday (we hope…) the U.S. Open Trophy will be awarded along with the Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal and the history books will not remember this was played at 13-year-old inland, Irish-inspired, treeless, 350-acre course.

For all of the fun holes, beautiful bunkering and other cool features, Erin Hills has much going against it due in large part to just how browned out and bizarre Chambers Bay looked in 2015. That’s it's Tacoma, Washington counterpart in what was, at one time, the USGA’s effort to introduce new (public) venues into their unofficial rota.

I’ve heard much consternation about these non-traditional U.S. Open venues and the awarding of this championship to such relatively untested layouts for a variety of reasons. They all have some merit but also ignore the need to work in new venues too. Whether it’s their lack of history, architectural scale or minimalist brand name cache, the concern is understandable. But as we know, so many venues that once hosted U.S. Open's can no longer do so because today's players are linebackers, tri-athletes and overall mega-jocks armed with equipment that the USGA and R&A say hasn't done a thing for them over the last decade!

I digress.

There is also the legitimate concern that within the Grand Slam scheme of things, an Erin Hills or Chambers Bay skews things toward the creative links-lover and away from the U.S. Open’s test as one of supreme patience and precision. 

So before I get a post up with some images and things to look for this week, consider this Eye On Design where I bat around these issues in the grand scheme of things with the U.S.G.A. bringing America’s national championship 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee. Hopefully I offer a few thoughts for your inevitable 19th Hole debates this week. (PS - here is the list of future U.S. Open venues noted in the piece.)