Newsday's Mark Herrmann has the definitive account of Shinnecock Hills' last-minute narrowing.
Given USGA CEO Mike Davis's public concerns about the role distance plays in being able to present courses as the architects intended, the admission that last fall's narrowing of this year's U.S. Open course at least does not come with any aggravating spin. This was a reaction to Erin Hills, where the freedom to hit driver lead to incredible driving distances and low scoring.
Still, the expense to keep Shinnecock Hills relevant speaks to a very different version of the game.
“They did it almost overnight,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “As someone at the club said, it was like a military exercise. When all is said and done, it looks tremendous. It fits your eye because these are the appropriate grasses.”
Herrmann notes that landing areas will still "be wider than they were for the previous three Opens in the modern era — in 1986, 1995 and 2004 — but slimmer than they had been after the club’s recent restoration project."
Three contractors were employed and the fairway grass taken out is resting comfortably at a New Jersey sod farm should the Shinnecock Hills members want it back.
“Some of the fairways had gone to 60 yards wide. It was great fun to play,” Davis said, adding that the average width had been 26 yards in 2004. “What we’ve done is come back and say, ‘You know what? You’re going to have to tighten it up some because accuracy is part of the test.’ ”
As absurd as all of this is to theoretically protect "accuracy", the real issue remains huge distance gains passing by the governing bodies. If the professional game were in balance, the width could be tolerated thanks to the green complexes serving as the defense. Angles would matter. A form of accuracy would be rewarded. Just not this year at Shinnecock. Again.