UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wa. — Chambers Bay will be uncharted territory for most of the U.S. Open field. Two PGA Tour players have played dozens of rounds on the 8-year-old course, though.
Michael and Andrew Putnam grew up in a house less than a mile from the course. Chambers Bay opened months before Andrew began his collegiate career at Pepperdine. Michael was in his first full season on the Tour. Another brother, Joel, was a caddie at Chambers Bay before carrying Michael’s bag.
Michael advanced through sectional qualifying into this week’s U.S. Open in his hometown, while Andrew competed in the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.
Andrew said he describes Chambers Bay as an “entertaining” course that is unique for an area known for verdant courses lined by tall trees. Chambers Bay has just one tree, which doesn’t come into play. The sandy soil drains well and almost guarantees that the course will be firm. Chambers Bay will play like an Open Championship site, requiring players to calculate how the ground will influence their ball.
“There’s so many nuances to it, especially in the greens,” Andrew said. “There’s so many big slopes. It’s pretty severe in some points and you really have to know where to miss the ball and where to hit the ball to get close to certain pins. We’re used to looking at the pin and hitting at the pin. Chambers Bay is a little different. Sometimes you have to hit away from the hole for the ball to feed toward it. It’s something we’re not used to doing.”
Players also will have to make a lot of decisions off the tee, debating how much risk to take in an attempt to leave themselves a shorter approach into the greens.
“If you hit driver and you play aggressive, there’s a lot of holes out there that you can take an aggressive line,” Michael said. “If you’re hitting it well you can score on the golf course. A lot of guys will lay back, but then they’ll have longer approach shots into the green.”
The dramatic contours and constant decisions are why USGA executive director Mike Davis said players should put in extra preparation for this year’s tournament.
The Putnams know Chambers Bay better than most, though. They describe each of Chambers Bay’s holes below. You also can follow along in their descriptions in our video sections, below right on the main page.
No. 1: 598-yard, par 5; 496-yard, par-4
Chambers Bay’s uniqueness is immediately evident. The first hole will be played as both a par-5 and par-4 in the championship. A severe slope left of the green, which will leave players with a difficult recovery to a green several stories above them, is the hole’s defining characteristic. With a long-iron or fairway wood, players can hit their second shots right of the green and let the slope feed their ball onto the green.
Michael Putnam says: “As a par-4, it has a pretty generous driving area. There’s a hill at about 290 yards that if you can get on of that, the ball is going to roll pretty far and you might have 200 yards into the green instead of 230 yards.
“There’s a huge, severe drop-off on the left side of the green. Your ball will roll 50 yards left if you miss the green by more than 10 yards. You’ll be 40 or 50 feet below the green. You’ll have to play (extra) yardage from 50 yards.
“It’s a better hole if it’s a par-5 because, with a wedge in there, you’re not going to go down that left side. But with a 4-iron, it could be pretty severe. It’s going to be a really tough par-4 or a decently easy par-5.”
No. 2: 399-yard, par-4
This slight dogleg-left has a fairway bunker that will force players to decide how aggressively they want to play from the tee.
Michael Putnam says: “It’s a pretty short par-4 with a fairway bunker that kind of sneaks in and cuts the fairway in half at 300 yards. If you want to play aggressive, there’s a 15-yard wide fairway to the right of that. You can lay up and hit 3-wood just short of that fairway bunker and have 8- or 9-iron in.
“Behind the bunker, it’s a 50-yard-wide fairway. I only challenge the bunker when I play the up tees. But it’s a pretty scoreable hole. The green has a big hill on the right side that you can use to funnel your ball left onto the green, especially to a back-right pin or even a front-right pin. It’s a pretty big funnel.”
No. 3: 163-198 yards, par-3
The green on this Redan hole slopes from front-right to back-left. Shots that land on the front of the green will feed toward the back. A southwest wind will make this hole play downwind. The green is guarded by a deep bunker on the left. A ridge right of the green can kick shots onto the green.
Michael Putnam says: “It’s kind of a two-tiered green, with a plateau in the middle that drops off back down to the left. It’s like an 8-iron or 9-iron. If they play the first hole as a par-5, the first three holes are pretty scoreable.”
No. 4: 495 yards, par-4
The hole’s right side is protected by a large bunker complex that runs the entire length of the hole. The fairway slopes from left-to-right. The left side of the fairway requires a longer shot but better angle into this long par-4. Players who drive on the right side will have a shorter, but more uphill, approach. A backstop will help shots that run through the green. The slope can feed balls to the right. There is a hole location on the right side of the green that is protected by sand on three sides.
Michael Putnam says: “It’s usually a par-5 for us. It’s a pretty generous tee shot once again. It’s a dogleg right. It’s a driver-hybrid to a green that definitely has a big bank on the left that you can use to filter your ball to the right on the green. The fairway curves to the right around those bunkers. There’s sand short of the green, and you definitely don’t want to be in those bunkers 50 yards short of the green. “
No. 5: 488 yards, par-4
This par-4 plays extremely downhill to a wide fairway that slopes right-to-left and is guarded on both sides by sand. A pot bunker sits in front of the middle of the green.
Michael Putnam says: “Five is a straight downhill par-4. You’re probably hitting 30 yards downhill. You probably have to add 20 yards to your tee shot. Once again, it’s a really wide fairway at 300 but at 330, where your tee shots go because it’s so downhill, it narrows to 20 yards. There are bunkers right and left of those fairways. If you’re in those bunkers, it’s a tough shot to the green. A lot of guys will be laying back to not go in those bunkers, but it will be a tough shot because they will have so much more club in. The green has a big pot bunker in the middle of the green. The green is kind of a horseshoe around it. You can use the right side to funnel it left. The left side is kind of just flat, but you have to hit a really good nipping shot in there because the ball shoots front to back. It’s tough to keep a ball on the green if you’re hitting a long club in.”
No. 6: 495 yards, par-4
This long par-4 features a semi-blind tee shot, with the left side of the fairway partially obstructed from view because of a mound. Grass mounds right of the fairway can obstruct players’ views of the green, too. The long, narrow green slopes back-to-front and has bunkers on both sides.
Michael Putnam says: “It’s a dogleg-right par-4. There are some church-pew grass bunkers on the right. Definitely stay out of those. You have to hit your tee shot far enough left so that you can see the green. It’s an uphill second shot to a big, three-tiered green. It’s actually a pretty scoreable hole. There’s nothing tricky about the green. You just have to get on the right tier. You can’t really use any part of the green to funnel. There’s bunkers left and right. The green falls off left after the front bunker.”
No. 7: 508 yards, par-4
This hole is a Cape design, with the fairway wrapping around sand that runs down the entire right side. The farther right a player goes, the better angle he will have for his approach shot, but the farther he will have to carry his tee shot to fly the sand. The view of the green from the left rough is obstructed by two grass mounds. The approach shot is uphill to a green with a false front.
Michael Putnam says: “It’s just a beast of a hole. It’s 500 yards, dogleg-right, uphill. Guys are going to try to cut the corner on the tee shot, but if you hit it in that waste bunker on the right, you’re done. It will definitely reward a shot if you can hit it over the bunker and skirt the edge of it because you’ll have less club in, but if you hit it in that bunker, you’re making bogey at best. A straight tee shot for most guys, and then 200 yards straight uphill to a green you can’t see. The ball will roll back about 20 yards if you’re short. It used to come down 50 yards. It’s probably the toughest hole out there.”
No. 8: 614 yards, par-5 (pictured)
This is the only hole on the course without a bunker. The fairway slopes left-to-right and plays along the edge of the quarry. Laying up on the left side of the fairway will give players a better view of the green. Players who miss right of the green will find their balls well below the putting surface.
Michael Putnam says: “It’s a skinny fairway, with a hill on the left that you can’t use at all to bounce your tee shot to the right. Every time I’ve played there, guys favor that left side and they get stuck up on that hill. From there, you’re having to just chip out and have 250 yards in for your third. There’s more room right than people think. I think right is a lot better play than left. Even if you go down the hill on the right, you still can hit it 200 yards into the fairway. You have to hit a draw off the tee to keep it in the fairway. Some guys will be able to reach it in two. It’s a really long green, 40 yards long, with a big drop-off on the right. You can use the hill on the left to funnel second shots in, but it’s a pretty tough hole for a par-5.”
No. 9: 217-224 yards, par-3
The tee is approximately 100 feet above the green, making this the most downhill shot in U.S. Open history, according to USOpen.com. The green will feed balls toward the back-right of the green. There’s also a new tee that provides a slightly uphill tee shot; that tee will likely be used in two rounds. The green is protected by bunkers short and right of the green.
Michael Putnam says: “The green looks tiny when you’re 220 yards away, up on a hill. There’s a huge hill left of the green that guys will use to filter it onto the green, but it’s such a big hill that if you hit it too far left and it gets stuck up there, it’s dead. If you hit it on the top of the hill and it comes down, it can get too much speed and could roll all the way to the right bunker. Personally, I don’t like using that hill because you just never know. But everyone sees the hill and they think that they need to use it, and it’s not the right play.”
No. 10: 436-468 yards, par-4
Players can lay back off the tee to hit into a wider section of the fairway, but that leaves a longer, semi-blind approach shot. Players who squeeze their tee shot between bunkers on both sides of the fairway will be rewarded with a shorter approach. The green sits at a left-to-right diagonal from the fairway and is tucked between two dunes. There also is a bunker short and right of the green.
Andrew Putnam says: “It’s one of the most distinguishable holes on the course. You’re hitting your tee shot between two fairway bunkers that are surrounded by two massive hills. You almost feel like you’re getting lost while you’re walking in the middle of the fairway. You can’t see any other part of the course. You’re kind of in your own world. You’re trying to avoid hitting it up on those hills. You want to favor the left-center of the fairway. If you go too far right, you’re going to be blocked out a bit by the hillside.
“You’ll have anywhere from 6-iron to 8-iron in. You’re hitting into a fairly narrow green, with a bunker protecting the front-right, which is pretty hard to get up-and-down from to any pin. There’s a massive hump on the right-middle portion of the green, so it kind of deflects shots coming in. It’s my favorite hole of the course.”
No. 11: 500-537 yards, par-4
A large grass mound sits in the middle of the fairway. The ideal tee shot will be left of that mound, which will require players to take on fairway bunkers from the tee. Players can use a slope right of the green to funnel their long-iron approach shots onto the putting surface. Balls that miss left of the green will come to rest well below the putting surface.
Andrew Putnam says: “There’s a huge mound in the middle of the fairway, which directs where you need to hit your tee shot. Depending where the tee is, you can either fly the hill in the middle of the fairway or you have to play around it, which makes it challenging. Preferably, you want to take it down the left side, which is a little bit narrower. Then you’re faced with a extremely sloped green from right-to-left. Most guys are going to hit their second shots up into the bank and let it feed down onto the green. You’re going to have anywhere from a hybrid to a 6-iron, depending on where they put the tee box. There’s a big tier that runs through the middle of the green, so you want to be on the right level. If you miss the green left, your ball is running maybe 40-60 yards from the pin. You really have to be accurate on that approach shot.”
No. 12: 281-311 yards, par-4
Most players will try to drive this short, uphill par-4. Tee shots will funnel toward the putting surface, which is the hole’s main defense. The large, multi-tiered green slopes severely from back-to-front and will require precise lag putting.
Andrew Putnam says: “It’s straight up the hill to a (narrow) fairway if you choose not to go for the green, but everyone is going to go for that green in the tournament. You can hit your drive well to the right, up by the green, and still have a pitch coming in, but the green is severely sloped. It’s worth the risk. It’s not that intimidating of a tee shot, and it’s pretty tough even to have a wedge shot in because it’s blind and straight up the hill. The hole plays probably 290-300, but you only have to carry a bunker that’s probably 270. The lay-up is almost harder than just pounding a driver up there.
“I think there’s three different tiers to the green. There’s a right section, and 4 or 5 feet below that is the bottom-left portion of the green. The back tier is probably elevated by 5 feet and there’s a backstop that will keep your ball on the green. It’s one of those holes where, if you get a good bounce with your drive, you can get it semi-close. If you’re on the wrong portion of that green, you could have trouble even three-putting. You have to be on the right tier. I’m not exactly sure where they’re going to find four different pins on that green.”
No. 13: 534 yards, par-4
The good news: this hole features a 115-yard-wide fairway, which is believed to be the widest in U.S. Open history. This is still one of the most difficult holes on the course, though. A drive down the right will leave a shorter, but semi-blind, approach shot. A slope right of the green will deflect balls away from the putting surface, and a large bunker is in front of the green.
Andrew Putnam says: “It’s a dogleg-right par-4. You tee off in a little chute, and the fairway opens up. You’d like to keep your ball just left of the mounds on the right side, down the right-center of the fairway, and hopefully your tee shot doesn’t go too far and you avoid the fairway bunkers on the right. It’s probably 320-330 to those bunkers. On your approach shot, you can have anything from a 3-iron to a 7-iron coming in. There’s a massive bank on the left side of the green that players will tend to hit their ball toward. The greens run off to the right. There’s another low point right of the green.
“It’s a fairly firm green, so it’s hard to keep the ball on the correct level. It’s hard to keep the ball short and have it not chase over the back. I think it’s one of the harder par-4s on the course. There’s a huge bunker just short of the green, and then it’s an extremely hard bunker shot because you’re unable to see the green and you’re probably 15 yards from the edge of the green. You have to challenge the bunker a little bit so your ball doesn’t run over. You have to hit a pretty good shot to keep it on that green.”
No. 14: 521-546 yards, par-4
The tee shot is played dramatically downhill. A deep bunker is in the middle of this large fairway, and a large sandy area is left of the fairway. The ideal tee shot will be played between those two bunkers and will leave a shorter approach shot.
Andrew Putnam says: “It feels like you’re hitting off the edge of a cliff. Your tee shot is dropping 40-50 yards, heading back toward the ocean. You pretty much just have to pitch out if you go in the bunker in the middle of the landing zone. They actually made it deeper. It’s impossible. It splits the fairway into two fairways. If you try to play it out safe to the right, you’re going to have a long-iron in. It makes the hole a lot longer. Everyone is going to try to hit it down the left side and have it run down the hill. It can roll out like 60 yards down the hill. That hole will usually play into a left-to-right wind, which makes that tee shot hard. There’s a big slope on the right side of the green. If you hit short of the hump, the ball will feed back toward the front of the green. If you land it on the other side, it could run over the green. If you’re long or short, the ball is going to go down some swales into collection areas.”
No. 15: 123-246 yards, par-3
This downhill par-3 features a peninsular green that is surrounded by sand on three sides. It can play as either the longest or shortest par-3 on the course. The shorter tee will likely be used for hole locations on the right side. A bunker left of the green protects a slope that will funnel long-iron tee shots toward the green, while an upside-down bowl on the right will require players to hit an accurate short-iron to a hole location there.
Andrew Putnam says: “It’s one of the more scenic holes on the golf course. They have a tee box at about 250 yards, and it plays downhill probably 25-30 yards. You’re hitting into a pretty small green that is guarded by a waste bunker all along the front. There’s one pot bunker on the left that will collect a lot of balls because people will try to go left where there’s a bowl that will feed your ball toward the hole. But if you hit it a little long of center, it can run into the back bunker. The normal wind is a little into you, so that will help the ball land a little softer. The front right has a knob that is like the back of a turtle. The left side of the green is more in a bowl. There’s hills all around the left side that will bring the ball back onto the green.”
No. 16: 423 yards, par-4
This hole runs along a railway line and Puget Sound. The fairway slopes left-to-right on this dogleg right. The green is pear-shaped. It is 12-15 yards wide at the front, but no more than 6 paces wide in the back.
Andrew Putnam says: “There are waste bunkers all down the right side, all the way through the green, and fescue and hay down the left side. You’re going to want to hit a cut off the tee. It’s not a super long hole. If you challenge the right side, you’re going to have to fly it 290 yards to carry a pot bunker. Most guys will try to hit it up the left side with a little cut and try to catch a downslope and have it run out. If you catch that, you’ll have a wedge into the green.
“The green is shaped like a pear. There’s a greenside bunker on the left side and the bunker on the right side, and if you hit it in one of those bunkers, you can go back and forth and make a mess. If you’re going to miss, you have to miss right because the green slopes left-to-right toward the ocean.”
No. 17: 172-218 yards, par-3
This is the only level par-3 on the course. The left of the green is more receptive to long-iron tee shots, while the raised, back-right portion is surrounded by sand and will require players to be accurate with a short-iron. There is a bunker left of the green and another on the right side that wraps around the back.
Andrew Putnam says: “You’re hitting into the wind, a little right-to-left. The green is divided into two parts. It’s like a plateau on the right side. Everywhere on the left is a bowl. There’s a waste bunker that goes from the front of the green around to the back-right. The pins on the left side of the green are not too difficult. It’s a massive bowl, so everything feeds and collects toward the hole. The only place you don’t want to go on that hole is long. “
No. 18: 604 yards, par-5; 525 yards, par-4
This hole will play as both a par-4 or par-5 during the week. The fairway is diagonal on the par-5, with right being the aggressive line. A drive down that side will leave a shorter second shot and a better angle. When the hole plays as a par-4, a player who can carry the ball 290 yards down the left side will be rewarded with up to 100 yards of roll. There is a bunker 120 yards short of the green that is the deepest bunker in U.S. Open history.
Andrew Putnam says: “I’ve never played it as a par-4, so I’m not sure how it plays that way. As a par-5, it’s one you can reach if you hit a good drive. There’s a waste bunker all down the right side and a big fairway bunker on the left. The further right you go, the farther you’ll have to carry it. You’d like to miss your tee shot left, if anything. I’ve missed it right and you can end up making a mess of a typically easy par-5. If you hit it in the left fairway bunker, you’ll have to lay up. You can go for it if you hit your tee shot between the two bunkers. The pot bunker short of the green is about 20 feet deep and 20 yards long. I don’t think guys are going to challenge it because you can’t get it up toward the green if you hit in it.
“The green is elevated probably 10 to 15 yards above the fairway, so the last 40 yards of the fairway run up to the green. The green is separated into three tiers, and there’s a massive bank on the back side of the green that you can use as a backboard. If you hit a good shot, you’re able to use the ridge to work the ball toward the hole. It’s a pretty forgiving green, and if you hit a good shot you can make a great number, but if you get on the wrong side of those tiers, you’re going to have a hard time putting.”