UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wa. – For those who are planning and anticipating the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, it’s not unlike waiting for a child to be born.
As they view it here, it’s our baby.
There’s even a due date, prominently displayed on the Chambers Bay web site. As of the moment this story was posted, the site shows that the Open will be held in: 763 days, three hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds.
This Open will be unique, if not historic. It’s the first time the Open has been held in the Northwest – in its 115-year history. It will be played on a course that will be just 8-years-old by 2015. It will be played for the first time on a course that has 100 percent fescue grass, even on the greens. It’s also just the third public course to host the Open, other than Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines.
Chambers, Scottish-links style layout, was awarded the Open – and the 2010 U.S. Amateur – just eight months after it officially opened, in the spring of 2008. The course also will gain more insight into its readiness next month when it hosts the 87th Washington State Amateur Championship, June 18-20, the same weekend as the Open in two years.
“We learned a lot from the Amateur,” said Larry Gilhuly, the USGA’s Green Section, NW director.
What they learned was that the course wasn’t quite ready for the power and precision of the PGA Tour professionals.
It needed to be longer, tighter and fairer. That’s all been done. All the major ‘tweaking’ has been completed, new greens, new tee positions and hole adjustments.
As a review, here are some of the significant changes around the course:
No. 1. The tee has been moved back to the putting green and it could still be played as a par-4 by the pros (par-5 for the rest of us). Also, the green has adjusted so that approaches will not be as susceptible to run off the left side and roll 150 yards down the slope to the 18th fairway.
No. 3. New back tee added.
No. 5. New back tee added and the landing area narrowed to just 30 yards (also, the second shorter green has been taken out).
No. 6. New back tee added.
No. 7. The green was reshaped so that short approaches onto the false front would not roll back 100 yards. It’s a new expansive green and a bunker was added to the right side, complicating the approach.
No. 8. Green slope adjusted to prevent the excessive left-to-right roll.
No. 9. A new tee position was added from just below the 8th green. It will be a 200-yard, all-carry shot over a valley and directly into the green slope.
No. 10. A new back tee added next the practice green.
No. 13. A new green was added and reshaped to prevent too much runoff. It’s now the biggest green on the course, with bunkering in back.
No. 14. A new back tee was added high on the hill so that the lone fairway pot bunker would be in play on their drives.
The 18th hole has had as much attention as any hole because the USGA folks would like to make it a challenging and compelling finish.
USGA Director Mike Davis, who has been working closely with the architects since this was a gravel pit, has authorized the changes.
“He’s like a kid in a candy store,” Gilhuly said.
It’s a 600-yard-plus hole in which professional drives would easily clear a waste area. He had the course extend the waste area out more to the right so that a drive not only would have long carry but land in a small area between hazards.
Then he asked that a huge bunker be dug out about 12 feet deep and 100 yards from the hole – the Chambers Basement. This would prevent a a second shot from rolling down the slope to the edge of the green.
“He wants an heroic shot,” Gilhuly said.
At first the dig was shallow then it just got deeper and deeper. “When he saw it,” Gilhuly added, “he liked it.”
This Open also will be different in that the weather might not be typical. Generally in mid-June, the weather is hot and muggy at other Open. In the Seattle area, it could be much colder, even rainy. That’s just fine.
“It’s not calm and sunny every all June, at least we don’t want it to be,” Gilhuly said. “We want it to be rainy one day, we want it to be windy one day, we want it to be sunny one day. We want the ability to change each hole each day, based on the weather.”
Danny Sink, the USGA’s on-side Open director, said he’s excited about this Open because of the course’s flexibility.
“We have the ability to change the distance and the holes each day if we want to,” Sink said.
Some holes could be played as a par-4 one day and a par-5 the next. It’s believed that has never been done in an Open.
Sink will be running a small city by the time the Open arrives here. He’s in charge of advance planning for transportation, merchandizing, ticket sales, traffic flow, volunteers, among other responsibilities.
He expects about 235,000 spectators for the event and, with Chambers’ intriguing landscape and course quirks, a huge TV audience. They’ll all be watching the ‘birth’ of this Northwest baby.