Chambers Bay a Rare Links Course Challenge for U.S. Open

 

Chambers Bay a Rare Links Course Challenge for U.S. Open

By Burt Carey

With oceans of sand traps, 250 acres of a grass almost unheard of in North America, and trains that roll through multiple times a day, the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., promises to be one of the toughest golf courses ever played for a major championship in the U.S.

Playing anywhere from 7,300 to 7,900 yards, depending on how the USGA sets up greens and tee boxes, Chambers Bay is a links course built on an old gravel pit that PGA players and the amateurs who qualified for the second major of 2015 have been talking about for months. Some aren’t happy while others are embracing the test.

Chambers Bay Golf Course

Chambers Bay Golf Course

Reigning Masters champion Jordan Spieth was challenged to use one word to describe Chambers Bay. “Inventive,” he announced. And he won’t have anything to do with the grumbling heard from other professional golfers here. “If you are going to talk negative about a place, you’re almost throwing yourself out to begin with because golf is a mental game.”

“It’s certainly different for a U.S. Open, that’s for sure,” said Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion. “We normally play pretty traditional golf courses where it’s back tees, narrow fairways, high rough, and super-hard, fast greens.”

He forgot to mention that most courses they play have a variety of grasses. Chambers Bay features just one: fine fescue. Derived from seed brought by European settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries, fine fescue was the grass of choice by course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr.

“When the golf ball hits fine fescue, the ball skids and rolls instead of other grasses which grab and stop the ball,” said Mike Davis, USGA’s executive director, who will direct pin placements and course setup for each of the tournament’s four days. “Fine fescue has a thinner, rounded blade so there is no tackiness. It has so many fabulous qualities.”

“I think we’re going to see some higher numbers here, but then again we may not. It depends on what Mike gives us,” Wood said. “Let’s say he plays it hard every day and plays it all the way back, close to 7,900 yards. If he makes it 73 (hundred yards), 74, 75, somewhere in that neighborhood, what configuration is he going to do it in? We don’t know.”

And because this is the first time many PGA golfers will see the course, how Davis chooses to set the course each day will play into the intrigue of this unique U.S. Open championship. Chambers Bay offers players a litany of obstacles, including rough that gets gradually deeper, rolling hills in the fairways and off the fairways, sand traps that seems to never end, and trains.

About those trains. Since the late 1800s, trains have rolled along the hills at this location some 40 miles north of Seattle on Puget Sound. In fact, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway cutting through Chambers Bay is the busiest in the Pacific Northwest. Most trains number about 100 cars, and are most apparent at holes No. 15, 16 and 17.

While the tracks and the trains are out of bounds, the sight of a train coming toward players on the 16th tee could be daunting.

“On the second-most back tee of the 16th hole, when you’re lining up your shot, you could have a train coming right at you,” Davis said. “You can’t ignore the train because it’s relatively loud. Players might think about backing off from the tee shot, but the trains can go on for five or six minutes. A player cannot just stand there for five or six minutes.”

For a course that opened for business just eight years ago. Chambers Bay has quickly stepped into a prominent position. It hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, when Spieth shot 83.

“I think it might be slower rounds of golf, given the size of the greens and the difficulty of the course,” Spieth said. “At least we have some nice views.”

 

Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle