Build It and They Will Come: The Inside Story of Erin Hills Joe Passov for USOpen.com
Erin Hills has no out of bounds, no water hazards, no forced carries. The three elements that will make it so difficult are, one, the slope of the land and understanding what it is going to do to your ball. The second thing is the bunkers, which will be the most feared hazard these guys have faced, and that was the intent. The last element is the wind, which can and will change everything. Combined, they will always make it play to a championship quality.
This year’s U.S. Open is about to be played on a rather unusual American golf course. Rolling terrain, a handful of trees, no water, severe bunkers, and thick fescue make Erin Hills a rare test of the game here in the States. Casual fans will be forgiven for thinking the tournament is being played somewhere in Scotland instead of Wisconsin. Just don’t say that to the three men that came together to create this test of the game.
We have purposely avoided using the word “links.” This is a heathland golf course. We want to make sure that distinction is made. A heathland course is in-between a parkland course and a links.
The USGA has built an impressive collection of web assets to help fans become more familiar with Erin Hills before the tournament kicks off on June 15th. Some of the best is their collection of video flyovers of every hole. They’ve also partnered with the folks over at WGT.com to let you play each hole within their online golf gaming platform.
I’m sure Erin Hills will provide an entertaining four-day test of golf. But is it a U.S. Open course? A few traditionalists will be sure to complain that the course doesn’t represent American-style golf. They will claim that the USGA and Erin Hills have turned the U.S. Open into a test too similar to The Open Championship. We heard similar complaints brought up during the 2015 championship played at Chambers Bay.
I’m excited to see how the course plays. It certainly is a beautiful and interesting design. No question that Erin Hills is very different than many of the classic courses usually chosen to host our national championship. Golf needs to evolve. Innovative designs, like Erin Hills, intended to maximize the natural terrain available to the designers instead of moving and sculpting the earth to our liking, is a trend I support.
The proof will be in the playing. Come the evening of June 18th a new U.S. Open champion will be crowned. I suspect that Erin Hills will be crowned as one of America’s great golf courses as well.
Photo credit: Erin Hills