BROOKLINE, Mass – When the U.S. Open returns to The Country Club on June 16, the course won’t play the same as it did when the Brookline club last hosted the prestigious event in 1988.
Jeff Hall, USGA Managing Director of Rules and Open Championships, is excited about the changes.
The routing is different than in 1988 when there was a one-tee start. Since 2002, golfers in the U.S. Open have started on the first and 10th tees in the first two rounds. In 1988, the U.S. Open at TCC played to a par of 71. This year, par will be 70 even though the course will stretch to 7,381 yards, about 250 more than 34 years ago.
The USGA will use 15 holes from TCC’s main course and four from its nine-hole Primrose course to form the other three holes.
Much of Primrose No. 1 and the green of No. 2 will be combined to form the 490-yard, par 4 13th hole for the championship. Primrose’s 425-yard, par-4 No. 9 will be No. 9 on the championship course and Primrose’s 625-yard, No. 8 will be used as the 14th hole on the championship course.
The par-3, 131-yard 11th hole will be used, but the par-4, 432-yard fourth hole won’t be. It was the other way around in 1988. The broadcast compound will be located on part of the fourth hole.
Hall likes the addition of the 11th hole and he called it one of his favorites at TCC because just about every golfer can relate to playing a 131-yard hole.
“They can actually do it,” he said. “A 260-yard par 3, well, not so much. That’s a two-shot par 4 for me now. But on a 131-yard par 3, everybody can figure out what club they would hit. Maybe it’s a 7-wood for somebody and it will be a wedge for the best players in the world, but everybody that connects with the U.S. Open connects with that shot.”
The 10th hole was a 515-yard par 5 in 1988, but will be a 499-yard par 4 this year. The 14th hole was a 450-yard par 4 in 1988, but will play as a 619-yard, par 5 this year. Architect Gil Hanse moved the tee back.
“It’s an adult golf hole,” Hall said. “If you do not drive it in the fairway there, you will have a real challenge to get it up on the plateau to play your little, short, third shot.”
When Curtis Strange won at TCC in 1988, he used a 2-iron or a 3-iron and a 9-iron on the 310-yard, downhill par-4 fifth hole.
“Nobody plays golf that way anymore,” Hall said. “We’ll see what they’ll do. I’m really fascinated to see how the modern golfer plays that particular hole. The Country Club is an old-school golf course. Small greens, very tight fairways. How is this modern golfer going to adapt to that or are they just going to let it rip?”
TCC was built to fit holes into the land the way it was. Caterpillar tractors didn’t clear anything so TCC has some blind tee shots that modern golfers may not be used to hitting. Hall pointed out that Paul Azinger once told him that shots are only blind once – the first time someone hits them. After that, the golfer needs to figure it out.
“It will be interesting to see how the modern golfer adapts to this old-school golf course,” Hall said.
As usual for the U.S. Open, the rough will be punishing.
“When players start mumbling about the rough,” Hall said, “I remind them that we cut the fairways every single day, sometimes twice.”
In other words, hit it straight. Fairways will range from 22 or 24 yards wide up to 38 yards wide.
“But if you get it off that fairway, there’s going to be some rough and that’s the idea,” Hall said. “We want to place a premium on driving the golf ball.”
Another change from 1988 is the playoff format. When each of the previous three U.S. Open championships were held at TCC, playoffs lasted 18 holes. Now they’re only two holes and if the players are still tied, the playoff extends into sudden death holes.
In 1913, amateur Francis Ouimet of Brookline defeated Britons Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in an 18-hole playoff at TCC.
In 1963, Julius Boros defeated Jacky Cupit and Arnold Palmer in an 18-hole playoff in the U.S. Open at TCC.
In 1988, Curtis Strange defeated Nick Faldo in an 18-hole playoff.
On the web: USOpen.com