Lessons From Chambers Bay: What the USGA Got Right

June 25, 2015

Exactly one year after the Pinehurst U.S. Open polarized players and fans with its baked-out, crispy-edged course, we experienced another installment in the “Is Brown Beautiful?” debate. The 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay was contested on a fine fescue grass course. This is the same grass used on all of the classic Scottish and English British Open links. With a lack of moisture and plenty of sun, it turns brown.

The outcry on Twitter tells the story: Players abhor the inconsistency and American spectators and TV viewers hate the color. Worse yet, the greens suffered from poa incursion (typical of greens along the West Coast of the U.S), which made them bumpy and splotchy. But I’m more disappointed in the reactions than in the results. I’m a fan of Mike Davis and the USGA. They have embraced the notion of firm-and-fast golf. It’s more interesting and more fun. They have engaged in taking our national championship to different regions, and to public courses. They have successfully integrated imaginative, thought-provoking course set-ups. I’m also a fan of the risk/reward strategies and contour and bunker craftsmanship that the Robert Trent Jones II team instilled in its design. But for better or worse we live in a high-definition world. Chambers Bay’s fescues had nowhere to hide.

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