Here’s what to expect from Pebble Beach at the U.S. Women’s Open
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — This week, the U.S. Women’s Open heads to Pebble Beach.
Most golf fans are familiar with the iconic course that lines the Pacific. As the annual host of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, along with hosting several majors and U.S. Amateurs, it’s a course that is synonymous with the game itself. But while the course has staged countless iconic tournaments, it’s never played host to the best players in the world on the women’s side.
That changes this week as 156 competitors head to the west coast in hopes of hoisting the Harton S. Semple trophy.
Ahead of this ground-breaking championship, GOLF.com caught up with USGA Senior Director of Championships Shannon Rouillard to get an idea of what to expect from the course as it hosts the U.S. Women’s Open.
Ed. note: This interview was conducted May 2 at U.S. Women’s Open preview day at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Zephyr Melton: Obviously we’ve seen Pebble Beach host many tournaments — including the U.S. Open — but we’ve never seen it host a U.S. Women’s Open. What can we expect from a course setup perspective that is different for the ladies?
Shannon Rouillard: Well, you’re going to see a lot of things that are similar. Obviously, what’s going to be different is the yardage — that’s probably the biggest difference. We can’t expect the women to play the distance that the men do. But a lot of similarities are going to be in their fairway widths. We’re looking to present bunker eyelashes like we did [at the 2019 U.S. Open] as well as mowing fairways into select bunkers. We think it’s important to present a similar, scalable golf course as we have traditionally done in the past.
ZM: With the women playing a little bit different game than what the men play, with differences in power being chief among them, how does that present opportunities to set up the course in different ways?
SR: The length is the biggest factor. Like I said, there are so many similarities in how we are looking to present the golf course. But I do want to make it clear that it’s not the exact same setup as for the men. The fairway widths are not identical. While there are a handful that are the same as in 2019, there’s still plenty that are not the same. Again, it’s all about having a thoughtful approach to the women’s game and where they’re hitting it in the fairway. We want to make sure we are presenting a task that requires accuracy off the tee, and precision in their shot-making on their approach shots. So, those are really the things we take pride in being thoughtful about in thinking about years in advance.
ZM: How many times do you play the course in preparation for this setup task?
SR: I try to play each course that I set up once. It sometimes will be twice, but I do like to get a feel for the course. But my game is not what these gals’ games are. I have played in a U.S. Women’s Open, way back in 1999 at Old Waverly Golf Club, but my game is no longer there anymore. What I do have going for me is that I was a competitive golfer for a long time, so I feel like I have a good idea of what it takes to compete mentally at a very high level.
ZM: Will the rough be graduated? At LACC we did not see an intermediate cut — will there be a similar look here?
SR: There will be. An intermediate cut, a primary cut and a secondary cut.
ZM: Do you have an idea on the lengths on that?
SR: We do, but there is a process for that which revolves around the weather. But we are looking to have the intermediate cut at about 1.5 inches. Currently for primary we are looking at 2.75 inches and then the secondary cut will be 3.75 inches.
ZM: What’s your favorite hole at Pebble?
SR: Well, I don’t want to say the logical ones. (laughs) I think the 13th hole is a pretty cool hole. The reverse-L bunker that the players have to carry over to hit that fairway. That green is a very challenging one as well. Not to mention how small all of these greens are. I’ve said it a number of times, but as we know, these greens are so tiny and they look so much different from the fairway than they do when you get on them. There’s so much slope and character to these greens. While they look a lot flatter from the fairway.
I’ve learned that there are so many players that have never played this golf course, it’s been very surprising. Given the historic site that this is, I think that’s something players will have to get over. It may be a little overwhelming when they play it the first time. Just recognizing what an iconic course Pebble Beach is. It might be tough for them to shift gears from admiring the course to getting down to business and focusing preparing to win a golf tournament.
ZM: Final question, what are you most excited about for this site?
SR: It’s the beginning of a new era for the USGA and for women’s golf in general. We now have a long-term relationship in front of us with Pebble Beach, and the fact that there are going to be young girls watching on TV and here on site and have that opportunity to dream about playing in a future U.S. Women’s Open is really exciting to be a part of. The future is very bright for women’s golf.