Course Rater Confidential: What would scratch and bogey golfers shoot at Winged Foot?

A view of the 9th hole and clubhouse at Winged Foot.

A view of the 9th hole and clubhouse at Winged Foot, host of this week's U.S. Open.

Christian Hafer

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GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. The goal is not only to entertain you but also to give you a better understanding of how to understand and appreciate golf course architecture. You can see GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World ranking here, and meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.

Much has been said this week about the difficulty of Winged Foot Golf Club, although it’s a course that few lucky golfers actually get to play and see for themselves. Playing Winged Foot in its U.S. Open setup, what would a scratch golfer shoot? What about a bogey golfer?

Steve Lapper (panelist since 2009; has played 84 of the World Top 100): 85+. I caddied on and off here years ago and have played dozens of rounds after various championships. The club has dozens of scratch players and “great” scores made the day after usually started at 12 over or more. Bogey golfers would be well north of 110 — and that might be just for the front nine! Fairways here won’t be very wide, the rough infamously brutal, and the greens easily the most difficult either side of Oakmont. Unlike the usual rain-soaked softer surfaces found in the early summer, the greens in September will play far firmer (think the recent travails at Olympia Fields). Today’s Winged Foot has new SubAir systems and expanded greens, yielding freshly found pin placements that will probably flummox the pros, let alone any scratch amateurs. I’ll gladly take the “over” vs. my colleagues here.

A golfer's scorecard.

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Michael Pelliccione (panelist since 2020; has played 60 of the World Top 100): Under current U.S. Open conditions I would say the ideal score would be 79 or nine over for a scratch player. With only two par-5s on the card and each playing 565 and 633 yards, the birdie opportunities are just not there. Given the length of some of the par-4s, the lack of scoring clubs would wear on any skill player and bogeys would just start to mount up. It’s safe to say the bogey golfer would never leave the grill room. (But would you blame them? It’s one of the best in the country.)

Jeff Lewis (long-time panelist; has played 97 of World Top 100): Probably shooting 80 would be terrific for a scratch player. There must be a way to infer a slope and rating for the West Course in a U.S. Open setup from the historical scores. My guess is that the “normal” 76 course rating from the back tees is probably up to 78-80 with the fairways narrow and the rough so thick. If the slope were 155 and the rating 79, then a 15 index golfer would maintain his handicap by shooting 99. Seems about right.

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