The US Golf Open returns to the Hamptons for the first time in 14 years, but as opposed to 2004, the USGA is hoping for a very different Open this time.
Over the past decade, Shinnecock Hills has undergone a transformation and renovation, with the course becoming more like it was in the 1931 rather than the Opens in 1986, 1995 and 2004.
“There’s just so many and when you get out here what’s so great about Shinnecock Hills and I think the thing, rather than talking about golf course setup today, let’s talk a little bit about the great job, and I do mean great job, that this club has done with restoration,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis. And so it really started the better part of 20 years ago, when the club began after the 1995 U.S. Open to really try to take it back to what (William)Flynn had designed when it opened in 1931.”
Gone are the trees and the rough is more open. The fairways were made wider and more room was added behind the greens. It’s going to make, the USGA hopes, a more strategic Open that many different golfers can use to their advantage.
And the lack of trees combined with the location on the South Fork also means there will be plenty more wind at the 2018 edition, which has to be taken into account.
“Another thing that’s different from the last three opens is we added some distance,” Davis said. There’s 10 new teeing grounds for this U.S. Open. So the new — if you look at the scorecard it will be 7,445 yards. Folks, we didn’t add distance just to add distance, what we really did, and we did it in concert with the club itself and also with some work with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, that architectural firm, is we really wanted to bring the shot value back to what Flynn had designed in the late 1920s.
“So we looked at each drive zone and said, what would it take to get the drive zone back into play. So I think we are excited because now all of a sudden some of the cross bunkers that are in play, some of the lateral bunkers that are in play or some of the shots, I mean take the second hole, it was always meant to be a long downwind par-3 that you can bounce the ball in. We now have that again.”
The USGA seems to be so pleased, it scheduled the 2026 Open at Shinnecock as well.
One additional change will also be technology. In 2004, the greens hardened dye to a shortage of water. With new technologies, that is less likely to happen this year, but no one can predict a drought.
“Well let me just try to explain in simple terms, what happened in 2004 was there simply wasn’t enough moisture in the greens,” Davis said. So grass is just like any other plant, at some point if it doesn’t have enough moisture, it begins to wilt. That’s exactly what happened in 2004 and I would say this that looking back on that, the course was prepared very much in the same manner each day, but if you’re prepping it in the same manner each day, you’re not going to get the same golf course every day because without rain it’s going to get faster and firmer each day that goes on.”
The Open begins at Shinnecock next mon on June 11 and ends on June 17.