Wisconsin's U.S. Open lock Erin Hills a better overall golf destination than 2015 U.S. Open host wonder Chambers Bay
Chambers Bay and Erin Hills have something of a natural rivalry - even though they are more than 1,700 miles apart. They are the United States Golf Association’s beloved babies, two public courses that burst onto the scene in the last few years, deemed to be championship material even before Average Joe Public ever hit a tee shot on either.
Chambers Bay already has been awarded the 2015 U.S. Open and Erin Hills is considered such a lock to get the 2017 U.S. Open that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in even Vegas who would provide odds against that. No matter how many times Erin Hills owner Bob Lang says that’s up to the USGA and Erin Hills is just honored to be considered.
USGA Senior Director of Rules and Competitions Mike Davis - the man whose brilliant course setup at Torrey Pines helped produce the greatest U.S. Open ever - loves both Chambers and Erin and has done his best to eliminate any rivalry. Regardless, it still exists.
Having now experienced both Chambers Bay and Erin Hills, it’s time to compare. Nothing can come close to Chambers Bay’s arrival scene, to pulling up to that clubhouse on the big hill and looking down at the course rolling out toward the striking blue water of Puget Sound. Chambers Bay is a TV executive’s wet dream.
And I enjoyed the Chambers Bay course itself a little more than my round at Erin Hills (though I had postcard perfect blue sky weather at Chambers and a gray, drab links type of day at Erin, which might account for some of the difference in feeling). Not all, but some. There’s just something about shooting toward the water and because of its geography in the middle of Wisconsin, Erin Hills will never be able to match that particular Chambers’ wow factor.
Still, with that said, Erin Hills is undoubtedly the better overall golf destination.
It can be a getaway just of its own, one of those trips with the buddies that you’ll never forget. You can literally stay in Erin Hills’ clubhouse, with eight rooms upstairs in a wood building that’s the best approximation of a little Irish pub and inn you’ll see in the U.S. It’s like being out on a remote farm with nothing to think about except golf - only it’s 40 minutes drive from downtown Milwaukee. You’ll love playing Chambers Bay, but Erin Hills delivers the play and the better adventure.
It’s a near Bandon Dunes retreat experience - without having to drive hours to the middle of nowhere. It only feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere.
At Chambers, you’ll just talk about the course. At Erin Hills, you’ll talk about the course and everything else.
Another thing that gives Erin Hills a big advantage in terms of an overall golf trip is the quality of the courses within range of it. Brown Deer Golf Club - the old Milwaukee muni that hosts the PGA Tour every year - surprised me with how fun it was to play. And Whistling Straits is close enough to Erin Hills to gorge on great Wisconsin golf in one longer trip.
The Seattle/Tacoma area is a fine enough place to visit and the course has set up stay and play packages with a boutique hotel in Tacoma to try and add a destination feel, but there simply aren’t any other golf courses in the region close to being in Chambers Bay’s league.
For much more on Wisconsin golf - including plenty on Erin Hills and its USGA tweaking, which starts tomorrow - stay tuned to the new enhanced and revamped WisconsinGolf.com over the next several weeks. For my full review of Chambers Bay, the course that delivers more theater than any other, click here.
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As long as you're not in one of your pure hostel moods, Tuck, you'd love it. Look for a story on the accomodations too soon at WisconsinGolf.com.
As for you HuntGroup, what is it with so many of my fellow Americans (BTuck is another exception there) despising blind shots so much? They're a fun, strategic part of the game.
For more on that, you'll get a future blog.
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