How well will Chambers Bay Golf Club hold up to the young guns at the 2010 U.S. Amateur?
The days of reckoning have come for Chambers Bay Golf Club.
The celebrated Robert Trent Jones Jr. course, set on the shores of the Puget Sound near Tacoma, Wash., will host the 110th U.S. Amateur Aug. 23-29.
Many believe the Amateur is merely a dress rehearsal for the 2015 U.S. Open. The amateur is without a doubt an important tournament for the USGA, but more important for Chambers Bay and its staff is the ability to answer this question: Just how ready is Chambers Bay for championship golf?
Ever since I first visited Chambers Bay in May 2009, I’ve heard the same rumor repeatedly:
That the USGA was considering pulling the plug on the Open. Critics whispered to me that the course, albeit a visual stunner, just didn’t deserve to host our nation’s most prestigious event. The greens were too slow. The conditions hadn’t matured yet. The fourth hole, which has since been redesigned, was a mess. And without a permanent clubhouse, how could Chambers Bay truly make the world’s best players feel at home? It’s akin to playing the World Series in a stadium without a dugout.
And, as a municipal course run by the county, Chambers Bay has been a drain financially on the community’s tax dollars, costing $20 million to build and operating a budget in the red.
After visiting Chambers Bay last month - my third site visit in the last 18 months - I share almost none of these concerns. The greens, never designed to run faster than an 11 on the stimpmeter, were rolling nicely. The new driving range is expansive and will be a great place to hang out during U.S. Open week.
I got my first look at the new, more playable green complex on the fourth hole, a 568-yard par-5. It has been open to the general public just three days a week, allowing it additional grow-in time. (See the pictures above and below).
Building a permanent clubhouse still needs to be addressed within the next five years but shouldn’t be an issue for the amateur.
More than anything, I’m most curious about what kind of scores these college guys will shoot on a layout set up as a par 71 that can max out 7,742 yards, the longest course in USGA history. (The first two rounds will also be held on the nearby Home Course, a 7,309-yard course in Dupont.)
I expect to see an equal distribution of birdies and doubles. Plans call for the par on holes No. 1 and 18 to be alternated on certain days of match play.
Chambers Bay plays fair with wide open corridors (at least one fairway measures 105 yards wide), but fescue grasses as long as 18 inches and deep bunkers more like moon craters will cause havoc on a scorecard. The rough will be cut at roughly 3 to 4.5 inches.
If nothing else, Chambers Bay will be HD eye-candy at its finest. The combination of the water, the shaped dunes and the train tracks running along the beach will leave viewers dreaming of the day they can play one of America’s most unique links-style courses. The Golf Channel will air match play from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 25-26 and 1-3 p.m. Aug. 27 with NBC running the final matches from 4-6 p.m. Aug. 28-29.
I know I’ll be watching.
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