PGA – CHAMBERS BAY: IS THE EXPERIMENT BACKFIRING?

It’s been widely reported in the weeks leading up to this year’s US Open that many players have publicly complained about the golf course chosen for this, our 115th national championship.

Dubbed “Chambers Bay”, it is an 8-yr old public man-made links style golf course founded on a former gravel quarry on the Puget Sound in Washington State.

Before play even started, there seemed to be trepidation that stemmed from the relatively unknown experience the course was going to dish out, because the US Open has never been played on a links course like this.

But, even more so, players had voiced their concern about the course’s unusual terrain.  Some of the characteristics include: fescue grass, tees that meander, sundry elevations, stratospheric sand dunes, massive fairways, and particularly, the undulating greens and their fast speed.

The feedback from Day 1 has been mixed, but at least one player, Sergio Garcia, voiced his grievances on Twitter last night: “I think a championship of the caliber of @usopengolf deserves better quality greens surfaces this week but maybe I’m wrong!”  He later said, “If my problem is saying what everyone thinks but they don’t have the guts to say it, then I’m guilty of that for sure.”

Other players like Rory McIlroy and Colin Montgomerie also took issue with the greens saying: “They are not the best that I’ve ever putted on” and they were “very poor”.

The players’ opinions aside, I must admit that I am a bit ornery about Chambers Bay, too.

As a huge golf fan, I was very much anticipating how different and interesting the course was going to be after all the buzz.

But, yesterday, I was left thinking one thing: Chambers Bay is ugly.

The fescue is mostly a brownish yellow and looks like concrete on some of the playing surfaces.  The rough looks like someone sprayed a swath of weed killer over perfectly good long grass.

At times, it felt to me that the players were golfing on the surface of the moon.  Or, on a land fill.

The train going through the background was weird, too.  I understand that trains are a common occurrence on links courses in Europe, but it makes the brown ugly fescue at Chambers Bay feel even more homely and blue collar.

Another feeling I got about the course was that it seemed a little forced and out of place in the lush, green landscape on the Puget Sound. It doesn’t feel natural to me like the links courses in Europe.

If I’m this unnerved by Chambers Bay from my living room, I can’t even imagine how the disgruntled players must feel about playing on it.

And, while I do appreciate that Mike Davis, USGA’s executive director, wanted to test the players and the PGA’s intent was to mix up the system by playing at a links course, I fear this experiment is backfiring.

I’m concerned that if I am just one fan who is turned off about the look of the course almost as much as the players seem to dislike playing on it, all this controversy is distracting from the legacy of the tournament.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently as a viewer at the end of the weekend and, ultimately come to some understanding about why the USGA went to Chambers Bay for a major championship.

But, so far, not so much.

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