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By Design

At Chambers Bay that didn’t come

from mechanical damage so much

as from the wear and tear under foot

from 35,000+ plus rounds, much of

it in winter time when locals took

advantage of favorable rates. The

wear and tear was compounded by

caddies—an additional two-to-four

pairs of footsteps per foursome for

the 10 percent of rounds where

players opted for bag toters. There

was the additional burden of

approach and exit patterns around

some greens that tended on occasion

to funnel traffic through narrow

passages—whether in defile-like

form, through the 10th hole, or on

some greens where the only path

to the next tee was made narrow by

steep falloffs to each side. Between

traffic and weather, the result was

some discernible decline in turf

conditions heading into the spring.

Soon after opening, it was clear that

high-impact areas would need some

reworking. A few areas had to be

massaged and green exits expanded.

But the major course edits would

await the 2010 U.S. Amateur, when

USGA officials would see how the

course played under championship

conditions—a prelude to the U.S.

Open five years later.

August isn’t June, and parched

conditions of the U.S. Amateur

(August) are far more severe in

firmness and speed than the

likely conditions of a U.S. Open

(June). But it was clear from play

on Chambers Bay during the 2010

Amateur that a few slopes had

to be reworked. On a golf course

that played extreme in its nearly

dormant, dry, pinball wizard speed

conditions, approach shots onto the

first green were running off the left

side and tumbling way away. And

some shots hit to the uphill, seventh

green (or back onto it from behind)

were literally running down off the

front and winding 100-150 yards

away. More areas for spectator traffic

would also be needed on course.

Davis, with an eye towards the U.S.

Open, was intent upon creating an

almost unparalleled degree of set

up flexibility.

New teeing grounds on the first

and 18th holes would allow these

holes, running side-by-side in

opposite directions, to be set up

variously as a par-4 or as a par-5 on

alternate days. The downhill par-3

15th hole got teeing grounds that

enabled it to play from 123-to-246

yards. A new way-back tee on the

downhill par-4 14th hole would

enable it to play 546 yards—and

from the highest point on the golf

course looking out onto Puget

Sound. And if the wind, prevailing

out of the southwest, should prove

too much for the 224-yard, par-

3 ninth hole on a tee shot that

dropped 100-feet to the green,

Davis wanted the flexibility to play

from an alternate platform aligned

90-degrees to the east that would be

both more reasonable for play and

more accessible to spectators.

Most of the this work, undertaken

in 2012-13, was the kind of tweaking

that is standard in the run-up to

any U.S. Open—though the degree

of set-up flexibility it facilitated

was more than usual. Along the

way, USGA officials, working with

KemperSports and Pierce County

officials, also wanted to guarantee

better turf quality, and that required


A crucial determination was to go with

links-style fescue

grasses that would

emulate a traditional seaside layout