Monday was U.S. Open Media Day at the Pinehurst Resort, where both the 2014 men's and women's U.S. Opens will be played on the famed No. 2 Course in back-to-back weeks this summer.
The No. 2 Course, long regarded as one of America's finest courses and one of the most respected layouts ever designed by the pre-eminent course architect Donald Ross, is the centerpiece of one of the world's great golf resorts. It also offers some extra intrigue in that it recently underwent a yearlong renovation by two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and his course architecture partner Bill Coore.
The point of the makeover was to bring the venerable course closer to its original shape and condition, and the reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. But in doing so, Crenshaw and Coore removed much of the rough – which, as we all know, is traditionally one of the most prominent features of U.S. Open venues. And that is quite alright with the USGA.
So, for the back-to-back Opens, wayward shots that normally would end up in the rough might instead land in sandy hardpan, wiregrass or even on what USGA Executive Director Mike Davis calls "natural vegetation."
"Will it be easier?" Davis asked on Monday. "Probably a little bit easier, but I suppose there's an element of luck involved."
Meanwhile, across the country up in Washington state, The Seattle Times ran a long feature on how the USGA awarded next year's men's U.S. Open to Chambers Bay, a new public course built on the site of a sewage-treatment plant and gravel and sand mine that operated hundreds of feet below the surface.
"The golfing world was stunned in 2008," when the USGA named Chambers Bay as the host of the 2015 U.S. Open," Scott Hanson wrote in the newspaper. "No course built in the previous 45 years had hosted an Open, yet Chambers Bay was picked after being open for about eight months."
Allen goes on to tell the story of John Ladenburg, the head of Pierce County, who in 2001 began dreaming of creating a world-class course at the Chambers Bay site, which despite its problems also had stunning views of Puget Sound – and plenty of land for a golf course architect to work his magic. That architect turned out to be Robert Trent Jones Jr., who despite his pedigree had never created a course that had hosted a U.S. Open.
Ladenburg essentially gave Jones a blank check, and every detail of the Chambers Bay layout was designed with attracting a U.S. Open in mind. The project ended up costing a whopping $20 million, Allen explained, and the end result was a course that those involved believe can stand against the grand links courses of Great Britain.
Even so, landing a U.S. Open is an incredibly difficult task, and Allen recounts the many steps that Ladenburg took to make his case – and how one stroke of luck gave him the opportunity he so desperately sought to host a U.S. Open that will be in many ways a polar opposite to the big event at Pinehurst this summer.