U.S. Open is making history with rookie course Erin Hills

By Eric Schmoldt
Published on
U.S. Open is making history with rookie course Erin Hills

ERIN, Wis. -- "If you build it, he will come."

That's the iconic line in the famous baseball movie "Field of Dreams," and one that, during the film, comes from a mysterious voice encouraging Kevin Costner to build a baseball field on his farm.

On Wednesday, in a former pasture 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, there was no such anonymity when it came to who was drawing on a similar message.

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Mike Davis, the Executive Director and CEO of the United States Golf Association, and several other dignitaries descended on Erin Hills as the group officially put the wheels in motion for next month's U.S. Open. It's the latest major golf championship to descend on Wisconsin and the first at the course which opened just over a decade ago.

"Erin Hills is an American original," Davis said Wednesday at the official preview day. "I've even heard it described as a build it and they will come, and you know what, it was built and we did come."

That the nation's championship will be decided at a golf course this young is newsworthy.

Oakmont Country Club, in Pennsylvania, was the site of last year's U.S. Open and has hosted the tournament nine times since 1927. Pinehurst in North Carolina hosted for the third time in 2014 and will do so again in 2024.

Shinnecock Hills will host for the fifth time next year and hosted for the first time in 1896. In 2019, the U.S. Open will head back to Pebble Beach for the sixth time.

Erin Hills, a public course nestled on 652 acres in the Kettle Moraine region and set to play at nearly 7,700 yards, was grazing land for the majority of the 116 previous U.S. Opens.

"If you look at our next 10 U.S. Open venues we're going to be going to, they are these historical, kind of tried-and-true sites that have these wonderful names associated with them," Davis said. "But we relish the idea of occasionally introducing a new golf course, because you think about it, there's no country in the world that has as many great golf courses as the United States, and we should celebrate that.

"So if a golf course has the infrastructure and if it's a good enough course architecturally and it can test, then let's welcome that, let's embrace it, and let's start creating history."

From course architects Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten to previous owner Bob Lang and current owner Andy Ziegler to the rest of the Erin Hills team, the goal from the course's construction in 2004 and its infancy stages was to host a major championship.

"Since the announcement seven years ago, our staff has worked tirelessly in cooperation with the USGA to present a true world-class heartland experience for the players, the spectators, the media, and the worldwide television audience who will be viewing the championship on FOX," said Jim Reinhart, general chairman for the 2017 U.S. Open.

Now the tournament is here. It'll take place June 15-19.

And no doubt the goal will be to get Erin Hills added to what is a prestigious list of recurring hosts.

"We said (in the early 2000s)--keep us posted in terms of if this gets built, we'll come back and visit again, and here we are today," Davis said. "It's really hard to believe that that did happen the way it did, but it all started with this great piece of property and somebody's vision, and here we are today.

"There's risk going to new venues because you just don't know how they're going to come out, but we're excited about this one."

Erin Hills was built. The U.S. Open came.

Now it's almost time to tee up and showcase Wisconsin's newest major championship venue.

This article is written by Eric Schmoldt from The Janesville Gazette, Wis. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to