The US Open is now upon us and this year we travel to Wisconsin which is home to Erin Hills golf course – here is a guide on what you can expect.
The US Open is supposed to be the toughest challenge in golf.
Last year Oakmont hosted the tournament. Greens the size of postage stamps characterised the Pennsylvania track and Dustin Johnson was the winner at four-under-par – the cut was set at six-over-par.
In 2015, Chambers Bay was the venue. Under normal circumstances it’s an extremely playable course but the USGA controversially dried the course out and set it up in a manner that made scoring extremely tough.
Jordan Spieth won that year at five-under-par but the event drew plenty of negative attention for what many players felt were ridiculous playing conditions.
Erin Hills will serve as the theatre for all the drama in 2017. Below is some insight into the course.
The construction of this par-72 course began in 2004 and it officially opened in 2006. But the 18 holes you will see this week will be very different to the 18 holes that were present back in 2006.
For such a young course, Erin Hills has plenty of history. Robert Lang was the original owner and his dream to host a US Open saw him constantly changing the design of the course before eventually being forced to sell it due to financial difficulties.
In 2009, investment manager Andy Ziegler bought Erin Hills for $10.5 million and worked with the USGA to renovate the course and host the 2011 US Amateur.
Who cares if it’s new or old? This is relevant, practically the entire field will not have played this course in competition. It’s hard to know whose eye the course will suit and whose eye it will not.
The fescue is long
I expect the winning score this week to be far lower than it has been in previous US Opens. If you hit the ball straight at Erin Hills, there will be plenty of birdie opportunities out there (you can assume that the winner will be someone who has hit the ball straight).
However, those who are not able to find fairways will be punished severely. Erin Hills is different to most PGA courses. The fairways are protected by only a few metres of rough and then an enormous amount of incredibly thick fescue.
Any ball that goes in there will be tough to find. And then you have to worry about getting your club on the ball.
The winner will go low. Plenty of others will really struggle.
The course is long too
It’s a US Open course so it has the capability to play long. Measuring at 7,812 yards off the tips, the big hitters will fancy there chances (they do pretty much every week).
However, long and straight alone will not you get over the line.
The course takes pride in utilising the natural shapes of the land, so even balls hit down the middle of the fairway will make for tricky lies and stances that will need to be smartly and creatively overcome.
The wind can and probably will blow
Similar to Chambers Bay, Erin Hills needs the wind to blow to protect itself from the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
The players will hope the Wisconsin gusts stay clear but that’s unlikely to happen as June is typically a windy time in Erin.
To make matters worse, there are only a handful of trees out there so when mother nature tells the air to move the players will know all about it.
It will be perfect in condition
Dissimilar to Chambers Bay two years ago, Erin Hills will be in sublime condition this week.
The USGA seem to believe that the course has enough natural challenges and that they do no have to make it play ridiculously quickly and so dry it out.
Ziegler opted to close the course in October of last year to give his team eight months to prepare for golf’s biggest tournament. Yes, eight months!
Ziegler also has not allowed carts on the course since 2010 to ensure that the grass is not damaged and so there will not be any big bounces off paths as there are none.