PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The U.S. Golf Association will announce Wednesday that the 2017 U.S. Open has been awarded to Erin Hills Golf Course in Wisconsin.
Erin Hills, located 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, has been wrestling with Cog Hill Golf Club, south of Chicago, to become the USGA’s designated Chicagoland U.S. Open site (everybody knows Milwaukee is just 90 miles from Chicago, right?).
The 2003 U.S. Open was played at Olympia Fields Country Club, not far from Cog Hill, but Olympia Fields fell from grace after a series of financial and governmental disputes drove a wedge between the club and the USGA.
USGA officials are not talking on the record about 2017, but a firm decision was made in April and the answer is (envelope please): Erin Hills.
This layout is a pure public golf facility. Its selection continues a major trend in U.S. Open site selections – grandiose public courses and world-class resorts, all of them open to the public, have become a significant portion of the U.S. Open rotation.
In the four-year period from 2014 through 2017, the U.S. Open will be played on three courses available to the public: Pinehurst Resort in 2014, Chambers Bay Golf Club (Tacoma, Wash.) in 2015 and Erin Hills in 2017.
Until the U.S. Open first came to Pebble Beach in 1972, public courses had about as much chance of landing the U.S. Open as you and I do of playing in it. But circumstances changed, and the golf landscape changed, and the USGA was forced to change along with all this.
There was a widespread clamor for public-course involvement in major-championship golf, enabling two municipal courses, Bethpage Black in New York and Torrey Pines South near San Diego, to attract the U.S. Open.
At the same time, the golf course competition between the USGA and PGA of America intensified. The PGA Championship effectively stole Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago from the USGA rotation, and then the PGA promised the moon to the new Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin.
This put the USGA in an awkward (not to mention a Chicagoless) position. So the USGA applied its version of a full-court press on Erin Hills.
Some observers are hoping that Erin Hills becomes a can’t-live-without-you U.S. Open site. Right now, that designation belongs to Pebble Beach Golf Links, clearly the premier U.S. Open host, and perhaps the fan-friendly Pinehurst Resort.
Some of us have witnessed four U.S. Opens here – 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2000 – and yet the experience feels just as emotional now as it did 38 years ago. Pebble Beach does not grow old.
It may take four USGA men in blue jackets to change a light bulb (three to argue whether it twists left-to-right or right-to-left, and one more to make the final decision), but the USGA seemed to sense right away that Pebble Beach would become its No. 1 U.S. Open site.
Can Erin Hills achieve this same special affection? Don’t bet against it. In this brave new world of American golf, courses such as Erin Hills are redefining the “public” in “public golf.”