UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Until Chambers Bay morphed from an everyday public course into championship conditions, Mike Davis didn’t know what to expect.
Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s director of rules and competition and responsible for developing the setup used at the U.S. Open, had some preconceived ideas of how Chambers Bay would play during the U.S. Amateur that ended on Sunday.
And after a week of watching the best amateur golfers in the world try and solve the hard fairways and sloping greens of the links course, Davis came away excited for what awaits five years from now when Chambers Bay hosts the U.S. Open.
“It’s very fun to set it up,” Davis said.
Fun seemed to be the overwhelming word players and officials used to describe the way Chambers Bay played during the Amateur, won by Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein. Shot making was at a premium, as was imagination, taking away the idea of shooting right at pins or playing the hole exactly as it appeared.
Uihlein had a perfect example in Sunday’s final against David Chung. Knowing his downhill putt on the drivable par-4 12th hole had no chance of stopping near the hole, Uihlein rolled his putt past the hole, up a slope and watched it inch back toward the cup, settling just a couple of feet away.
“You can’t really get close to the flags by hitting them at the flag. You’ve got to use the slopes and be creative,” Uihlein said. “You’ve got to hit every shot with a certain spin and height. You’ve really got to control your ball.”
Chambers Bay was awarded the Amateur and the 2015 Open within a year of the course first opening. It’s unique fescue grass, large footprint and setting on the shores of Puget Sound was the setting the USGA had been hoping to find to finally bring it’s national championship to the Pacific Northwest for the first time.
That meant the Amateur was a dress rehearsal for five years from now. The discoveries last week were plentiful.
For example, Davis learned that even with hard, brown fairways and greens, the grass at Chambers still needed sufficient water. During the stroke play portion of the Amateur, the firmness of the golf course got out of hand, Davis said.
The discovery: because of its sandy base, the golf course needed adequate water six, 12, 18 inches below the surface to maintain a level of fairness for players.
“There were some things that we did anticipate we thought might work really well. We had some questions about some things and there were some things that being very candid, we never had an idea, nor did the architects or any of the Chambers Bay people,” Davis said.
Davis said there will be plenty of adjustments to the golf course by the time it’s next in tournament conditions five years from now. Some fairways will be narrowed, others will be widened, and even others will be moved one direction or another. One major benefit for the USGA staff was seeing various weather conditions during the week and seeing winds blowing from three different directions.
Outside the ropes, there are issues with spectator transportation, crowd flow and fans climbing on the steep and slippery dunes around the course to be addressed.
“I think we’ll spend the next few years trying to get that right because this was a dry run,” said the USGA’s Tom O’Toole. “That’s why we came here. … A lot of notes this week (and) it will really help us in preparation for ’15.”