ERIN, Wis. – How strange is Erin Hills? Just ask the team of marshals on the par-4 eighth hole.
The hole, which is 492 yards long. banana-hooks around a massive hill covered head to toe in deep fescue. During Tuesday’s practice round the hole played into a wind from the East, contrary to the prevailing wind, which would have entailed the hole playing downwind.
Players struggled to get over the hill onto the flat of the fairway, with drives either hooking hard left into fescue or drifting off way to the right as the headwind took hold.
It didn’t help that a gray-blue sky made it virtually impossible for marshals spotting from the fairway. So the team improvised. Give them credit. After all, they hail from Brown Deer Park Golf Course in Glendale, Wis., a municipal facility that’s part of the Milwaukee County system and was home to the PGA Tour’s U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, 1994-2009. So they know a thing or two about the pro game.
As explained by marshal Phillip Nero, the team expanded the normal signaling from the tee with yellow paddles that have long been a staple of tournament golf. They needed to account for the awkward ball flights. The standard system is two paddles in alignment up and down to signify straight down the middle, with the paddles tilted (in parallel formation) right or left as per ball flight. But with golf balls on this hole landing in the fairway and still bounding outwards into deep rough, the marshals developed a more nuanced signal.
Nero demonstrated by holding the yellow paddles at 90 degrees to form a right angle, then titled right or left to indicate the more sophisticated notice they gave the spotters up on the fairway. It seems to have helped give spotters notice to start looking along the sides of fairways for where the ball bounced.
By week’s end it might make the difference between a player finding and losing a golf ball on the hole.