2004: New Winged Foot takes flight at U.S. Amateur

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Winged Foot Golf Club, the site of nine U.S. Golf Association events and the 1997 PGA Championship, will unveil numerous renovations next week when it plays host to the U.S. Amateur.

During the past two years, the East and West courses at Winged Foot have undergone $5 million in renovations that included a new irrigation system, the removal of thousands of trees and extensive course renovations under the direction of architect Tom Fazio. Among the renovations were the creation of new tees to lengthen both courses, along with the installation of new fairway bunkers and the reshaping of others.

The most noticeable change will be the length.

The West course played host to the 1929, 1959, 1974 and 1984 U.S. Opens, the 1940 U.S. Amateur, the 1949 Walker Cup matches and the 1997 PGA. The West course will hold medal qualifying and match play for this year’s Amateur.

The East course, which played host to the 1957 and 1972 U.S. Women’s Opens, and the 1980 inaugural U.S. Senior Open, also will hold medal qualifying for the Amateur.

Both courses, normally par 72 for the members, will play to pars of 70 for the Amateur.

The East course, which was set at 6,619 yards with a par of 71 for the Senior Open, has been stretched to 6,760 yards for the Amateur. The West course has been extended from 6,987 in the ’97 PGA to 7,255 yards for the Amateur.

“Our goal was to recover the integrity of the courses as originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast by adjusting them for modern players and today’s equipment advances,” said Bill Rose, U.S. Amateur chairman and a member of Winged Foot.

During the Amateur Aug. 16-22, the USGA and Fazio will study shots and play on the course, with an eye to making further changes for the 2006 U.S. Open.

“The Amateur this year will serve as a great barometer for 2006,” said Tim Moraghan, USGA director of championships agronomy. “With narrow fairways, greens at speeds of 11 to 111⁄2, and 4-5 inches of rough, along with the added length, Winged Foot is going to really have some teeth now.”

Which is saying something, considering that the 1974 U.S. Open that Hale Irwin won at 7-over-par 287 often is referred to as “The Massacre at Winged Foot.”

The most notable lengthening on the West course is undoubtedly the 12th hole, which gained 100 yards, from 540 in the ’97 PGA to 640 for the Amateur and 2006 Open.

“They’ve made it the par-5 golf hole as originally envisioned,” said Moraghan. “It had become an easy layup off the tee (to go for the green in 2). Now it will be a real driving hole.”

Also gaining length via new tee boxes on the West course are the eighth and ninth holes, stretched from 442 and 467 yards, respectively, to 476 and 509, both playing as par 4s.

“With these changes, we think Winged Foot will stand up very well to the best players in golf,” said USGA president Fred Ridley.

– Chuck Stogel

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