Shackelford: Golf will look very different when U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach

pebble beach Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Shackelford: Golf will look very different when U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach

USGA

Shackelford: Golf will look very different when U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – When the 2027 U.S. Open returns to America’s St. Andrews, it will showcase a dramatically different game just eight years after Pebble Beach last hosted. How different? Here are just some of the changes you can (maybe) expect.

Will anyone put a driver in their bag?

This year’s pre-tournament buzz centered around how many holes would require driver. But as a new wave of 5-9, 150-pound super jocks continue to overtake pro golf and the governing bodies cave to their marketing departments instead of regulating distance, players in the 2027 U.S. Open ponder whether to add a sixth wedge to their bag over carrying the big stick. Just days before the event and citing pressure on their business model, equipment manufacturers successfully lobby the USGA for a local rule mandating players carry at least one of their drivers, now priced at $750. But 58-year-old Phil Mickelson, playing on a special exemption, bucks the trend and carries three drivers.

Team boxes, on course

Just as with professional tennis, the increased presence of wives, partners, agents, physios, parents and life coaches means more than just waiting at the scoring trailer to provide emotional support.  On the recommendation of new senior player relations director Bubba Watson, contestants can designate up to five team members who walk inside the ropes and absorb looks of frustration after lip outs or havoc-wreaking gusts of wind. The rules of golf will add new clauses that OK in-round emotional support from wives, partners, parents and agents. New USGA broadcast partner Amazon agrees to add extra cameras devoted to these moving team boxes.

Hole location sheets optional

With Pebble Beach’s greens continuing to shrink and just 2,000 square feet on average by 2027, the USGA course setup team only has to move holes a few feet either way each day. In continuing with their sustainability efforts, they require players to request printed hole locations sheets.

Mike Davis returns to setup duties

Just eight years after pining for the U.S. Open setups of old after a series of miscues, players face one too many par-protecting, hack-out rough snooze-fest U.S. Opens. This leads players to speak out about too many silly setups. They demand a return to the days of CEO Mike Davis offering graduated rough, drivable par-4s and an emphasis on brains-over-brawn.

Par 70

Pebble Beach’s magnificent and underrated 6th hole is reduced by Davis to a par-4 after players have picked up another 15 yards off the tee since 2019. Averaging 4.6 in 2019 and yielding 18 eagles, the USGA takes its chance to finally bring Pebble Beach in line with most other U.S. Open venues playing to par-70.

The 18th green will be 50 yards from where it is now.

Don’t you dare think the Pebble Beach Company paid $28 million for 1498 Cypress Drive in 2018 to have backyard barbecues for U.S. Open interns, as was the case leading up to the 2019 tournament. No, this purchase will give them the chance to move antiquated Lodge buildings back 60 yards or so and then extend the 18th to keep the iconic hole as golf’s last legitimate three-shotter. The Coastal Commission will drag out approval, but the Jim Nantz-designed green opens just weeks before the 2027 U.S. Open.

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