It was Christmas in August for Mike Davis. A dry-run on a just-out-of-the-box golf course and the U.S. Golf Association’s executive director could not have imagined a better soft opening.
“It’s just played beautifully this week,” Davis said of Erin Hills and last week’s U.S. Amateur. “For a course this new you would think something wouldn’t be just quite right, but it’s really been a great week.”
The U.S. Amateur was a prologue for the 2017 U.S. Open which will be played on the Wisconsin layout that opened in 2006. Among some of the surprises that surfaced last week, at least for the general public if not Davis, was the misconception that the course was little more than a sprawling behemoth.
Despite a card that measured 7,760 yards, Erin Hills matched the championship’s lowest stroke-play qualifying total for a medalist (10 under) and played surprisingly short.
“Erin Hills is not about length at all,” Davis said. “But with the fescue (on the fairway) and the tees we used it really wasn’t about the length.”
Before the ’17 Open Davis said the USGA will look into adjusting a few fairway lines and the organization will likely suggest a few new “intermediate” tee boxes that will allow for more set-up flexibility.
For example, Erin Hills’ 15th hole measured just 252 yards for Sunday’s final match between eventual champion Kelly Kraft and Patrick Cantlay, which is more than 100 yards shorter than it was listed on the scorecard. The 17th hole, however, played shorter than expected from the back tee, largely because of a helping wind most of the week, and will probably require a new tee for the ’17 Open.
“(No. 17) was 509 yards (par 4) and just wasn’t long enough,” Davis said. “We could go back well over 8,000 (yards), and that’s nice looking at each hole individually.”