BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – When Nick Carlson warmed up on the Oakland Hills range early Monday morning, he never even bothered to take the driver out of his bag.
He wasn’t allowed to hit it.
The practice facility here is so compact that players can’t hit a shot more than 240 yards or they risk blasting it off the property. That's why volunteers in baby-blue polo shirts stood high above the range, keeping an eye out for any violators.
At this level, under these conditions, most players can't hit driver, 3-wood or even a hybrid on the range.
Needless to say, it’s caused a bit of awkwardness as players prepare for the two qualifying rounds at the U.S. Amateur.
Essentially, they have three options:
• Swing easy with a driver and use one of the Srixon limited-flight balls that travel about 80 percent of the normal distance
• Stop before the round at Bloomfield Hills Country Club, which is about four miles away, and use that club’s range
• Or, like Carlson, just don’t practice with a driver
When asked how he hit the cold big stick during the opening round, Carlson said: “Great! Didn’t miss many fairways at all. Maybe I shouldn't warm up with it more often.”
The Michigan sophomore shot 3-under 67 Monday, the best morning score on the more difficult South Course.
David Boote added 25 minutes to his usual warmup time to make sure he got to and from Bloomfield Hills without any issues. (The USGA also offers a shuttle to the course.) Nathan Smith, a 38-year-old mid-amateur, used the weighted Momentus Power Hitter driver to warm up. “Just to get a feel,” he said.
When the PGA was last held here, in 2008, players warmed up across the street, on the first and 10th holes of the North Course. The USGA said that's an option this week for players who want to hit longer clubs, but it'd only be possible after the field is trimmed from 312 players to 64 after 36 holes.
“It’s a little weird,” said Franklin Huang, who went early to Bloomfield Hills, “but it’s not too bad.”