ERIN, Wis. – Mike Davis is smitten.
The U.S. Golf Association’s executive director loves Erin Hills, and what he saw here in two rounds of stroke-play qualifying at the U.S. Amateur only strengthened his affection.
“I think it is going to go down as one of the great championship tests in the United States,” Davis said. “I start to go hole by hole, and I compare this to some of the great U.S. Open sites, like Shinnecock, like Pebble Beach, like Oakmont. This stands up with all of them. I really believe that.”
The U.S. Open will be played at Erin Hills in 2017.
The golf course is only 6 years old.
“The place is a grand slam,” Davis said. “When we are all long gone, they’re going to be playing big championships on this course. It’s just marvelous.”
While some of the amateurs have thrived so far on Erin Hills, posting a bunch of rounds in the 60s with the greens soft, Davis said he’s not concerned that the low scoring shows Erin Hills could play too easy for a U.S. Open, despite its prodigious length, the longest layout in USGA history at 7,760 yards.
“My concern for the U.S. Open is it gets too tough,” Davis said. “This course is so easy to get difficult. This is a course we could set up where 15 over par wins. I’m not kidding you. You could get it so hard.”
Davis said with its sandy base and drainage, Erin Hills is easy to firm up and create fast fairways and greens. Plus, he said the wind is such a large factor here.
“It’s exposed, it’s windy and the ball can be bouncing everywhere,” Davis said.
Length isn’t Erin Hills’ primary defense or challenge.
“Some of the people who just don’t know what they’re talking about look at the 7,700 yards and say, ‘Hey, USGA, I thought you were saying the golf ball is not going any further?' Well, do your math. It would be about 7,300 yards if it were a par 70, and nobody would be saying anything.
“The other thing is the ball does run on these fairways. We are not playing poa annua or bent fairways. They’re fescue and the ball bounces. If anybody is saying this course is overly long, I would be surprised. Length is not the issue here. It’s the firmness, it’s the wind, it’s the rolling in the fairways, that’s the challenge areas of this.”
Davis said he sees a number of tweaks to make it a better test for the U.S. Open, though nothing major. They mostly involve creating some new tees that alter the angle of tee shots, creating more risk-reward and requiring more thought on where to drive the ball.