Golf Course WebsitesGolfRevText Golfer

USGA Excited About Chambers Bay


At the end of the 110th U.S. Amateur, where Peter Uihlein beat David Chung on Sunday 4 & 2, officials of the host organization gathered to discuss the championship - and the golf course - Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., which will next host the 2015 U.S. Open.

The course, which can be played despite - and because of - limited irrigation use due to its fescue turf, was a wondrous sight on national television. Situated along panoramic Puget Sound near Tacoma, Chambers Bay looked like a sprawling links in Ireland or Scotland, unusual for a course hosting an American championship of such magnitude.

In a "Monday morning" quarterback session Sunday night, the folks from the USGA who set up the course rehashed what went on the past week. Here are their evaluations.

MODERATOR: I'd like to introduce Jim Hyler, USGA president, Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competition, and Tom O'Toole, chairman of the championships committee.

Q. Can you talk about Chambers Bay this week and looking forward to 2015 what kind of changes you might be looking at?

JIM HYLER: I'll give you a comment, and Mike and Tom can chat in. I think you can get fescue very firm and fast. And we're thrilled with the golf course, like Mike was very open on Monday that we got a little too firm Monday afternoon and we put water down. We put a lot of water down throughout the week. But we learned a lot about the agronomics of the fescue and how it worked. It will obviously be different in June, but just high level comment. We really enjoyed being here and thought the golf course worked really well.

MIKE DAVIS: Well, I think the big thing we learned was just seeing Chambers Bay set up in championship condition when it was firm and fast. Obviously, everybody knows it's a new golf course. It's never been in this kind of condition before, so you anticipate some things about how each hole's going to play. But until you actually see it set up in this fashion and then see this type of player, this elite player play under these conditions, you don't really know how it's going to play.

So I think there were some things that we did anticipate we thought might work really well. We had some questions about some things and there were some things that being very candid, we never had an idea, nor did the architects or any of the Chambers Bay people. But as an example, we had no idea the first green would run the areas just short of that as fast as it did. And it's, again, something that you just couldn't see before you had it set up that way, and probably ran a little more than the architects and certainly more than we intended, so you learn about that.

I think we really learned for 2015 what tees work with what hole locations, what the perfect green speed is here with Chambers, what the course plays like with the south wind, what it plays with the west wind, what it plays as a north wind. And then I think water management was the hardest thing for us this week, without a doubt. And this is something that at least in my time with the USGA we have never encountered something that we encountered this week.

Contrary to what some people think, we had put a lot of water down relatively speaking during practice rounds and even in the stroke play rounds, but it wouldn't hold. It wouldn't get us through the day. You know, Chambers Bay came in so incredibly dry that we'd never had any - this course is pure sand. If you dig down six inches, if you dig down a foot, if you dig down five feet it's sand. And what's interesting is you could have never gotten another course with any type of other grass like this here you could have kept it like this for months on end and the grass is just dormant.

What we've learned is you've got to have moisture down 6 inches, 12 inches, 24 inches to get a consistent dry where it doesn't go from really good to literally baked out, unplayable in a matter of minutes. That's what we learned.

So Tuesday night what we ended up going with the superintendent and our agronomist said recharging the greens, we essentially flood the things, absolutely flooded them. So we got water down 12 inches, 16 inches, 24 inches, and that allowed Chambers Bay to, essentially, you know, dry out on a much more even keel basis.

That will be something that if we're lucky enough to have dry conditions. You're never going to see conditions like this, but you could see dry conditions. And I think we know enough now that we've got to make sure that we have moisture levels down pretty far down. But, again, I think the biggest thing we learned beyond that is just how each hole plays and what to do a set up on it. We have some different ways that we played certain holes this week that we thought played quite well, and others that we were just kind of hoe hum on. Tom, you want to add to that?

Q. Outside the ropes, what are some of the things you learned this week in regards to spectator flow and what you might be doing for those standpoints from the championship in 2015.

MIKE DAVIS: Wow, that's a good question. We had of course the playoffs. We had a wonderful crowd for having at the U.S. Amateur. I think we did some things with the roping that we want to eyeball very closely for the Open. But our ops people will have to get out here sooner than later and look at a plan to move people around this golf course. I think, again, much smaller event than the open, but obviously the transportation plan will be a key part of outside the ropes planning for the open. But I think Robbie's staff is in charge outside the ropes and I'm sure he learned a lot from just watching the spectators move this week.

Q. Do you have an estimate of how many people you had out here?

MIKE DAVIS: No. I mean, we almost backed into that number every year after we did a careful analysis on each hole and how you can move spectators. How many grandstand seats we can get? The ease of parking and traffic and where you drop off. So that number is backed into every - well, you know, we probably know that two or three years in advance.

I guess just to add to what Jim said, we anticipated literally two, three years ago knowing that we would have to make a few adjustments here and there to get people around. And I think what you're going to see is Chambers Bay is going to have some wonderful opportunities for grandstands where, unlike most U.S. Opens, when you watch maybe one hole or even half a hole, you'll be able to watch more holes here, which is great.

It's probably going to be, think about it, a little bit like in some ways a British Open at St. Andrews or frankly a lot of the British Opens where it's going to be a little bit more of a stationary event where you've got these wonderful areas you can watch from. But to follow a group 1 through 18, I'm not sure we'd work through it yet, but it's going to be difficult. We all know there are pinch points out there. But I think in many ways it will be a great Open from a spectators' standpoint.

Q. You've had surprises in match-play, but from the quarterfinals on a lot of the top players in the game. Can you talk about the demands of Chambers as far as controlling trajectory, shape and those things and why you did a very good job of determining the top players in the game? The ground golf, and the ground game and those kinds of things.

TOM O'TOOLE JR: Well, I think Chambers proved that it requires as our USGA set up philosophy to attach the playing capabilities, playing skills and shot making, but also the mental challenges. And I think that the top players, Jim and Mike and I commented walking in, the fact that you would get virtually the number-two players in the U.S. vying for an Amateur championship because of all of the pitfalls of sectional qualifying coming here, trying to make match play with difficult conditions on separate days and different golf courses. Ending up in different draws where you wouldn't have to meet someone before the final.

So stars lined up to get David and Peter like that. So that made for a romantic and certainly interesting championship. But the cream rose to the top here because Chambers Bay tests all those things. It tests the shot-making capability, and rewards well executed shots, and it penalizes poorly executed shots. And it tests your mental capabilities to think your way around this golf course with all of the pitfalls of not only the weather, but the links type golf. So I think that's probably why you saw those players come to the top.

JIM HYLER: I think this is an example of what firm and fast gives you. You've got to think your way around. These guys played all different kinds of shots. You've got to control your trajectory. You've got to figure out the bumps and the places the contours, and the shot makers came to the top as Tom said. I think that these conditions really allowed that to happen.

MIKE DAVIS: Another thing to add, if you listen to the caddies this week, it was fascinating because there was so much course management going on between player and caddie, much more than I've ever heard at least at this level in an Amateur. It's just because kind of what Jim and Tom said, if you're 169 yards away, you're not automatically going to pull out a club and hit it 169 yards. You're probably going to have to hit it less than that and figure out what's it going to do when it lands? And when you miss a green, same thing. So it was fascinating, I thought, to listen to the player caddie conversations this week, because there was so much going into virtually each shot?

Q. Over the last three days the weather conditions were probably closer to June than August. Anything in particular you can evaluate about the course that would be closer to June and U.S. Open conditions?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, personally I was delighted to see that we got some south winds, some west winds and north winds, because the holes do play differently then. You just hope come June, even though we may get some wet conditions, we still think this is going to play a firm golf course in June just because it is all sand. But I think it's going to be a greener golf course. But the hard thing with setting a golf course up like this particularly for stroke play is that if you set it up for a particular win and it reverses on you, you could have a very tough day.

As an example, there are certainties that you take the 11th teeing ground, for example. That back tee is 539 yards. It should be straight downwind with a south/southwest wind. So if you set the tee markers up there and it turns on you and you get a north wind, you'd have no one in the field to get home until you take the 14th hole that if all of a sudden you set it up on the back tee and get a strong northwest wind, you have a lot of players in the field that couldn't even make the carry. I think we know all these holes are going to play, but it is tricky with respect to having your fingers crossed that the meteorologist gets it right, which they did this week which is great But that's not necessarily always the case.

Q. Just wondering since it will be an Open next, if the fairways are adjusted and will we see them grow more narrow? You have holes like 13 that are extremely wide, and wondering how there may be adjustments in that regard?

MIKE DAVIS: They will be adjusted, but not just to narrow. Some cases we're going to widen a few fairways that we thought weren't quite right. Other cases we're going to literally pick a fairway up and move the whole thing one direction or another. In some cases, we are going to narrow. You mentioned 13, that's like 105 yards in some respects. But we actually kind of like it that way because it's a long hole. A lot of the green this week didn't receive shots quite the way we wanted. I think if we can solve that thing, that probably is one hole we will let very, very wide, because we think it's strategic that if you hit it down the right side you shorten the hole, but you've got a downhill, sidehill lie, versus if you're willing to take the long route and go left. And you've got a flat lie but a tougher angle and a longer shot, but definitely.

I'll give you an example of the second hole. There is a wonderful hump in the fairway; if we move the fairway about 5 yards left on the left and about 4 or 5 yards in on the right, it's going to make that hump much more pronounced and it drives on the bunker at the end much more in place. So it's little things that we watch that we say if we do that, it will be even better. But I do know this. There's not going to be an overall narrowing of this golf course. It's going to play kind of overall wide because we think it needs to be wide with the winds and the bounciness to it.

Q. A lot of the guys were talking about this might not have been one of the hardest golf courses they've ever seen, but one of the more fun golf courses they've ever seen. How much fun was it for you guys playing with the tees, playing with the set ups, playing with the angles? And how unique is that compared to, say, 90% of the other USGA courses you're setting up?

TOM O'TOOLE JR.: I should answer this one because this is the perfect recipe for his talents to be able to take the intrigue and the character of the architectural design and create an interesting set up by having a variety of different shots and using a variety of different teeing grounds and different angles. So I think Jim would join me in saying this is the perfect opportunity to use Mike Davis's talents to the utmost. And I think you saw it this week almost every hole that Jim and I might spend talking about this week talking about making adjustments and tweaks in contemplation to 2015. And I think we'll spend the next few years trying to get that right because this was a dry run. That's why we came here. We came here so Mike could see how this golf course not only played from an agronomic management from this, but also from an architectural standpoint. So lots of notes this week. It will really help us in preparation for 15.

JIM HYLER: I can't let you pass without saying firm and fast. The playability benefit that's I think you get from playing firmer, faster golf courses. And I know for me being out here every day after seven days and I spent a lot of time out on 12 on Monday watching the guys play shots. Bringing out the opportunity to demonstrate shot making skills to me it was an awful lot of fun just watching the players react to these firm, fast conditions. On a grander scale, hopefully as we think about sustainability issues in golf in this country, we begin to understand more the playability benefit that's you get from playing a firmer golf course.

MIKE DAVIS: I guess I would close in saying it's very fun to set it up.

Q. Given what you gentlemen just said, would you be surprised if a U.S. Amateur never came back here?

MIKE DAVIS: ell, let me start out by saying our board probably a dozen years ago decided that we were going to take our National Amateur Championship to sites that had hosted Opens, are hosting Opens or will host Opens. So that is to a large extent narrowed the number of golf courses we have out there. But it's also from the players' standpoint, it's allowed them to play some of these wonderful, historic, and famous, you know, championship courses but ultimately to answer your question, if we get invited for the U.S. Amateur to come back, I can't imagine that we wouldn't look upon that as something very favorable.

I think Jim, Tom and I feel, and I think we can speak on behalf of the whole association, that we're so delighted to be here in the Pacific Northwest to have the U.S. Open, and obviously, the U.S. Amateur that we finally found, we think, a place that can test the world's best players quite well, that logistically can handle the requirements of having a U.S. Open. So to get that invitation to come back, I think would be a wonderful thing. But ultimately we're very reactive in terms of invitations. It has to come from, in this case it would be Pierce County. So we would wait for them to invite us.

Q. It was obvious during the week on the TV the course was a good deal greener than it is in reality. I wondered what your reaction to that was? Were you disappointed by that?

JIM HYLER: We noticed on the broadcast I think the first day or whatever it was with the TV, I looked at it and said that's not what I'm seeing outside. We found out that something was going on with the local feed. Other parts of the country it was exactly what we were seeing. I'm not sure what the technical issues were, but other places it showed up just like you see it outside. So we had sort of the same thought, but it got straightened out, I think.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.