U.S. Open Championship 2017
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Press ConferenceADAM BARR: Welcome to this year's golf course
architecture forum, featuring the three designers of this golf course, and the
USGA's executive director, CEO, Mike Davis. By way of introduction, I think
everybody here, USGA members and media alike, will admit of the argument that a
golf course is like a work of art. And the sculptor Michelangelo said in the
block of marble is the work of art waiting to be exposed. I don't think a golf
course is a whole lot different. Both a glacier and a lot of hard work and
imagination brought to life the golf course that you see out there. Mike Davis
will tell us a lot about how it's going to be presented this week in its shining
moment, the U.S. Open.
I'd like to introduce the gentlemen that we have
here to discuss this with us today. Starting at the far left, golf course
architecture expert and prolific writer on the subject, Ron Whitten, golf course
architect, Dana Fry, golf course architect, and incidentally a member of the
USGA Museum Committee, Dr. Michael Hurdzan, and as I said, Mike Davis our
executive director and CEO.
I'd like to begin with the three architects,
gentlemen, chime in as you see fit. Tell us about that experience of walking on
to the land for the first time and imagining what this magnificent property, all
650-some acres, was going to give you?
MICHAEL HURDZAN: Well, I'll start.
And Adam, there was a lot of tree cover on it, because this had previously been
pasture land with the cows out there and there were little bitty trees and
bigger trees, so you kind of had to clear away some of the brush and the trees
in order to see its full potential.
But I think just as the people that
are here today have walked out and seen it and just said, yes, this was meant to
be a golf course, I think that's what most everybody's reaction was. I know
that's what ours was. The trick then was trying to sort out which of those 18
holes, or as it turned out, 19 holes, were the best 19 holes to keep.
ADAM BARR: Dana, was it one of those things where you looked at the land and
said I can't wait to get at this?
DANA FRY: Yeah, you could tell it was a
unique piece of property, and the sheer magnitude and scale of it, and the
abruptness of the contours and the space in between them, I know Ron always used
the analogy that it was like the Sand Hills because there were golf holes going
in all directions. You could have routed this golf course a thousand different
ways, probably, and had lots of great golf holes. It was just a unique piece of
property, and you knew it was something special.
The comment I still
remember the most is what David Fay told me the first time he came here, because
that's when I really knew that something really special was going to happen.
For those of you that don't know, David Fay was the previous executive director
of the USGA where Mike is now. And he said, he called it one of the greatest
tournament venue sites he had ever seen. There was no golf. It was just a
field and trees, and he just knew. You knew because you walked for five or six
hours at that time and you just knew something that the land was magical and had
Q. Ron was what was your imagination telling
you in the early stages of seeing the property?
RON WHITTEN: Every golf
architect dreams of having the perfect piece of property that they could lay out
a course lightly on the land and not have to move any earth. And Mike Hurdzan
had been preaching to build a million dollar course forever, and when they
invited me in to join and bid on this project and we saw the land, I remember
telling Dana that this could be our Sand Hills. This could be the most natural
golf course we will ever build.
Luckily we all three agreed that what we
were going to try to do is let Mother Nature dictate the routing, dictate the
philosophy, the strategies, everything. And it took a lot of -- gosh, I don't
know -- a dozen or more different routings. We mowed things out, we walked and
analyzed and rewalked and came up with new ideas and different avenues. But the
overriding concern was not to move any more earth than absolutely necessary to
make this golf course flow.
DANA FRY: But Ron did have some fears because
he did say a comment which I did not find out for a few years later, and he said
his concern with me being there was I was going to Fazio it. And by that,
Fazio, for those of you that don't know Tom Fazio, he's got a reputation for
building wonderful golf courses, but he moves a lot of dirt and creates
landscapes, and Ron was a little concerned that I might try to do something like
RON WHITTEN: Early on (laughing).
ADAM BARR: Mike Davis,
there was a great deal of creativity involved which means there was a cutting
room floor. The final product that you got to see developed, how did it start
rotating in your mind the possibilities for testing the best in the
MIKE DAVIS: Well, because of an email that Ron Whitten had sent
sometime in 2003 to me of really disclosing saying there is this piece of
property in Wisconsin that not only could make a great golf course but could one
day be a U.S. Open course. I thought it was a terrific note that he sent, but I
said I'd love to come see the property at sometime I'm in the area.
this was, I guess, early in the week of the 2004 PGA Championship up at
Whistling Straits and I had some meetings, so I stopped in for a visit. They
had actually done the routing at that point, at least pretty close to what the
current routing is now. And they had mown out what that routing is and put
stakes where the tees would be, a stake where the center line, the drives, and a
stake for the putting green and so we walked it. I could see from that time
right then and there before it was ever a golf course that, number one, it could
be a fantastic golf course, and number two, to really what Dana said, it's a big
piece of property, lots of room between holes, lots of wonderful vistas for
watching tournament play. And then enough room operationally to be able to
stage an event this big.
So, Adam, the answer to your question, you could
see it before it was ever a golf course.
ADAM BARR: Fascinating. Was the
wind that is so prevalent in this area a factor in all your minds as you put
this together, as you planned how it was going to look for a U.S. Open?
RON WHITTEN: It was so much of a factor that I made Dana and Mike throwaway the
planned irrigation, and Mike and Dana and I actually flagged every irrigation
head on this golf course, adjusting it for what we thought would be the
prevailing winds because we didn't want wind drifting into the rough. And I
remember we had tape measures and we were walking up and pulling up and down
hills and sideways. That's how prevalent. That's how important we thought the
wind was going to be as a factor in terms of where we wanted the mown areas and
where we didn't want water to drift over and make a snarly rough.
BARR: Mike, the fescue has been the subject of some discussion already. It's
height, its difference from the kind of rough these players ordinarily see on
the PGA TOUR week in, week out. Nonetheless, we have some wide fairways here.
So what is the framing to the player's eye from the tee? How is that different
from what they see every week? How is it different from what we've seen
recently at Oakmont and Chambers Bay?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, let me start out
with first of all this is a beautiful rolling piece of property. So it's not
like many U.S. Open courses we go to. And I say that, because if you go through
-- I've gone through this a fair number of times in my mind that if you take the
18 holes, 14 of the 18 holes have some element of blindness to them. That's
just because there is enough roll to the property. And that, I think, really
adds to this test, adds to the mystique of this golf course.
of the roll of the land, because of the wind that Ron was just talking about,
this was designed to be a wider golf course. So by U.S. Open standards, I would
say by and large it's probably about 50% wider than most U.S. Opens we go to.
Some of the holes it would be two-and-a-half times wider a fairway. You take
the 10 fairway, for example, you could fit three fairways at Winged Foot into
But that said, it needs to be that way architecturally. It
works that way. Esthetically it's pleasing. So we go from fairway out to mown
rough and then into the native rough. So we believe, by and large, that that
But as we've gotten here in the last week, I will tell you, we've
taken a fair amount of the seed-head native fescue down, just because we felt
like what's happened this spring is because it's been a fairly wet spring here
in Wisconsin, some of that rough, that fescue that you see is a little bit
thicker than maybe we would have anticipated on a normal year. So we've
adjusted it where it fits.
The other thing you should know is that what
Ron said is really important. That ideally you want it thin and wispy, and most
places here at Erin Hills it is that. But as it gets closer to where it's
irrigated, sometimes on a windy day the mist does go, so you see it a little
Plus there are different types of fescue. There are chewings,
there are reds that tend to be a little thicker, versus the hard and cheap
varieties of fine fescue. So it's by and large, we feel, that that hitting area
for the holes is wide enough and it's going to be a good test. But if you hit
it wayward, it's penal, no doubt.
ADAM BARR: Mike Hurdzan, let's talk
about that penalty. If you're not hitting in one of these areas that happen to
get wet, we've heard some players comment about already, if you're in the wispy
rough, what are we talking about? A stroke-and-a-half, a distance penalty, what
should it end up doing to a wayward drive?
MICHAEL HURDZAN: I think it's
an intimidation factor to begin with. Because you don't want to hit it into
some of those areas. As Mike just said, most of the rough is thin and wispy.
There might be 5% or 8% of that out there that's a little bit thick. But it
makes you choose your line carefully off of the tee. Because if you're just
hitting it in the middle of the fairway, you're never even going to see
But if you try to start to cut the doglegs, try to shave the
distance down, now it becomes a strategic factor as well. So I think that it's
a natural part of the golf course. If that was gorse instead of fine fescue,
we'd all say, well, it's just gorse, you know. But because it's grass, somehow
we feel it's an unfair penalty, and I don't think we should.
There always seems to be a par-3. At Oakmont it's No. 8, here it's No. 9 which
the caddies here call the shortest par-5 in golf. What is it about, Dana, from
your point of view about No. 9 standing on the tee that creates the most visual
dissidence in the heads of these players?
DANA FRY: Well, I think the
wind is the biggest factor because it's a long, narrow green. The front part
has a false front, and the rest of the green basically drains away from you
falling a little left to right.
I've said from day one, it's my favorite
hole. I think in time it's going to become one of the iconic short holes in
golf. I really believe that, and I've felt that from day one. I think a lot of
it is the wind. When you hit that shot, if you have a wind blowing from east to
west, left to right, if you hit a ball and it does not have a right-to-left spin
on it, there is a good chance the ball is not staying on the green, because
these greens get firm and they get hard, and that left-to-right wind doesn't do
You have the opposite when the wind is coming from the opposite
direction. They really have to work wedges into the green. The target areas,
although it's very linear, the target areas are very small to get it to where
you want it to be. If you miss it left, and you have again a left-to-right and
an east-to-west wind, the ball's not going to stop on the green.
get in some unbelievable situations on that hole. I think it's going to be one
of the most exciting holes, if not the most exciting hole for the fans to watch
MIKE DAVIS: If it's too exciting we'll be back here in the
media center, right in this room (laughing.
MICHAEL HURDZAN: One of the
other things about that, that is lots of things happening in and around that
green. It isn't like you can focus on one bunker or one target area or where
you want. There are so many things you really have to kind of block out a lot
of that and really focus on what you want to do. It is a very busy green
complex, and there are lots of things to look at, and a lot of things can get in
DANA FRY: I also got to add the hardest shot on the golf
course is the second shot on 9 when you miss the green. Watch this
MICHAEL HURDZAN: There are a lot of guys practicing it.
FRY: Well, they better be.
ADAM BARR: Ron, speaking of second shots on
par-4s, and shots on the green on par-5s, what are some of your favorites, both
for glory and disaster and everything in between?
RON WHITTEN: Well, good
question. I would point out the 4th green, which originally was a punch-bowl
green, and Bob Lang the original owner never did like that. He thought it was
too easy a hole and so he wanted a green -- we had a little drainage problem
with the punch-bowl green, and I remember Mike saying we can solve it for $500
bucks or we can build you a new green for $50,000. Bob said, let's build a new
green. And he wanted it up on the ridge with the wetlands beyond, and he wanted
it to be a terrifying shot and that's what they now have.
the most intimidating shot on this golf course from any fairway. Because it is
a narrow green, it's a horizon green, and you know there is death behind it, and
if you hit short and don't quite get it there, it's going to roll back down into
one of those nasty bunkers.
I take pride in all these bunkers that we've
done out here. The bunkering is a big reason why No. 9 is what it is, because
there are spots in those bunkers where you aren't going to be able to advance
the shot to the flag, and that was by design. If you think of the 7th or 9th
hole as our 7th at Pebble Beach, we lack the ocean, so we provided another type
of hazard, and that was our erosion bunkers. I'm surprised more players haven't
complained about the erosion bunkers more than the rough.
ADAM BARR: It's
RON WHITTEN: Yeah.
ADAM BARR: Mike Davis, as you
think about, I know you've talked already in the press about what the wind does
with set-up plans, but talk about that a little bit. What you plan in the
morning could change if the wind direction changes. Also in terms of
opportunities based on what Mike and Dana were saying earlier about winds going
side-to-side where you could put hole locations?
MIKE DAVIS: This is, to
begin with, a very difficult course to set up. There is enough movement to the
land that if you get a forecasted wind and the forecast ends up being wrong or
it changes, rarely do you see the winds here change 180° in a day, but should it
do that, that is almost assuredly going to lead to a set-up problem. Because
you've got holes such as the first tee shot where you've got to clear a hazard,
you've got the tee shot at 8, where you go up a big hill, the tee shot at 12
where you go up a big hill. If you set it up for a certain wind or even a 90°
turn on it, it's tough. So we'll have to err on the side of being rather
But right now most of the forecasts we're looking at is
wind coming out of the west, southwest, maybe a little bit Northwest for one day
or one afternoon actually on Thursday. So if those are, in fact, correct, and
they're not overly high winds -- and right now we're not looking for big winds
this U.S. Open. Just a couple days ago on Saturday we had gusts over 30 miles
an hour, had we had that in one of the rounds, good chance we would have been
suspended. It was blowing so hard, balls were blowing on greens.
right now, most of the time we're seeing winds between 5 and 15 miles an hour
with maybe a gust up to 20. That's reasonable in terms of setting up the golf
course. But I think that what the three gentlemen to my left did was really
design a course very thoughtfully for the wind.
What's interesting about
this, if you look at it kind of on an aerial, this property almost forms a
triangle. It's surrounded on many sides by wetland. What's interesting is 14
of the holes basically run east-west or west-east, so there aren't many. I
think it's the 1st, 9th, 10th, and 11th holes that run south-north or
south-north. So in some ways it will be interesting to see where those winds
come from, because either you're going to have a bunch of holes straight
downwind or straight into the wind or you're going to see crosswinds, which, I
think for players, it will be very interesting.
ADAM BARR: I've heard
some players, some of the most in-shape athletes in the game say, wow, this is a
walk. So in designing this and setting up for it, we talk about the ultimate
test of golf involving a physical test over four days. How much was the roll
and hilliness and tough walk of this property a part of putting together a
MICHAEL HURDZAN: Well, I'll start. Our original
intent was to be a modestly-priced public golf course, and there was probably
going to be golf carts that would be allowed to be used. With the fescue
grasses and it was young and it opened a little bit early, and you could see
noticeable decline of the grasses in the fairway from cart traffic. When Mr.
Ziegler bought the golf course he made the very tough decision that it was going
to be a walking-only golf course. No trollies, no golf cars. So part of the
walks are there because we found the very best golf course. We hadn't
anticipated it would be a walking-only golf course, but it still works very,
I'm not a young guy, and I can walk the golf course and carry
my bag and play it and feel very, very comfortable. The guys that have
qualified for this open are a lot younger, and I think they can handle
RON WHITTEN: Adam, I've walked this course a thousand times starting
at age 50, and I'm still alive. So I think they'll manage (laughing).
DANA FRY: The other thing it did is it also, in most cases on quite a few holes
you go from the green, you walk up a hill to the next tee. Which I also think
comes into play because the hardest tee shots are the tee shots when you get
these elevated holes, and you have these dramatic winds.
I went around
with players for five days. I walked 36 every day, 45 one day, and it was
giving them fits. One of the -- 7, when you're on the 7th hole on the tee with
no wind it's not that hard a tee shot for them. You give them a 20,
25-mile-an-hour crosswind and they're that elevated, it's a really hard tee shot
for them. It's really hard. And you get that effect on quite a few
ADAM BARR: I want to get to questions in a moment. But one more
question before we wrap up, Mike, you said many times in setting up championship
courses the landing of the ball is not the end of the shot. How will smart
players use the contours here?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, yeah, Adam, what you're
getting at is I think whether a golfer thinks about it consciously or it just
kind of happens, there is a special part of the game when a course does get
bouncy, because it allows a golfer of all abilities to bounce balls into greens.
You get a little bit more roll or distance on your tee shots.
think for a really good player, the golf courses really come alive. They become
strategic when they get bouncy, because you have to think about when the ball
hits, what's it going to do? How much is it going to bounce? Where's it going
to roll to? How much is it going to follow the contour of the land?
if you give these fellows that are such good players a 8-yard shot without wind
to a soft area, they can sit there. I mean, you go out to the practice range
and they can hit one shot after another on that. All of a sudden, if it's a
downwind to a firm shot, that 178-yard shot may end up being a 159-yard shot to
land it a little bit left and have it bounce a couple times and feed to the
right. It just becomes more strategic. And by the way maybe you fly it more
and stop it quicker or hit a lower trajectory and bounce it in. I think when we
talk about getting firm, fast golf course, that's really what we mean is the
ability to anticipate what your ball's going to do when it lands. Also the
ability to control your spin, the ability to control your trajectory, the
ability to control left-right, right-left, that's all part of the championship
test. It just comes alive when you get this firm, fast conditions.
BARR: And our architect trio, if/when it rains, are we still going to see
opportunities for changing the height of the ball and using the bounce that Mike
MICHAEL HURDZAN: Yeah, I think so, and it will be just
different lines that they will have to take. They may not get as much bounce,
they may not get as much roll, but there is going to be plenty of bounce and
roll out there. Now when the ball lands this afternoon you can see a little
puff of dust and the ball would go 12, 15, 18 feet in the air. It may not do
that so much.
But there are a lot of different lines where you're
anticipating the run out of the ball, and it doesn't happen, all of a sudden,
that's the wrong choice of clubs. Where you might have hit a utility club and a
draw, you might be forced to hit a driver in the wet and take a different
RON WHITTEN: I think the other thing we might see -- first of all,
this course drains very well. The surface drains well, and it's glacial
underneath. But because we didn't move a lot of earth in the beginning, it's
drained ever since we first got on this property it's drained. What I think
we'll see with the fescue fairways perhaps, if there is a little bit of rain,
you might see the balls hanging up on slopes that otherwise would roll
So the best players in the world are going to be playing some
awkward lies, downhill, sidehill lies and that sort of thing. That's the big
impact the I think the rain would have, more than shortening the course.
DANA FRY: I think if you get rain it's going to help the longer hitters because
it's a long golf course, and I think if it gets softer, I think it gives them a
bigger advantage. That's my opinion. And I know some of the guys I was out
with who are some pretty big-named players wouldn't mind that happening.
ADAM BARR: Ron, I want to wrap up with you before we get to questions from our
audience. This is a new chapter for the U.S. Open in the midwest. Surely we've
been in the midwest before, Chicago, St. Louis, other places, but the first time
in Wisconsin. First time, really, the golf course became a U.S. Open course in
this manner and it's still in its relative youth. What does having the U.S.
Open on this kind of golf course in this region for the future of the
RON WHITTEN: For me, I'm going to puff up our collective chests
here. I think what impact I'd like to have Erin Hills have after this U.S. Open
is really in terms of its bunkers. I think we try to make a statement, the
bunkers are supposed to be hazards. And there are too many bunkers that we
spend as much money building bunkers as we do greens, and there ought to be
uniform sand, and they have to be flat on the bottom and everything has to roll
down to a certain spot.
Our bunkers, we contoured the floors of the
bunkers, so you've got awkward shots within the bunkers. You have shots that
you can't advance forward, you've got to play outside ways. Is that fair? You
know, golf is not a fair game. You're not supposed to be in the
So I hope, if anything, that Erin Hills stands for is it stands
for the proposition that bunkers ought to be getting back to being
MICHAEL HURDZAN: Let me add one more thing to that, Adam. It
isn't just the game itself, but there is something that the USGA has invested
heavily in, and that is the research on turf grasses and sustainability, and
this golf course was really designed in mind to use the least amount of water,
fertilizer, pesticide and energy sources necessary to maintain it.
think that not only what this means to the game as far as growth, but what it
means to the game as far as how we maintain golf courses and how it really
supports the goal of sustainability.
ADAM BARR: Gentlemen, thank you.
What I'd like to do in the time we have remaining is we'd like questions from
our USGA members who we're very proud to have here, or the media who have joined
Q. You mentioned sustainability, could you talk a little
bit about the role that the superintendent Zach Reineking has played and his
crew in the evolution of the golf course? Because it's a very different golf
course than when it opened? It's not just the redesign features, it's also the
presentation of it?
DANA FRY: I'd like to start with that. Zach has
become a very close friend, and I know I've told you personally in my 34 years
in the industry he's a person I look up to the most in the golf industry in any
facet. Because he went through a tough situation here dealing with a golf
course that was under construction multiple times, a lot of financial issues.
One of the stories, when I think about him the most, I think here's a guy that
at times paid for fuel, chemicals, fertilizer with his own credit card. There
was a time when it wasn't even certain he would still be here as a
And to see the golf course and to hear -- I was with Rory
McIlroy and Justin Rose and all they did is repeatedly talk about the great
conditions here. And if you knew where we were in 2006 and where we are today
to hear that, I've never been more proud of an individual in my life.
MICHAEL HURDZAN: Let me add that Zach is a product of his generation and a
product of Wisconsin. In fact, he went to school in Wisconsin. He's a very
young man for the kind of position he has. He's very open minded. He brought
new sciences into -- because there are an awful lot of people who said fescue
fairways aren't going to work, and Zach is making them work.
innovated along with managing a very large piece of property. Because it isn't
just the 150 acres of golf course, there is another 150 acres of space in
between the golf holes that have to be managed as well. So I think that what he
has done for the sustainability of keeping the fescues, trying and believing
that they will work and bringing innovative techniques into it, like lots of top
dressing, is paying off.
So I think he's advancing the state of
sustainability and Erin Hills is living proof of that.
heard a lot this week from the players in terms of who has inspired them and
helped them in their professional careers. Who inspired you from an
architecture standpoint? Can you talk about how your association involvement
has assisted you in the development of this course?
DANA FRY: The person
that inspired me the most was a gentleman by the name that nobody in this room
knows except maybe my family that's here, is a gentleman by the name of Andy
Banfield. He was Tom Fazio's right-hand man and started with him in 1974. I
met him in 1983 in a bar in Tucson, Arizona. Started a part-time -- he offered
me a part-time job and it became my career.
The next one, and equally so,
would be the man to my right, Mike Hurdzan. He became like a second father. I
told this repeatedly to people 20 or 30 years, it was an honor to work with him,
call him a friend, a mentor. To do something like this with Mike and also with
Ron who is a great friend, it means more than you can put into words.
MICHAEL HURDZAN: We get really emotional about this kind of stuff.
FRY: He didn't used to. He used to be the tough one. He was a green beret, but
I've got him down where I can get him emotional now.
There was a gentleman that owned a golf course where I started as a shag boy and
became a caddie and a green keeper and worked as a superintendent. His name was
Jack Kidwell, and Jack was a product of the depression. His family bought the
golf course on land contract in the middle of the depression. They were share
croppers, basically, knew almost nothing about golf. And they turned that
little nine-hole family golf course into a community, a place of pride, and it
got a lot of people involved in the game. And he, Jack Kidwell taught me all of
the basics of the golf course and the industry.
I used to go out as a
13-year-old and threw the woods and the fields, and I would see those become a
golf course, and it was the most inspiring thing for me.
I said, "Mr.
Kidwell, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life." He said, "Mike,
you do the things I tell you," and it's worked out. And Mr. Kidwell was a
business partner until Parkinson's took him.
So that aspect of it is the
fundamentals I got from Mr. Kidwell. But I realize there is a difference
between being creative and being artistic, and Dana is a very artistic kind of
guy, I think I'm a creative kind of guy. And that's why our collaboration, I
believe, works so well is the fact we inspired each other in a little different
DANA FRY: We're a living odd couple, by the way.
HURDZAN: Yeah (laughing).
RON WHITTEN: By the way, I've got my kids in
the back here and they're going to go oh, my God, do I have to listen to this
story again? But just to show you what a small world this is, I went to college
at the University of Nebraska, worked on the maintenance crew and got an offer
to become an assistant superintendent, but instead I wanted to go to law school.
So I moved Topeka, Kansas and went to law school there, but I continued to
study golf architecture which was my hobby because I dreamed one day about
designing golf courses.
I wrote a guy named Jack Kidwell who, at the time
in 1975, was an historian of the American golf architect, and he sent me some
material, and also referred my name to another golf architect named Geoff
Cornish in New England who was working on a similar book like I was working on.
The two of us got together and pooled our resources and published a book. The
first and still only history on golf architecture called "The golf Course,"
which came out in '81. In the meantime, I had met Mike Hurdzan, and later when
I wrote for a very brief period of time for the Golf Course Management magazine,
I did a feature on Mike Hurdzan and Jack Kidwell.
So we struck up a
friendship and talked about even back then doing a golf course, because I was a
populist and Mike was even then beating the drums about a million dollar golf
When I finally got the opportunity when I turned 50, Mike
offered, and I said, Hey, if Dana doesn't have any problem with that, I'd love
to join you guys and we'll bid on this. Dana didn't have a problem.
had no idea. This could have been Hoboken, New Jersey. Instead it was Erin,
Wisconsin. So I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have thrown in with these
guys on this project. I will say I've always said Dana's creative and Mike
keeps him on a budget. I thought I was going to be the kind of in-between guy,
but it turns out I'm even more radically right brained than Dana fry, if that's
possible, because I came up with some real bone-headed ideas at
Q. Guys, once the tournament starts, where will you be
seen out watching golf, and where would you recommend out here on Erin Hills
people sit and hang out for the day and is a good spot to watch golf?
MICHAEL HURDZAN: I'll start that discussion. But I want to see how guys play
No. 2, whether they're going to take the line over the hill or lay up in front
of the bunker and try to blow it over the bunker. Then I want to see how they
play those second shots into that green. So I think for me that's going to be
Certainly No. 15 and No. 14 are going to be
interesting holes as well. But I'm going to try to get around to as many of the
holes as I can and see how fairly Mike has set the golf course up and how guys
are playing it. But No. 2 is going to be a place I'd probably spend a lot of
DANA FRY: I think you already know the answer for me, it's No. 9.
From day one, I didn't really dislike the Dell hole. It wasn't my favorite, but
the problem I had with it is I honestly thought we were losing the best hole on
the property. Again, I think it's going to become what people remember about
Erin Hills the most.
Along with 18, because obviously 18, the one thing
that hasn't really been discussed today and you don't hear talked about much,
but the par-5s here are really good. The tee shots are demanding, but the
second shots are really demanding. If you miss the fairway on 18, you have a
serious problem ahead because you're not going to be able to advance the next
shot far enough. Even if you're in the shorter rough, to where you're going to
be out there 230, 240, 250 yards, and that is a really difficult shot on that
hole. So the back drop, obviously with Holy Hill in the ground, and the TV
cameras are going to love that this week.
RON WHITTEN: I haven't been out
to see where the ropes are yet. But on the hillside behind the No. 7 gree, if
you see at the top there, you can see action on 5 and you can see it coming down
7. And thanks to the trees being removed, you can look at 17 and you can look
all the way down 18 with binoculars, you can watch it all.
We stood today
behind 11 green and watched 10 and 11. You can walk right up the hill ask watch
them tee off on 9. You can't see the result, but you can certainly hear it when
they hit it close. That's what we like. There are so many vantage points that
you can just plop your little chair down and watch the parade go by and see a
lot of different holes and hopefully a lot of different shots.
You mentioned at the very beginning that when you looked at the piece of
property you had a few different designs that you were looking at. Was there
one particular hole that sort of stands out that you had to sacrifice for
developing this gorgeous course that you wish you could have incorporated into
the design but just couldn't make it work?
MICHAEL HURDZAN: Wow, that's a
really good question.
RON WHITTEN: I remember one. The 11th hole that
exists now, we had running in the other direction. There was a quarry right
where the forward 11 tee is. It was just an old quarry that you saw just like
at Merion. We had perched a green up there on our design and we were going to
play that in that direction, and I thought that was going to be one of the
cooler shots. An elevated shots over this rock quarry to a table-top green, and
I kind of miss that because I think it would have been similar to the 16th at
When we turned it around, within a week, that quarry mysteriously
got filled in. The owner had never liked that quarry, and he was all too
anxious to get rid of it.
MICHAEL HURDZAN: I think the other one that
comes to mind is No. 10 when it was a par-5. We had an upper fairway on the
second shot that would have been at the same elevation of the green, so you
would have been looking in at the green at the same elevation or maybe even a
little above the green. Then the left fairway was lower because that was the
natural land form.
So, really, the left fairway was very narrow. It was
about maybe one-third as wide as the -- I'm sorry, the right fairway was about
one-third as wide as the left fairway, so you had to make a decision. Do you
want to play it up to the right, narrow right fairway and have a good look into
the green, or did you want to leave it out there? We end up getting rid of that
fairway and got rid of the par-5. So I think that would have been a fun hole to
have in there. We'd have had to tweak it a little bit to make it work, but it
seemed like it had a lot of potential.
DANA FRY: The opposite question to
that would be is there any hole that's on every single routing that was ever
done, and it was the 12th hole. It was on every routing, it never changed. The
other holes got changed does dozens of times, different routings, but that never
changed. A lot of us call it the heart of Erin Hills because that is literally
on grade. That entire golf hole is on grade naturally the way God left
RON WHITTEN: That was going to be our opening hole for a long time.
For a long time we were going to have the clubhouse out where the 9th tees are,
which would have been a travesty for that hole. But we wisely convinced the
owner to move the clubhouse away from the golf course.
as a student of architecture and a studier of architecture throughout most of
your life, what would Cornish, what would Donald Ross, what would MacKenzie,
what would some of these guys that use features that are there before you do the
routing, what would they say about what you three have done? Not to speak for
them, but what do you think they would say about a modern golf course in this
RON WHITTEN: I think Donald Ross would have probably approved our
routing because we followed the dictates of the land, and that's what Ross tried
to do. I think Ross would have bunkered it differently than we did. Because we
did a lot of really awkward, random bunkering because nature is awkward and
random, and Donald Ross had more artistic things where every upsweep would have
a bunker that faced the golfer and would be tailored in a certain way. Jeff
Cornish would have said, Ron, you have this course way too hard, because he was
a man of the people. He believed in building for the masses.
are architects who have told me to my face that they thought we didn't bunker
enough greens close enough. That there are too many greens that are too easy.
So I think we struck the right balance. This is a public golf course, and we're
trying to get public golfers around it. But you still want that occasional 9th
hole where there is one terrifying shot every three or four holes.
MICHAEL HURDZAN: I think that MacKenzie would have loved the bunkers. All that
raggy-edged kind of stuff, if you look back at those early MacKenzie pictures,
that really kind of fits right in.
And as far as the Ross side of it, I
think he would like it. I'll go back to the sustainability. Donald Ross was a
greens keeper first and foremost, a golf professional and designer after. He
would have liked what we did to the land and how we used the soils and the
RON WHITTEN: And Tom Fazio would ask how many
hundreds of millions did we spend building the course.
Gentlemen, I want to thank you for your insights today, and your generosity with
your time and knowledge. I want to thank all of you for coming to enjoy and
learn a little bit about the challenge that's going to face the best players in
the world this week. Enjoy the 117th U.S. Open, and thank you all for
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP
Rev #1 by #170 at 2017-06-14 18:03:00