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The Winds of Change At Shinnecock Hills

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Two-hundred and seventy-six. That’s the number of strokes it took for Retief Goosen to secure his second U.S. Open Title in 2004, but the number of strokes is the last thing anyone would remember from that year’s toughest test in golf. Take this article from ESPN’s David Kraft and Peter Lawrence-Riddell summing up the final round of Goosen’s triumph:

“The seventh green at Shinnecock Hills was so hard to play for the first two groups Sunday morning that USGA officials decided to water it between every pairing for the final round of the U.S. Open.”

Just as with the 1974 “Massacre at Winged Foot,” the 2004 U.S. Open will forever be remembered as the day the USGA dropped the ball. The USGA claimed that the seventh had been “inadvertently rolled” on Saturday. Walter Driver, chairman of the USGA Championship Committee at the time, told reporters on Saturday, “I found out after play was completed today that, for some reason, a different person on the grounds staff rolled that green today despite the orders that we had given not to roll the green.” Even a typically mild-mannered Jerry Kelly had harsh words, according to the same ESPN piece, “They lied [Saturday],” said Jerry Kelly, who finished with an 81 after shooting 71 Saturday. “Talked to the superintendent. Superintendent said, ‘Hey, I’m not getting in the middle of this. They told me to roll it.’”

Whether the grounds crew was told to roll the seventh green or not, it gave up three triple bogies in the first two groups, so the USGA watered it between each group for the rest of the day. As the 2018 U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since that fateful day, the USGA looks to redeem itself this year. With some subtle changes, maybe they can.

In 2004, Shinnecock played 6,996 yards at par 70. In the past 14 years, there have been no major renovations to the course, but once the decision was made to bring the Open back to one of the founding clubs of the USGA, the American Governing body was determined to ensure Shinnecock was presented with its best foot forward. According to a Golfweek report from October of 2017, the following changes have been made to accommodate not only the tournament but the redemption of a reputation:

  • There are 17 new back tees that will stretch the course from the previous 6,996 yards to a total length of 7,445 yards.
  • The par-4 14th hole has been extended 76 yards and will now play 519 yards. The par-5 16th will now play 616 yards.
  • While the fairways will still be more generous than most U.S. Opens, they have been narrowed by Shinnecock’s standard. They will play between 28-32 yards on average.
  • The greens have not been recontoured, but on the greens with the “most severe contouring,” an extended collar of rough has been added between the edge of the greens and the greenside bunkers.

With the course is still expected to play at a par of 70, it will likely be a tougher test than 2017’s expose at Erin Hills, even if there is little wind. In 2004, all eyes were on the par-3 seventh on Sunday. From the time the first minute of Live From The U.S. Open airs on TV, all eyes will be on the same hole: 189 yards with a raised green that runs away from the players and to the right… but so much more.

As there always is with the U.S. Open, the course will be a character in the story more so than any other championship. Hale Irwin won his first of three majors (all U.S. Opens) at the “Massacre at Winged” with a score of seven over par, and 32 years after that championship Peter McCleery of ESPN was still writing about it. And with Shinnecock hosting the U.S. Open the year after Brooks Koepka swept the field with a 16-under par victory at a helpless Erin Hills, who knows what will happen as the horses are released from the gates on Sunday of this year’s U.S. Open?

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Grande

    Jun 7, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    The USGA has turned our National Championship into a Mickey Mouse experience.

  2. Skip

    Jun 7, 2018 at 6:59 am

    There was a fairly major renovation in 2012 by Coore & Crenshaw, which by my calcuation was within the last 14 years…

  3. Terry

    Jun 6, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Sad that the USGA has bowed to these divas over the last decade. For one week a year, these guys should battle themselves and a brutal course to be declared our National champion

    • Reggie

      Jun 7, 2018 at 9:21 am

      Yippee! I won because I missed the most greens in all the right places! Thank you USGA!

      • James T

        Jun 7, 2018 at 1:26 pm

        Reggie, you just described the strategic side of golf.

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Kankakee Elks Country Club in St Anne, Illinois

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member schley, who takes us to Kankakee Elks Country Club in St Anne, Illinois. The track was built in 1926, and in schley’s description, he claims that the course is so impressive that it has the potential to rival any other in the area.

“An old Langford/Moreau design that could easily be one of the top 10 in Illinois with some tree removal and minor work on bunkers. One hour south of Chicago and love the course for it is cheap as well (under $50 bucks on a Saturday morning).”

According to Kankakee Elks Country Club’s website, 18 holes during the week can be played for $24, while to play on the weekend the rate rises to $30.

@the_fried_egg

@the_fried_egg

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Hidden Gem of the Day: Fresh Pond Golf Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member runningdog, who takes us to Fresh Pond Golf Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The nine-hole track is a Donald Ross design, and runningdog states in his description that, should you visit the course, then you need to walk it.

“It’s where I played my first golf when I picked it up years ago, and every time I’m back I go and play.  It can be a long round, but it’s a great walk (don’t ever ride this course). 9 Hole track that can be played twice.”

According to Fresh Pond Golf Course’s website, 18 holes will set you back $36 during the week and $41 on weekends.

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Hidden Gem of the Day: FarmLinks at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Alabama

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Hidden Gem of the Day_ FarmLinks at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Alabama

These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member TK3, who takes us to FarmLinks at Pursell Farms in  Sylacauga, Alabama. In TK3’s description of the course, he focuses on the enjoyment of a day out at FarmLinks.

“It is not part of the RTJ Trail, but only about 45 minutes from the Judge, Senator + Legislator Courses.  Fantastic track, one fee all you can play and eat and the staff are great.

FarmLinks started off as a way to promote the Company’s fertilizer business, so you can only imagine the course conditioning.  Played there about a half dozen times and it never fails to impress me over and over again.  Definitely worth the trip.”

According to FarmLinks at Pursell Farms’ website, 18 holes during the week or weekend will set you back $59.

@BryanTweed16

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