As the 117th U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills approaches, the question remains; Will the winds be blowing when the world’s best players arrive?
There is no definitive answer to that question. The U.S. Open is set for June 15-18, less than a month away. The course will be one of the longest ever in a major championship at 7,693 yards.
USGA officials expect the winds to blow, it’s one of the traits of the property. But if it rains and the winds don’t blow, the pro’s could have a field day.
“If there’s no wind for four days, that would be highly unusual, but they’ll definitely shoot lower scores,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “If it’s softer they’re going to shoot lower scores. The greens are so good they’re going to make putts.
“But listen, at the end of it, contrary to what so many think, we’re not after a certain winning score. What we really are after is to see if we can set the golf course up in such a way that it tests every aspect of the game. As one of our fellow staffers said, we want to see all 14 clubs in a player’s bag get dirty.
“If it’s windy the test is just going to be a little more stern and if it’s not we’re still going to give out the trophy and the Jack Nicklaus gold medal for the low 72-hole score.”
Certainly the USGA will be able to set the course up in a way that will challenge the golfers. If the winds blow, that will add to the difficulty.
Preview day is a real test
Media members hit the course for Preview Day on Wednesday, myself included. We don’t come remotely close to matching up to the world’s best. Erin Hills officials, along with the USGA, had us stay away from the tee boxes the professionals will play. We hacked it up from the front, which was still plenty challenging.
The two biggest tests for us amateurs is the simple length of the course and the physical challenge that comes with it, as well as the wind, which blew like crazy on Wednesday.
That wind was strong from the very start, but its intensity grew as the afternoon and evening went on. Golf balls on the green were moving because of the wind. Playing with the wind at our backs was a treat. Playing into it was unreal.
It was estimated that the wind was blowing steady at 25 to 30 miles per hour. The conditions were easily the most difficult I had ever played in. As good as the pro’s are, they will have a tough time if the wind blows like it did on Wednesday.
The length of the course won’t be much of an issue for the pro golfers. They are routinely tested in these types of conditions. But for hackers like myself, the length of the course is a true test.
From tee to green from hole one to hole 18, the distance is roughly six miles. that is of course, if you can keep the ball in the fairway most of the time. I naturally didn’t. My caddy told me, based on my golf skill level, which matches a large percentage of the population, would cause me to add nearly two extra miles to the total.
So imagine yourself stepping out your door and seeing a large field straight ahead. You decide to go for a walk. No step is the same. You are dodging holes, walking through sand, climbing up hills and down others. The amount of time you spend on flat land is minimal. Even in the fairway, there’s a good chance you are negotiating hilly terrain. There’s no doubt your calves and ankles get a workout and mine will likely be sore for days.
My group played 17 holes before a storm was bearing down on us. The horn’s blew and course officials quickly made their way out to us with golf carts to give us a quick ride back to the clubhouse before the sky opened up on Erin Hills.
Erin Hills is an amazing course. If you get the chance to experience it, go for it. Once you do, you will have a much better idea of just how good the professionals are.
The 117th U.S. Open is less than a month away. The world awaits!