The USGA taps into an NBA trend
For the first time since the U.S. Open since 1913, a short par three will be used in The Country Club’s championship routing. The Country Club has 27 holes on its property. A typical day at the club sends players around the Clyde/Squirrel main course routing. However, for major tournaments, holes from the 9-hole Primrose course replace holes from the main course. The Country Club has been pretty flexible in how they set up their Championship routing, and the 2022 U.S. Open will actually include a brand new routing that will include the main course’s 12th hole, a drop down par three that measures 131 yards from the back tee box.
Former championship routings had the best players in the world literally walking past this diminutive par 3 on their way from main course hole 11 to main course hole 13.
"I remember walking past it," Corey Conners said to me as he remembered his 2013 U.S. Amateur experience at The Country Club.
But the USGA wanted to insert this hole back into play. In 1913, there was no Primrose course, so the U.S. Open was played on the main course. In his final round, Francis Ouimet, the eventual winner, made a five on the hole. He topped his shot and had to traverse the rocky slope to find and hit his ball. At the time, it seemed as if Ouimet’s chances were lost.
So why include this whole again?
It connects the viewers at home with the game in a way that 320-yard drives and 530-yard par 4s do not. It allows the golfer at home on the couch to imagine playing a major championship golf hole just like the professionals. The seventh hole at Pebble Beach has the same effect.
Jeff Hall of the USGA said a big part of the decision to add the hole to the routing was because it offers armchair golfers an opportunity to envision making par or birdie and what club they might use off the tee.
Much like those watching an NBA game, dunking a basketball is a pipe dream. However, a three pointer is a shot that anyone can make or at least image making if they took enough attempts. Professional golfers are driving the ball monstrous distances. Hitting a ball 300 yards in the air is a pipe dream for most golfers, unless it’s aided by wind or a cart path or both. Reaching a 620 yard par five in two shots is unattainable.
However, a 131-yard downhill par 3? That’s an attainable par for everyone, just like a three pointer. That doesn’t mean the hole is easy, but it does mean golfers at home can put themselves on the tee box of the 11th hole and think about hitting a shot, and making a par, in the U.S. Open.
When the first round of the U.S. Open concludes, the sporting world will turn its attention to TDGarden where most recently, during game 4 of the NBA Finals, Steph Curry put on a legendary performance. Launching three pointers from all over the court. The skill seems impossible for a mere mortal, but the reality is that anyone can make just one of those shots with a little dumb luck. It's why people shoot half-court shots for money. The shots can be made.
It’s not lost on me that Curry and the Warriors will be playing in the TDGarden for a chance to win an NBA title the night that round 1 of the U.S. Open concludes. The USGA is trying to tap into the same three-point-energy by inserting the short 11th hole back into the routing. Twitter will be aflutter with golfers claiming that any player that misses the green or makes a bogey (or worse…) is a fraud.
I think it’s going to be a fascinating hole, not just because of its diminutive size, but because of its placement in the routing. It follows the challenging par 4 10th, called Himalayas. It’s a par 5 for members. There will be guys making the turn on Friday near the cut line that might bogey the 10th and hope to make up a shot at the short 11th.
It could turn ugly for any player that goes flag hunting on the short hole.
Anyone attending the event this week should make a point to head out to the edge of the property and watch the best players in the world play the 11th hole. Just like in the NBA, a “3” will be a welcome score.