U.S. Open 2017: Golf's Great Unknown Courses
May 30, 2013
Valhalla (1996 PGA Championship)
The PGA of America purchased a stake in this Kentucky course in 1993 shortly after announcing the track would host its flagship event in 1996. The organization completely owns the course now, ensuring this Jack Nicklaus design will host more big events like next year's PGA. It hasn't always drawn the most positive reactions, but it's tough to argue with the results. Both majors it has hosted have ended in playoffs, including the famous Tiger Woods-Bob May duel in 2000.
Bethpage Black (2002 U.S. Open)
The U.S. Open being played on a true public golf course(not counting Pebble Beach and its $500 green fee)? It was a novel idea when the USGA selected the Long Island track to host its national championship in 2002. But a successful tournament won by Tiger Woods encouraged the USGA to return in 2009 and try several other public venues.
Olympia Fields (2003 U.S. Open)
After a 41-year break between hosting a major, this Chicago-area course was put back into the spotlight -- but we're not sure when or if it will receive an encore. The course didn't draw rave reviews from players or fans after Jim Furyk's three-shot win over Stephen Leaney and there hasn't been much talk of a USGA return.
Whistling Straits (2004 PGA Championship)
A Pete Dye course perched above Lake Michigan produced spectacular photos leading up to its first major, but not much else was known about a course which had opened just six years before. But the Irish links-style track has remained in the PGA of America's rotation for its biggest event. After what happened to Dustin Johnson in 2010, though, the pros will probably be extra careful with the course's countless bunkers when the PGA Championship returns in 2015.
Royal Liverpool (2006 British Open)
When the Open Championship returned to Hoylake after nearly a 40-year break, much had changed, including tweaking the course's routing to start on the 17th hole and finish on the 16th. But the course still played like a true links course with rock-hard fairways that famously allowed Tiger Woods to hit just one driver all week on his way to a win. The Open will head back to Royal Liverpool next year.
The Ocean Course (2012 PGA Championship)
Despite playing host to perhaps the most famous Ryder Cup ever (the 1991 "War by the Shore"), Kiawah's Ocean Course wasn't the site of another major event until the 2012 PGA Championship. There was talk of possible astronomical scores on the windswept, penal Pete Dye track that had served the match-play format so well. But heavy rains softened the course and Rory McIlroytook advantage with a runaway victory.
Merion (2013 U.S. Open)
Merion's East Course had hosted four previous U.S. Opens, but there were plenty of questions surrounding the historic track heading into the 2013 event. Thirty-two years after the big boys last teed it up there, concerns were raised about a course measuring less than 7,000 yards standing up to today's players using modern equipment. In the end, Merion held its own, with Justin Rose winning at one over.
Chambers Bay Golf Course (2015 U.S. Open)
This Washington muni was awarded a U.S. Open just months after opening in 2007. A trial run at the 2010 U.S. Amateur helped answer questions about how the course would play in competition, but no one was prepared for the bumpy greens that were an unfortunate constant topic of conversation -- and were put even more under the microscope after Dustin Johnson's three-putt on the 72nd hole. It remains to be seen whether Chambers Bay will get another shot. The USGA has its dance card filled through 2026.
Erin Hills (2017 U.S. Open)
Following the blueprint for Chambers Bay, this newer Milwaukee-area muny hosted a U.S. Amateur before being the site of the national championship. The inland links is the latest example of the USGA mixing in out-of-the-box course ideas with more traditional sites like Pinehurst (2014), Oakmont (2016) and Shinnecock Hills (2018).