In 2015, ruffled, tousled Chambers Bay will become the first former gravel pit to host a U.S. Open. View more photos of this course >
__Editor's Note: Click here to see the 2011-2012 ranking of America's Greatest Public Golf Courses.
Stepping onto the clubhouse patio at Chambers Bay is akin to strolling to the edge of the Grand Canyon. Below lies a chasm of bewildering beauty, a spectacle that overwhelms the senses.
Unlike Sand Hills or Bandon Dunes or Whistling Straits, whose rugged links-land beauty and character unfold gradually as golfers turn a corner or crest a hill, Chambers Bay explodes at first glimpse from this perch. Nearly every hole is visible -- every craggy dune, sprawling wasteland, tumultuous fairway and tremulous green. Golfers descend by van, not burro, to the first tee, but heart and adrenaline rates are likely elevated nonetheless, for Chambers Bay is an encounter that breeds apprehension and exhilaration.
A municipal operation worthy of national championships, the course is a celebration of American innovation, a land-reclamation project that promotes the positive environmental aspects of golf, a man-made links that thoroughly disguises its artificiality through the artifice of its design.
Few golfers would guess the ragged, jagged, rumbling, tumbling topography is only 20 percent natural. Fewer still would guess that its antecedents sprung from Pebble Beach, where two decades ago Jones pumped sand and life onto a barren hunk of rock and created, with the help of co-designers Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum, The Links at Spanish Bay, Golf Digest's Best New Resort Course of 1988.
Chambers Bay was wrought from another eyesore of a mined-out quarry, on the coastline of Puget Sound, and this time Jones teamed with his design partner, Charlton, and talented young associate Jason Blasi, to reassemble 1.5 million cubic yards of material, much of it spoils of stockpiled sand, into a collection of holes as captivatingly complex and playfully quirky as will ever be seen in a U.S. Open.
Holes rise, fall, widen and narrow like figures in a funhouse mirror. The first and 18th, headed in opposite directions, share a massive common fairway interrupted only by a couple of bunker-laden dunes. The downhill, par-4 fifth has two separate greens 150 yards apart, the longer green open in front, the shorter heavily guarded. The 530-yard, par-4 14th drops down and to the left over a deep chasm dubbed The Pit of Despair.
The turf throughout, including the greens, is Old Country fescue -- "hardwood floors," Jones calls the surfaces -- as opposed to the plush carpets we Americans normally play. The grass supports dry, firm, fast conditions, but because fescue doesn't traffic well, Chambers Bay is a walking-only layout, its complexion unscarred by tire tracks or cartpaths.
Fescue greens can't be shaved to nubbins, so the architects exaggerated green contours to counteract the expected docile pace of about nine feet on a Stimpmeter. Each putting surface presents a distinct issue. The third green slopes from front right to back left, so shots to this par 3 should be bounced aboard. The fourth green has lower, middle and upper bowls, so the approach must hit the correct sideboard to funnel to the proper level. The 16th green is the most outrageous, shaped like a right hand with index finger extended. No question it was a presumptive symbol for that universal chant, "We're No. 1!" -- but it turned out to be prophetic.
And there's an Open Sunday flagstick location aching to be placed on that fingertip.
BEST NEW PUBLIC 1. CHAMBERS BAY University Place, Wash. Yards: 7,585 Par: 72 Fee: $175 Designers: Robert Trent Jones Jr., Bruce Charlton and Jason Blasi 253-460-4653 More Details on This Course chambersbaygolf.com 2. PGA G.C. COYOTE SPRINGS (CHASE) Coyote Springs, Nev. Yards: 7,471 Par: 72 Fee: $175 Designer: Jack Nicklaus 877-742-8455 coyotesprings.com 3. COUGAR CANYON G. LINKS Trinidad, Colo. Yards: 7,669 Par: 72 Fee: $69 Designer: Chris Cochran Of Nicklaus Design 719-422-7015 cougarcanyonliving.com __4. FOUR MILE RANCH G.C.__ Canon City, Colo. Yards: 7,053 Par 72 Fee: $59 Designer: Jim Engh 719-275-5400 fourmileranch.com 5. HERITAGE PLANTATION G. & C.C. Laurel Hill, Fla. Yards: 7,328 Par: 72 Fee: $75 Designer: Bill Bergin 850-652-2555 heritageplantationfla.com 6. EMERALD FALLS G.C. Broken Arrow, Okla. Yards: 7,148 Par 72 Fee: $60 Designer: Jerry Slack 918-806-2792 emeraldfalls.com 7. SEVILLANO LINKS Corning, Calif. Yards: 7,823 Par: 72 Fee: $69 Designer: Mike Stark With John Daly 530-528-4600 sevillanolinks.com 8. COTTONWOOD HILLS G.C. Hutchinson, Kan. Yards: 7,260 Par: 72 Fee: $59 Designer: Nick Faldo And Guy Hockley 620-802-9150 cottonwoodhills.net 9. BUTTERFIELD TRAIL G.C. El Paso Yards: 7,307 Par: 72 Fee: $80 Designer: Tom Fazio 915-772-1038 butterfieldtrailgolf.com 10. HERITAGE HILL G.C. Shepherdsville, Ky. Yards: 7,112 Par: 72 Fee: $59 Designer: Doug Beach 502-531-0606 hhgolfclub.com