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The Country Club at Brookline: Our drone video reveals how this classic U.S. Open venue has been transformed

June 03, 2022

There are places in American golf so unique they are beyond imitation, and in some cases beyond description. Yale, Oakmont, Fishers Island and Tobacco Road are some examples: in spirit and form they are not like anything else. The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, falls into this same small category.

Apart from the few who competed at The Country Club in the 2013 U.S. Amateur, contestants arriving for the 2022 U.S. Open will find a golf course that isn’t quite like anything else they play. Even the few qualifiers from the 1999 Ryder Cup teams—Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington—will have to reorient themselves to its unconventional routing.

The first holes were laid out in 1893, and over the next 15 years the course morphed repeatedly as the club acquired adjacent land and holes were built and rebuilt, primarily by a group of members. The turn of the century architecture is defined by the course’s tiny, tilted greens, blind shots and abundant quirk.

At times it feels like playing golf on the moon, or maybe Mars. Rock outcroppings, embankments, rugged shifts of land, canted terrain and thick fescues drive the flow of holes as much as any architectural intent. These elements, sometimes all found on a single hole, can lead to abnormal and uncomfortable shot situations. Though elite players have their distances dialed in, and yardages to precise landing spots are no longer guesswork, the lack of visibility and repeated need to save par after missing the microscopic greens will take a toll on those who don’t approach The Country Club with an open mind.

The course that local amateur Francis Ouimet beat professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray on to win the 1913 U.S. Open, shocking the golf world in the process, is essentially the same course the members play day to day, known at the Main Course and ranked 17th on the Golf Digest list of America’s 100 Greatest courses. An additional nine was added in the late 1920s called Primrose, and the total of 27 holes gives The Country Club the ability to use an 18-hole routing for major tournaments that incorporates elements from each nine.

The routing that is used for the 2022 U.S. Open features a new sequencing of holes than the order played in the 1963 and 1988 U.S. Opens, won by Julius Boros and Curtis Strange, respectively, and the 1999 Ryder Cup immortalized by the U.S. team’s historic Sunday comeback. It also includes a hole not utilized in a major since 1913.

The Country Club is a portal to the past, for both golf history and golf design. But be warned—what you are about to see is not normal. This is unordinary golf in a one-of-a-kind setting. The scenes depict a course that challenges the world’s best on its own terms, virtually unchanged for well over a century. This is golf as it used to be, as old and original and magisterial as any in the country.