I received an e-mail from Erin Hills yesterday: *"Erin Hill extends its special $95 green fee through October. Take advantage of beautiful fall weather and experience the course as it matures after the recent enhancement project." *
I was thinking that's PR code for: Our course is torn up right now, but if you want to see it and play it for a reduced rate, stop by. So I called the shop. I spoke to Jim Lombardo, the head pro, and he gave me the status of the course and the details of the renovation.
"It's rough right now, but tee to green we're in perfect shape," says Lombardo.
In October of last year the course closed after a group that included Erin Hills owner, Bob Lang, Mike Davis of the USGA, Dana Fry and Mike Hurdzan, two of the original designers, all evaluated the course and started making changes in order to accomplish two goals: make it a better championship venue but, at the same time, more playable for the everyday player.
"We've added 50 or 60 bunkers, we ripped out the thick fescue along the fairways and replaced it with a thinner wispy grass," says Lombardo. "We eliminated some of the blind shots, increased the size of three greens (2, 3 and 9), built an entirely new 4th green (it had drainage problems) and cut down a ridge on the 15th fairway."
Lombardo says they're not trying to hide the fact they've made changes or that the course is not in perfect shape. "We send our players notes about the condition of the course," he says.
Here's some of the information you receive when you book a tee time:
*The fairways, tees and greens are very playable. In fact, the greens are rolling true at 11-11.5. The biggest problem that we have had is "no rain" that affects the unirrigated areas.
Following is a list of some of the inconveniences you might experience:
- The fine fescue outside the ropes has not germinated due to the lack of rain.
- The sides of some of the new bunkers have not grown in.
- Some new irrigated tees (#16-18) are seeded, but not grown in.
- Some of the re-sodded fairways have not fully taken hold.
- Outside unirrigated areas of some fairways are brown due to the lack of rain.
Overall, your play should not be affected by these visual inconveniences. As a result of the above, we have reduced our $160 green fee to $95 through the end of the season.*
Lombardo says the course is now 99% set for the U.S. Amateur, however there's still some debate about what to do with the 10th hole. "It's been a mystery to all of us," says Lombardo. "It's a nice piece of land and we're still trying to figure it out. It might change a little or a lot. We're not sure yet."
There are six sets of tees listed on the scorecard at Erin Hills. From the tips it can play from 8,348 yards, which is laughable. I'm on my way to play golf in Wisconsin at the end of the month. I'm thinking I'll play Erin Hills from the green tees, listed at 6,838. Lombardo says there is also a set of forward green tees that play from 6,300 yards.
Lang recently received approval from the town of Erin Planning Commission to build a second course. Routing for the second course is done but Lang told the Milwaukee/Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that a second course is not a guarantee.
-[Here's a link to the story about the second course being approved earlier this month.