Golf’s top dog Dustin Johnson will defend the U.S Open championship at Erin Hills over the course of this weekend. He won by three strokes in last year’s event ahead of fellow Americans Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy as well as Irishman Shane Lowry. This was a year after he threw away the title at Chambers Bay with three bogeys in four holes on the back nine. This years instalment, the 117th time the U.S Open has been contested, will see a different test for the world’s best golfers. Erin Hills will host a Major for the first time in its history, 11 years after it was opened. It is quite a rise and the spotlight will be on the course, can it deliver?
The course is a par 72 which makes it the first par 72 to host the U.S Open since Pebble Beach in 1992. Erin Hills is also a public Golf Course. Meaning that you could rock up and organise a round there even if you have no clubs – they can provide you with some, yes really! It is only the sixth public course to hold the U.S Open. The golf course joins; Chambers Bay, Bethpage Black, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst and Torrey Pines as public courses to host the acclaimed event. Therefore it is fair to say that the relatively young course is in some good company. There are no trees on the course and limited water hazards. The star of this show? The bunkers of which there are many. Very uniquely shaped they will give the golfing elite some trouble over the four days they are fighting for the trophy.
The course starts with a par 5 dog leg left of over 600 yards, which to us and yourselves may sound like a hike – but the longer hitting pro’s may be able to reach in two! A stretch of four par 4’s follow all of various different lengths. Then comes a par 3 over 200 yards which has limited bunkers surrounding the green, rare for a par 3 on this course. The 7th is a scoring opportunity as another 600 yard plus par 5 comes up straighter than the first, if the bunkers are avoided off the tee it becomes a birdie or eagle opportunity. Another longish par 4 is next before a 3 to finish the front nine. The par 3 is short at 165 yards but is defended by a wealth of bunkers, miss the green and you’ll need your wedge.
The back nine commences with a three back to back par 4’s. The first of which is over 500 yards – a nice welcome to back nine. Bunkers left and right may come in to play off the tee as well, it really is a tough challenge. The next two par 4’s are relatively simple holes (if anything is simple in the game of golf) then the 13th is a par 3. At just over 200 yards and with a huge bunker to the left of the green it raises some issues for the golfers. A par 5 follows with danger in the form of bunkers off the tee and a sharp dog leg right to the green. A well protected green offers further challenges, this one could be tricky to negotiate.
A par three sandwiched between two par fours set the field on their way home. 15 is a short par 4 but there are several bunkers around the green, 16 – the par 3 is also heavily protected. It is a case of hit the green or expect to be attempting and up and down from a sand trap. This really is a stand out hole for us, plenty of drama could take place here on Sunday. 17 is straight and there are no sand hazards here. A light reprieve from the pressure of well protected putting surfaces. Then the long last par 5 hits the golfers with more bunkers than they would ever wish to see. Danger left and right off the tee makes it vital that they are straight with your tee shot. If they want to lay up there is bunkers in range, go for it in two (which would be a push for even the longest hitters as it is around 663 yards) there are bunkers guarding that. A truly magnificent end to a golf course. Erin Hills has no signature hole, it is said that they all qualify for that in their own unique way.
The usual names are put forward by the bookmakers, Dustin Johnson is favourite, Rory Mcilroy just behind him and Jason Day and Jordan Speith a little further back in the odds. Long gone are the days where Tiger Woods would be put forward as the front runner it seems. While the winner is most likely to come from this pack of four other players may make a push for the crown. Sergio Garcia broke his golfing major duck in April at the Masters, perhaps he now has a taste for it, do not rule him out. Rickie Fowler has also performed well so far this season this could be his time. Our pick for the tournament? We would go for Justin Rose, his accuracy could be vital in getting around the carefully placed bunkers. The issue he will face is the distance. If Rose can get his putter going he will have a big chance of making a push towards glory.
Erin Wells will provide a different test for the world class golfers who will descend there over the next four days. Accuracy and concentration will be key when facing the course. No trees in view, just grass, a few patches of water and a whole load of sand. The course may be debuting here, but do not fear, we will see it on the big stage again. It’s a cracker. The sheer beauty of the hilly land makes it a pleasure to look at. The task for the golfers is simple; long and straight off the tee, accurate shots in to the green and putt well. Obviously easier said than done.