The U.S. Open: How the USGA chooses a golf course

This was supposed to be an article about courses that haven’t hosted a U.S. Open, but should. I tried. Problem is, the USGA has considered every course that could be a U.S. Open course.

That’s because the qualifications for being a U.S. Open course are through the roof insane, as they should be. There are 13 factors the USGA considers when looking at  a potential U.S. Open course.

1. Length, variation, and playing characteristics of the individual holes-

Basically they don’t want players going out there and throwing birdies left and right. They want a birdie at the U.S. Open to be a rare occurrence.

2. Length of overall golf course relative to total par-

This right here eliminates most courses in general. The USGA does not want your local 6500 yard course or the average tour course. They want 7,000 yard-plus monsters.

3. Fairway width and contours-

Again, relation to the scoring. In any U.S. Open being accurate off the tee is a must. This is why Tiger Woods became such a good fairway wood/long iron player to accommodate this.

4. Fairway firmness and speed-

This one is kind of hard to explain. They don’t want fast tracks where the ball bounces 50 yards after it hits the ground. But this is not a deal breaker depending on the length of the course.

5. Green speed relative to the percentage slopes and contours of the greens-

I’m not even going to try to explain this one.

6. Putting green firmness-

The USGA wants fast tricky greens that are hard to read. They don’t want players dropping 25 foot bombs all day.

7. Rough height, density, and stages of severity-

Basically, the USGA wants the most difficult rough for a U.S. Open course, and the farther away from the fairway you get, the longer and more difficult the rough becomes.

8. Bunker preparation-

The USGA wants bunkers that are nicely prepped, giving the players a good, but fair challenge out of the sand.

9. Green surrounds-

The USGA wants the short game to be an important aspect of any U.S. Open, and wants to reward players who have it by making it a priority.

10. Hole locations-

The USGA wants hole locations that are not easily accessible. They don’t want players dropping the ball six feet from the cup all day from 200 yards back in the fairway.

11. Risk and reward options-

Yes the USGA wants the course to be hard, but they also want players to take risks from time to time, get away from their programming, and get back to playing golf.

12. Anticipated weather conditions-

Players sitting around every day waiting for the rain to stop is not good for the ratings, the players, or the quality of play.

13. Pace of play-

This is an easy one. The USGA wants the course set up so the pace of play is smooth and level with no interruptions.

Clearly a lot goes into picking the right course for the U.S. Open and yet someone always finds something to complain about. The whole point of this Major is to test the best and make them struggle to reach par. With Erin Hills’ debut as a U.S. Open venue, we can only wait and see how the professionals fair on this specifically made golf course.

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