This will be the 5th US open at Shinnecock Hills golf course, the first was in 1896. The golf course is described as an inland links golf course meaning it was originally a barren piece of land where nothing grows with a sandy texture above and below the ground. Cosmetically it doesn’t look like that any more.
How difficult is a US Open golf course?
Blue Canyon Golf Course in Phuket, which is a wonderful golf course to play, is a stern test of golf off the back and does feature black tees, which are usually used for championship play, for example professional or strong amateur tournaments. The course has hosted professional tournaments such as the Johnnie Walker Classic, which Tiger Woods won in 1998.
The rating of the golf course tells you how difficult it is. The par at Blue Canyon is 72, however, the course rating means the degree of difficulty is 2.8 above the par, therefore 74.8 (an amateur can play to a zero handicap by playing to 74.8 not 72).
Shinnecock Hills is par 70 with a course rating of 74.7 and includes six par 4 holes which are over 475 yards. From the good old days, any hole over 475 yards is classed as a par 5 making the natural par of the golf course 76. So if you want to experience how difficult a US Open is in degree of difficulty, it’s just around the corner.
How did the US Open start? Where is it now?
The first US Open was played in 1895 by ten professional golfers and one amateur playing a 9-hole course, 36 holes in one day, and was won by British golfer Horace Rawlins. British golfers won primarily up until 1911 but then in 1913 the first America golfer won.
Francis Ouimet, being an American amateur, totally broke the spell of the British powerhouse golfers at the time including Harry Vardon and it was Ouimit’s win that made golf more popular in America. After that American players dominated the US Open up until 1965 when Gary Player from South Africa won.
Since then there have been many international winners coming from countries including South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Northern Ireland and Martin Kaymer from Germany winning in 2014. So from its humble beginnings the US open has become the second golfing Major with global status.
Can any golfer qualify for the US Open?
Any golfer in the world with a handicap low enough as an amateur or professional can enter and try to qualify for the the US Open. However, in percentage terms their chance of qualifying is 0.86%.
This year 8,537 people attempted to qualify and this dwindled down to 500 advancing, plus exemptions who have qualified in a different way.
Just 74 have actually advanced to play in the US Open, plus 76 exempted known players who don’t have to quality, making a field of 150 players, and that’s why it’s called an open championship.
How is a golf course selected for the US Open?
Due to the roots of golf in America being 130 years old there are golf courses from the past to the present. Even though the USGA say there is not a strict rotation, the following golf courses have hosted the US Open on more than one occasion; Oakmont Country Club (eight times), Wingfoot, Pebble Beach, Olympic Club, Merion Oakland Hills and Shinnecock Hills, Torrey Pines, Bethpage, Pinehurst, Beltusrol, Congressional, with only a handful more.
This is very much unlike golf’s first Major which is played at the same golf course every year. Generally, most of these golf courses have stood the test of time when it comes to degrees of difficulty and the way they are set up for the US Open.
One of the sternest of tests is that when playing an 18-hole golf course over four rounds, fairways should be narrow, the rough of the fairways should make it difficult to get your golf ball back in play and it should have very fast greens. If the course has been created correctly, a high scoring score (rather than low scores), sometimes even around par, can win the US Open.
Who runs the US Open ?
The USGA is the game’s governing body and is dedicated to serving all golfers. The association is proud to include more than 8,000 country clubs, public, daily-fee and municipal golf courses, qualified practice facilities and clubs without real estate as member clubs because they have the same mission – serving all the men, women and children who play and love golf.
Still, to this day, the United States Golf Association, which is an Amateur body but run as a business, organise all the professional tours from around the world which adhere to its tournament regulations.
The USGA has a tried and tested format, from the setting up of the golf course and financial gains that can be made from the US Open. The USGA has a give back policy to help grow the game of golf for new as well as existing golfers and throughout the world with children being the future golfers.
Long may the US Open continue to grow the game of golf, and I for one am looking forward to the upcoming US Open.
Good golfing to all!
Text by Martin Platts
Martin Platts (British) P.G.A., Director of the Golf Guru International Golf Academy, has been involved in competitive golf for 40 years, 30 as a professional. He has coached players of all levels from beginners to Ryder Cup tour professionals. Visit TheGolfGuru.com