My friend and photographer extraordinaire, Allan Henry, snapped this photo of me at Erin Hills on Monday. I can’t remember which hole it was, but it was well struck.
I played Erin Hills, the site of the 2017 US Open. I didn’t see the first seven holes because I was delayed finishing up with work at Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship. But luckily — I say that because Erin Hills is not an easy place to find since it’s in the sticks and there’s not really a sign that indicates the entrance to the grounds — I caught up with my friends on the eighth hole.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing those 11 remaining holes (Nos. 8-18). I thought it was a fun and interesting track. Conditions were soft, so the already long course was playing even longer. I played from the white tees and the rating for women was 76.2 (or something like that).
The understated, rustic feel to Erin Hills was refreshing and delightful. Especially compared to Whistling Straits — which is a great layout and I’d love to play it (once), but it’s a bit over-the-top and contrived. It’s like the Disney World of faux-links golf. In other words, Erin Hills meets the requirements and smells like a venue for a USGA championship.
There were parts of the fairway that weren’t perfectly grown in, but it just reopened and it didn’t bother me. I had heard mixed reviews going in, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. After the first two holes, I thought, what are people talking about? This course is fantastic! It’s probably also because I went par-birdie on my first two holes.
Criticisms I heard from my colleagues was that the fescue wasn’t grown properly (too long) and if you missed the fairway, the ball immediately disappeared. I remember someone joking to me before I played, “Make sure you bring a lot of balls.” Well, hitting the fairway is the only thing I can usually count on these days.
But I definitely saw it happen. There wasn’t a point of looking for your ball if you hit it in some of that stuff. One of the caddies said something like, “Imagine how many balls you’d find under all that grass.” Probably a lot. And a lot of new balls, too. But no doubt these issues will be remedied by the time the U.S. Open rolls into town in 2017.
Others complained about the roundabout routes and long distances between the green to the next tee. Yeah, it was confusing, but I was never bothered by it. I would just ask a caddie which way to go. I was also just having fun playing the course to think about it.
Then there’s the bug problem. Within five minutes of getting to the course, I was feeling itchy and freaking out about being allergic to something or getting attacked by some type of blood-slurping insect. I doused myself with bug spray that was provided at the halfway house. The bug epidemic isn’t exclusive to Erin Hills, though — it’s pretty much appears to be a farmland in Milwaukee epidemic. Solution? That’s easy. Don’t forget the OFF.
Anyway, I’d love to play the first seven holes someday. Oh, I ended up shooting +3 for 11 holes.