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Shane Bacon

Is Chambers Bay too hard for USGA events?

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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When Chambers Bay opened in 2007, people knew right away it was a golf masterpiece. The links-style course in University Park, Wash. was pinned right away as the next big golf destination on the west coast, rivaling that of Bandon Dunes for sheer beauty and difficulty.

The USGA were some of the first to jump behind Chambers Bay. They issued the new course a U.S. Amateur in 2010 and the U.S. Open in 2015. The Amateur is going on this week, but the questions aren't about how the course is holding up to it's first big tournament. The questions are about the difficulty of the golf course, and if this thing is too hard to host even a major championship.

Here some facts from the two days of stroke play that completed at Chambers Bay and the Home Course on Tuesday.

-- The stroke average at Chambers was 79.25 during the two days.

-- There were more rounds in the 90s (six) over the two days at Chambers than there were under par (five).

-- Only four players broke 70 at Chambers, and only one, Patrick Reed, was able to post three-under.

We've knocked out all these facts and haven't even began talking about some the yardages at this course. Chambers, from the tips, plays 7,742, 316 yards longer than the longest U.S. Open venue in the history of that tournament. It has five par-4s that are longer than 500 yards, including the par-4 11th that stretches 539 yards (longer than both par-5s on the back nine at Augusta National).

But, distance might not be the problem. I asked a buddy of mine, Chris Dukeminier, who caddied for his brother Jack this week at Chambers Bay, to explain how difficult the course played.

"Despite the 7,742 yardage, the difficult part of Chambers Bay had little to do with length. The firmness of the greens was by far the most difficult aspect that the players had to deal with.

A few key shots were tee-shots on the 9th and 15th holes. Both are par-3s of over 200 yards to greens similar to parking lots. My brother/player, Jack Dukeminier, hit 2 perfect 4-irons on each that landed in the center of the greens and ended up about 30 yards over the greens in the fescue."

And the most telling thing from Chris about Chambers Bay?

"I'm a one handicap, and I'm very happy I was just a caddy this week as opposed to a player ... I'm not certain even a 5 or 6 handicap could break 100 out there."

So, it seems that the course might have got out of hand this week for the amateurs, but what happens when the pros get there? Will they toughen it up this much in '15, and make it an absolute bloodbath on the golf course? People have complained that hitting drives on the firm fairways this week has been like driving it down a freeway, but at least the USGA got a chance to try out tournament conditions before the big boys arrive.

But, hear you me, if they bring this type of setup to one of the major championships, you will never hear the end of it from these pros. While it is just amateurs playing this week, they all had to qualify and all have impressive games.

This course needs to be eased up a bit before the next national championship, especially one that sees stroke play for four days.

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