Erin Hills’ US Open twist? A par-72 course

By  ADAM LINDEMER - Daily News

August 30, 2016

ERIN HILLS — When Erin Hills Golf Course hosts the U.S. Open in June, it will accomplish something that hasn't been done in 24 years.

The course will play as a par-72. The last time the U.S Open played as par-72 was 1992, when it was at Pebble Beach.

The USGA has already started mapping exactly how each hole will look — both the playing surface and hospitality tents.

“It's a work in progress, but we're starting to identify the infrastructure,” U.S. Open Championship Manager Eric Steimer said.

Each hole has been broken down, with the USGA and Erin Hills Superintendent Zach Reineking knowing how the fairways are cut and where potential hole locations are.

“We've plotted out five hole locations — four during round play, and one for a playoff,” said Jeff Hall of the USGA. “We have practice locations as well. We want to be as thorough in our golf examination as we can be.”

The U.S. Open is historically the toughest of the professional tour’s four majors. Erin Hills hopes it can live up to that stigma.

Merchandise for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills is available online starting Sept. 8.

Erin Hills and the USGA like how the course is set up and taken care of. Not much has changed through the last five or six years, Not much plans to change in the next 286 days.

When the U.S. Open comes June 12, the only thing different is the 35,000 spectators watching each day.

“We want everyone's experience to be the best it can possibly be,” USGA's director of championship communications Pete Kowalski said.

A big help to Reineking is when Erin Hills closes in October for the winter, it will not reopen until after the U.S. Open concludes.

That makes it easier for the staff to put the final touches on the championship course. “It’s all about fine-tuning the golf course,” Reineking said. “That’s easy to do when you’re not worrying about it being played during the day.”

Erin Hills is known for its tall fescue grass lining the course. The management of that grass changed through the last seven years.

“Sometimes 140 acres can become unmanageable,” Reineking said. “We’ve taken basically a farm tractor and mow it, bale it, then remove it. The fescue varies every year, but it’ll be around 12-15 inches. Mowing and baling it is the most effective way to do it.” The course removed close to 300 trees in 2009, leaving just a handful on the course.

“I think we’re done,” Reineking joked of not removing the six remaining trees. “The ones left have significance and provide a great backdrop.”

Since 2010 — when Erin Hills was announced as the 2017 host site — the USGA has faced the common challenges of putting together a major tournament.

“Anytime you come to a place for the first time, there’s challenges,” Hall said. “We’re learning on the fly and then we adjust.”

Erin Hills and the USGA are nearing the final adjustments.

“The fundamentals have been achieved, now it’s refining,” Hall said. “We know the playbook. Now it’s figuring out which routes to run.”

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