The US Open: part two
- Credit: Pinehurst Resort
The second part of our look at the US Open with Axe Cliff Golf Club member Kyle Phillpots, who joined the club in 2018 after retiring from the PGA.
I only attended the US Open on two occasions, as it is a tournament where fewer of the National PGAs attend and it is a very different tournament to The Open Championship.
For many years, the USGA rotated the venues around the country, embracing new courses as well as the well-established ones, also selecting from public and private courses.
Perhaps following the example of Francis Ouimet, they wanted the US Open to be seen by as many people as possible to continue to encourage the growth of golf.
The USGA philosophy is now changing and they announced in 2020 that they intend to rotate their National Championship around a core number of ten courses.
The Donald Ross designed #2 course at Pinehurst in the sand belt of North Carolina becoming their “go to” venue every five or six years.
By rotating their Championship, in the same way that the R&A does with the Open Championship in this country, they intend to offer the spectator the opportunity to witness the enhanced skills of the World’s best players performing on a properly established venue.
These will include Winged Foot in New York, Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, NY, Pebble Beach Golf Links on California’s Pacific Coast and Oakmont located close to the city of Pittsburgh….amongst others.
As an added point of interest, the final round of the US Open is traditionally played on Fathers’ Day.
They also have a tradition of wanting the winner to be the golfer who achieves par and so they have chosen a list of venues where the courses are very difficult, even for the best players in the world.
They do this by setting up the course in such a way that it rewards accurate shot-making with narrow fairways, letting the rough grow to penalise wayward shots and having very, very fast greens.
The first US Open I attended in 2013 at Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia was won by Justin Rose, who shot one over par, a score the USGA would have been happy with.
But they don’t always get it right and the last one I attended, at Erin Hills, near Milwaukee, in 2017, Brooks Koepka won with a score 16 under par.
As the story of the little guy beating the big guys is so much a part of the American narrative, particularly if the big guys are British, the story of Francis Ouimet became the subject of a book and a film of the same name “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (Mark Frost).
The subtitle for the book was “Vardon, Ouimet and the birth of modern golf”, indicating that this was the moment that encouraged a wider section of people, in America at least, to take up golf.
While it had started off as a game played by shepherds, passing time while they kept an eye on their sheep by hitting a stone with their crooks at a distant target, it did get taken over by the landed gentry in the 18th and 19th Centuries and then again by the upper middle class in the 20th Century.
Golf is now much more a game for everyone and can be accessed at a fairly low price. While young boys like Ouimet, and a more recent Open Champion, Seve Ballesteros, who learned to play on the beach near his home in Santander in Northern Spain using only one club given to him by his brother, had to make do with very little, today's golf is welcoming and anxious to encourage boys and girls to take up the sport.
There will be more opportunities to learn to play at Axe Cliff in the spring and summer and anyone who wants to give golf a try should contact the club and leave their details with email@example.com or 01297 21754.