It’s an election year. And for the past 12 months, whether it was in front of a microphone or behind closed doors, the delegates have made their selection widely known.
They don’t like Pierce County’s Chambers Bay.
As the 116th U.S. Open concluded Sunday at one of the true American classic courses — Oakmont Country Club — the subject of Chambers Bay still raises the ire of some of the best golfers in the world.
It was promoted beforehand as a new links-style course with wonderful views and a championship layout. What the golfers came away with was a bad taste for quirky hole-routing and discolored, uneven greens.
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“I don’t think any player wishes the return of the U.S. Open to Chambers Bay,” said University Place’s Michael Putnam.
And that is coming from a man who knows these PGA Tour players personally — and who grew up down the street from the old sand-and-gravel mine.
The gist of what many professional golfers said over the weekend about Chambers Bay, a year later, was this: The layout wasn’t bad, but the greens were the worst they had ever putted on.
Puyallup’s Ryan Moore said that through his many discussions with other golfers, he got the same type of feedback.
“For the most part, all I’ve heard was that the people would have enjoyed the golf course if the greens were just OK,” Moore said. “If they were decent, it would have been a nice week. But they were so bad, it made it torturous.”
Greens can be fixed, and in this case, the best solution might be to replace the fine fescue grass with either bentgrass or poa annua.
Of course, if that happens, the green complexes likely would have to be reshaped as well.
But can Chambers Bay’s reputation be fixed as well?
Maybe not this “white elephant,” says PGA Tour player James Hahn.
“I don’t think (the stigma) can be broken, to be honest with you,” said Hahn, who won the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this season. “That is why the people who are in charge of finding golf courses to play our national championships on — it is a big decision.”
Australian Cameron Smith shares a slightly more positive view of Chambers Bay, where he tied for fourth at the U.S. Open.
“I love the layout. All the guys loved the layout — the quirky design was kind of nice because it was different,” Smith said. “If the greens are good, all the guys would love it. I just don’t think it was ready (to host a U.S. Open).”
The bigger issue Smith had was one many outside the ropes could relate to: Bad viewing on a lot of the holes.
Smith’s father, Des, came from Australia to watch his son play in his first major championship at Chambers Bay.
“Dad was saying even last year, of all the shots I hit every day, he only got to see 32 of them,” Smith said. “It is Dad — he wants to be there for every shot, and he is seeing half the shots.
“From a spectator standpoint, they’ve got to do something.”
Normally, this kind of complaining from players is like white noise with the U.S. Golf Association.
But after the USGA announced Saturday that Oakmont is its next selected site in 2025, and Shinnecock Hills — which will host the 2018 national open — would come around again in 2026, is it fair to wonder if Chambers Bay has been put on the back burner for a while?
Danny Sink, the U.S. Open championship director for Chambers Bay, declined to comment.
Moore says he thinks he knows why, predicting that the USGA won’t decide anything on Chambers Bay until after the 2017 U.S. Open concludes at another new site — Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
“I have a feeling they are feeling out next year (at Erin Hills), and they will return to one of those venues — whichever one they like better,” Moore said.