June 11 (Reuters) - The first U.S. Open to be played in the state of Wisconsin will be held at a relatively new course as the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) takes its premier event to a new venue for the second time in three years.
Erin Hills, located some 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, spreads over 200 acres of a 650-acre property and though only 11 years old, it blends into the landscape as though it had been there for centuries.
The course has been given an early thumbs-up by most who have played it, though as with any course, cheers can quickly turn to jeers if they deem the set-up on tournament days to be unfair.
Stretching some 7,800 yards from the back tees, it has a Scottish links-style look, with long fescue rough, few trees, and firm fairways.
The wide fairways and four par-fives – the first par-72 U.S. Open since Pebble Beach in 1992 – will likely offer the long hitters their usual advantage, though miss a fairway and the fescue could exact a big price.
Fescue, a sturdy grass that turns a golden colour and can grow several feet high, is notoriously famous for wrapping around the hosel of a club and causing the ball to be pulled.
Perhaps the biggest question over the course set-up concerns the multiple tee boxes and how clever the USGA wants to be. Hole yardage will vary greatly from day to day, but beyond that uncertainty is the only certainty.
Predicting a winning score is always fraught with danger but it is safe to say there will be plenty of birdies on the smooth greens at Erin Hills, which has been closed to the public since late last year.
“The greens are absolutely perfect. I haven’t seen a blemish on them for two days,” 2013 champion Justin Rose said on Saturday.
“That’s the only reason scores may get low here, because guys are going to make putts.”
Rose added that he thoroughly enjoyed the entire course, especially the back nine which he described as “fantastic.”
More course praise is likely to flow as players start arriving en-masse over the next couple of days but only time will tell whether it is a quick honeymoon or a longer love affair. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry)