Chambers Bay looks spectacular through a 47 inch LCD TV; I can only imagine its beauty in person. It appears firm and fast, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between fairway and green. There seems to be infinite approach shot choices to its massive, undulating greens; the more creative you get, the better your result could be.
Early reports are that true links golf has finally reached the United States in tournament play, and I couldn’t be more excited. We have seen U.S. Opens at Shinnecock Hills, but if you watch footage from past opens there, players flew most shots to the holes. The design of Shinnecock largely prevents ground hugging, run-up shots. Many see the fescues of Whistling Straits and think “Wow, this looks like Ireland,” and while it does look like Ireland, the golf course plays as if it is deep in the woods. At Whistling Straits you must fly every approach shot to the hole, there are no “ground game” options. Chambers Bay has the elevation changes of a Ballybunion and the flow of a Royal Dornoch. And like those two courses, most of the holes present choices between flying the ball high at the flag, or running it up low onto the green, stiff to the pin.
Links golf is a different animal from what most of us have played; it is a challenge that we in the United States rarely get to
experience. Here we are used to hitting a drive or an approach and receiving immediate feedback for the quality of our shot – “Man I stuck that one!” But with links golf we often need to patiently watch the shot we’ve hit to see what mounds and bumps we roll over, and whether our creativity, skill, and occasionally luck, were able to execute the shot at hand. These golf shots are so much more rewarding.
As you watch the U.S. Open this week, observe the world’s best players, with puzzled looks on their faces, mulling over what type of shot to play. Then watch as their imagination takes over and they play unique shots that have you wondering: “Where in the world are they hitting that?” Experience the excitement as the shot slowly trundles back towards the hole, and as the camera pans back to the player notice the sense of pride and satisfaction that he has on his face; he’s pulled off a shot that he just created in his mind … to perfection. The feeling is similar to when you first started playing golf, struggling, and then you hit that one perfect shot that was so exhilarating you couldn’t wait to play again. Links golf provides similar emotions with every round.
Watching Chambers Bay this week just might give you a wee taste of Scotland and Ireland, and inspire you to cross the pond to experience the joy of links golf yourself.