Gary Player misses the mark in his criticism of Chambers Bay

Gary Player misses the mark in his criticism of Chambers Bay

Whoa, Black Knight. Take it easy. Chambers Bay is a "tragedy?" Shouldn't we save that word for something a little more serious?

Unlike most of us, apparently Gary Player isn't enjoying watching the U.S. Open. Or as Brandel Chamblee said on "Live from the U.S. Open" before Saturday's third round of the U.S. Open, maybe Player is just saying all the things he wished he had said during his years as a player, maybe even when he won the U.S. Open on a burnt-out, 5-year-old Bellerive Country Club course in 1965.

Video: Live From discusses Gary Player comments, U.S. Open setup

Gary Player goes off on Chambers Bay

In case you missed it, here's some of what Player had to say on Golf Channel's Morning Drive before the third round of the 115th U.S. Open:

"We're playing the U.S. Open, this great championship, a group of people, the USGA, that I have great respect for, but this has been the most unpleasant golf tournament I've seen in my life. I mean the man who designed this golf course had to have one leg shorter than the other."

And this:

"I understand [why the USGA came here to a public course]. What they did at Bethpage was tremendous ... But you don't bring [the U.S. Open] to golf courses like this. This is devastating. To see a man miss the green by one yard and end up 50 yards down there, caddies falling and hurting their ankles and knees, players falling ... This is terrible."

He also said it must have been designed by a man with one leg shorter than the other, referring to Robert Trent Jones Jr. The rant went on for what seemed like an hour. Golf Channel's Matt Ginella was quick to defend Chambers Bay on Twitter:

I'm not saying Chambers Bay is perfect. It's possible that before this 8-year-old municipal course near Seattle gets another U.S. Open, the greens will change, probably to bentgrass. But I still think Chambers Bay is one of coolest golf courses I've ever played.

Chambers really is fun to play

I didn't play Chambers Bay it in U.S. Open conditions, which is exactly how nearly all handicappers play these kinds of courses. I loved all the teeing options, the different ways you can get close to the hole, the risk-reward opportunities and, of course, the views. Yes, hit a ball short and it can come back 60 yards. So what? It's different. Hit it to the right spot.

And as Jay Blasi, Chambers Bay, project architect pointed out in my recent interview, the less skilled golfers from the forward tees have actually enjoyed the course. Why? No forced carries. There's always a route to the hole.

This place is also stunning. You've got Puget Sound, the old gravel quarry remains, the trains that come by and incredible elevation changes. Even if you don't play it, have a bite to eat from the restaurant above this course. Good food and even better vistas.

Some of Gary Player's designs are tough, too

I'm not really surprised by Player's take on Chambers Bay. He's always been prone to exaggeration. It seems like he's said a million times that the no. 1 problem in America is "obesity." He's relentless on that front, too.

And while I generally like Player's designs -- they're usually pretty playable -- The Links at Fancourt in his native South Africa is no picnic. Having recently played it, I can tell you I enjoyed it, but it isn't easy by any stretch, no matter what tees you play.

Like Chambers Bay, Fancourt is walking only. Also like Chambers, it isn't an easy walk (though admittedly easier than Chambers Bay). But in both cases, five-hour rounds are the norm.

And if you're a high handicapper, you're going to have a devil of a time finding those greens. Because the Links at Fancourt, which played host to the 2003 Presidents Cup, isn't really links; it's links-looking, with plenty of treacherous and sometimes impossible pot bunkers throwing up a minefield before you have to hit target greens in the air for the most part. Interesting, but hardly easy, and some might even argue, a little bit unfair. Not me, though: I liked it, and I love Chambers Bay.

As for those who don't like Player's designs, there are a few. Ask Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, a billionaire scratch golfer who apparently didn't think much of Player's 1996 course when he bought The Floridian from Wayne Huizenga in 2010. He immediately tore it up and replaced it with a Tom Fazio design, a much better test.

Even at Fancourt, where there are three courses, when it came time to renovate the parkland Montagu Course, German billionaire owner Hasso Plattner didn't ask Player to redo the course. Instead he brought in David McLay Kidd of Bandon Dunes fame. Needless to say, the Black Knight didn't approve of that one either.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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I agree with Player about Chambers Bay, mainly about those greens.  And that is what most of the player complaints have been about, the condition of the greens.  I also like the two Player designed courses I have played.  Very fair no matter what your handicap is.  Better than the Pete Dye courses i have played where one has to play spot golf or your down a huge embankment or a a deep bunker with a 30 foot uphill sand shot.  As a matter of fact, two his resort courses I know in CA are being remodeled by his son to make the courses more playable.

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maybe Player would be more convincing if he ranted about Chambers in a g-string, while curling dumbbells...

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I have played Chambers Bay with my son twice and although I didn't love the walk the course was fun, interesting , challenging and majestic, played close to our low handicaps both in light and heavy winds. Gary should try playing his much maligned Pacific Golf Club in San Clemente, Calif. and re-evaluated his opinions.

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Player is not the only one complaining, and your statement 'as most of us' it seems you have not read the blogs, from what I have read, and I have read a lot of cooments from viewers, abou 90% hated seeing good shots on green roll 60 yards into a bunker or deposit area, watvhing great putters miss 2-footers. many players, unfortunately, have decided to remain quite, but the concensus agrees with Gary Player.Find PouPoulter's picture of one of the greens...awful. according to Greg Norman, some greens had two types og grass...Chambers was an awful choice for the US Open, znd most viewers feel that way.

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#1 Player wasn't talking about condition of greens for the Open, but overall playability, etc for Amateurs#2 "90% hated seeing good shots on green roll 60 yards into a bunker or deposit are" Leaving aside whether people hated that or not, its just not true. Yes, the ball rolls after hitting greens (like golf is supposed to be) but in vast majority of cases is was far from random. The pros knew well whete they needed to land the ball on approach shots & off tees. The ones rollingbnto bunkers or deposit areas were NOT "good shots"#3 Player comparing Bethpage Black favorably to Chambers in terms of playability for Amateurs & water use/sustainability is simply laughable. It's exactly the opposite & its not even close

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I think you are way off line.  Most of the people I talked to loved the scrambling a lot of the prima donna players had to do.  Guys like Poulter aren't happy unless the ball just naturally falls into the hole, as if drawn by a string.  No matter where they play, you are going to have the naysayers out there crying, as if to make an excuse for why they couldn't win.  I felt bad for DJ but he should have taken his time on the last hole.  He rushed his putts and it cost him.  This US Open came down to the same thing we weekenders have to do when we play our muni goat tracks... read the wind, the grass, the sand, and lack of green in spots where the green is supposed to be.  Our golf group has been saying for years that if the pampered tour players had to play our conditions, they wouldn't post 20+ below scores in tournaments.  Just saying :)

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Gary Player misses the mark in his criticism of Chambers Bay