A handful of our Midwest Local Golf Advisors recently assembled at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, the site of the 2017 U.S. Open. They shared their collective exploits on social media during their visit. Upon their return, we checked in with them to get their extended thoughts on the experience of playing a major championship venue.
Local Golf Advisors are all about giving you the inside read. So they shared plenty of tips for anyone with the course in their future golf travel plans. You can read their golf course reviews by visiting our Erin Hills course guide page here.
Golf Advisor: What was the most unexpected thing about playing Erin Hills?
Chris Brooks, Indiana Local Golf Advisor (@brooksiegolf): Unexpected was the "slow-play reveal" from the road: you could easily drive right by a US Open course and entirely miss it.
Luke Behning, IAmDiesel18, Illinois Local Golf Advisor (@iamdiesel18): The greens. While standing on the greens, you see the big tiers and ridges, but at first glance you miss the more subtle slopes and ridges throughout. I had multiple double breaking putts that I could see the obvious first break but was oblivious to the more subtle second break. Thankfully, we had good caddies that were spot on with their reads.
Bryan Tweed, BryanTweed16, Illinois Local Golf Advisor (@BryanTweed16): I was fortunate enough to play Erin Hills once before back in July 2017, a month after the U.S. Open was held there ... I was still blown away by the scope of the property during my second round. I was struck again by how challenging the green complexes are to get close and actually challenge for birdies.
Ben Grehan, Back9Ben, Virginia Local Golf Advisor (@back9ben): I was a little surprised at how playable the course is for amateurs. That's not to say it isn't a hard course (it very much is) but you're likely to have more fun here than most other US Open courses, especially if you visit before July when the fescue starts to get really thick.
Jake Weaver, GolferJake78, Iowa Local Golf Advisor (@Golfer_Jake_78) I've played courses that were nowhere near as nice as Erin Hills and the staff treats you like you should be grateful that you're being allowed to play. At Erin Hills, I was greeted with first-class treatment from the moment I drove on the property. Maybe it's just "Wisconsin Nice" but it was a welcome surprise.
What was your biggest course management blunder?
BG: As a somewhat strong bunker player I think the biggest course management mistake I made was not respecting the bunkers at Erin Hills. They are so tenacious, avoid them at all costs!
JW: Hitting it into the massive fairway bunker on No. 4. It took me two shots to get out, and the 2nd shot was played from my knees. In general it's best to avoid the bunkers. They are extremely penal, especially if you get in one of the narrow fingers where the stance becomes tricky.
CB: Getting squirrelly and finding heather immediately created a problem. I had good lies, and garbage lies in it... My score suffered!
VIDEO: Chris Brooks goes awry on 15 at Erin Hills
RD: Trying to take on pins that I shouldn't take on. Specifically on #4 I had a wedge into a narrow spot on the green. Ended up plugged in front right bunker then hit that shot across the green into another bunker, that was on a downhill lie then back across the green I go again. It was a fun double bogey from 125 yards out.
BT: Fortunately Ben didn't get video evidence, but I just missed the green short left on the Par-3 9th and was in a tough spot in the bunker. I completely bladed my second shot over into the back right bunker on the other side of the green and plinko'd back/forth for a one-putt double bogey. Luckily it will forever be in the vault for no one to see except in my nightmares.
LB: The 11th hole Is a downhill par 4 that was playing 315 yards. For me, that distance is drivable. We had two caddies with our group on Friday. One caddie recommended a long iron off the tee, short of the bunkers that are about 250 yards out, which allows a little wedge into the elevated green. The other caddie was talking about driver as an option and my mind was made up to try and hit the hero shot. A lost ball into the deep fescue just off the left of the green, and a double bogey later convinced me I made the wrong decision. Before stepping foot onto the course on Saturday morning, my mind was made up to hit a long iron off the tee. A stress free par was the result of the "smart" play.
What is the one element of your game you should sharpen up before playing Erin Hills?
LB: Erin Hills is a second shot golf course ... Solid wedge play is THE most important element of your golf game that you want to have in prime form before playing there. There are going to be pins that you want no part of and are just going to want to hit a wedge to the center of the green. If your distances or alignment are off, even just a little, you bring false fronts, nasty little bunkers, run-off areas, and even fescue into play.
BG: Short game, short game, short game. Practice chipping and pitching from tight lies and thick rough if you can. If you don't feel that comfortable with your wedges, try a hybrid or putting through the fringe with your putter. I can't tell you how many strokes I lost around the greens because my short game wasn't sharp.
JW: You'll get the chance to play low runners and putt from distances that you wouldn't think imaginable on typical US courses. Before I go back next time I'll spend some time working on chipping and pitching with straighter faced clubs and even hybrids.
RD: Every pitch/chip shot you can think of you will probably need at some point and time at Erin Hills.
BT: I really struggled with distance control and accuracy with my wedge game. You have to be so precise with your distance control to have any chance at birdie, yet a mis-club or poor approach almost certainly means bogey unless you're a wizard around the greens. Since I'm forever a poor bunker player, I could have avoided this by being more crisp with my approach shots.
CB: What I'd say is 'king' is adjusting for elevation: Very few greens are on the same level as you.
What is the best hole at Erin Hills?
CB: I loved the 8th hole...a blind tee shot into a sweeping up-and-over fairway with a fantastic elevated green that teases with front bunkers (that are actually all the way beneath the putting surface). I played from the fairway once, way below the hole; and from the heather left, looking down at the green. Elevation, heather, bunkers and a great green.
BT: I find the medium-length Par-4 12th is the most fun hole on the course. Your tee-shot is blind and forces you to hit a cut shot around the bend in order to be best-positioned for your approach shot. A tee shot too far left leaves you a blind approach and a drive too far right is likely still hidden in fescue awaiting a forecaddie to find it. The approach is to a green cut into the hillside and is one of the most drastic in undulation on the course. The pin was actually in a favorable area and I was able to get up-&-down for par after pull-yanking a wedge (again) into the fescue left. The view from behind the green is my favorite on the course.
LB: I could make an argument for about 13 or 14 holes being the best on the course. I'm going to go off the beaten path and chose the par-4 8th hole ... What brings out the greatness of the hole is that shot into the green. You have so many options with how to play it since there is a large slope back to front. It is almost like a built in backboard. Just make sure to not leave it short or it'll roll into one of the bunkers or 30 yards backwards to the base of the slope.
RD: No. 2. The drive gives you options, safe play is to the right of the huge mound but then you have a blind 2nd shot. Over the mound is risky but gives you a look at the flag. The green is super small but so cool perched up on a mound and runoffs all around it. It requires some really good shots to make a par.
JW: The 15th hole. It's a shortish par 4 to a well-bunkered fairway, then back up the hill to a diabolical green. Par is a great score there, and birdie is crazy. In fact the highlight of the day was Ben Grehan making a birdie out of one of the fairway bunkers on this hole.
BG: The par-4 12th. It's such a fun hole with a somewhat blind tee shot to a generous fairway and then it funnels down to the green and just looks really cool. I also really liked the par-4 2nd, the one the pros were driving during the US Open. I can't drive it, but it's still a fun little hole.
More tips for a golf trip to Erin Hills
Ever since playing Erin Hills, I’ve contemplated putting together a list of my rankings of the courses I’ve played. It’s not the best list and most courses could reasonably move up or down a spot or two (except EH) but this is what my gut says when I jotted it down. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/aDK7YX68a4— Luke Behning (@iamdiesel18) June 20, 2020
BT: Play the right tees. Jake and I played the Green/White tees, which is roughly 6,500 yards. While we're both long enough to play the Green tees (about 6,750 yards), it likely would have been a huge struggle considering the 15-20 MPH winds were had to endure the entire round. That slight breather of playing a few of the White tee holes was a nice relief.
LB: Make time to play The Drumlin putting course. It is a putting green that will blow your mind. There are options galore and it is made that much better with a couple of drinks, a beautiful sunset, and a couple of extra dollars to make things interesting. Just be aware the speed on The Drumlin is drastically different from the speeds on the practice green for the course and the greens on the course itself. Once we got that figured out, it was game on!
- Take a moment to appreciate the angles needed to attack pins. Look backwards at holes to realize all of the little nuances that make each hole unique and great. I can't wait to get another shot at this course.
- If undecided on an adult beverage while on the course or post round, make sure to try a Fescue Rescue and their local brew Erin Hills Pils. Two thumbs up from me.
JW: If you can get the bratwurst with the pretzel bun, do it! It's so delicious!
- Check out the pro shop. They have some really cool merchandise. My prized purchase is an engraved divot repair tool!
- Bring enough cash to tip your caddie/forecaddie well. They are a huge help and given the sheer size of the course, usually only do 1 loop per day.
BT: Take the 15th hole for granted. While Ben Grehan will tell you that its an easy birdie from the middle fairway bunker, it's not.
- Forget your camera. Just because there is no ocean view doesn't mean its not photography worthy. I was amazed by the awesome pictures I took with my regular iPhone on the property. It looks FANTASTIC!
- Miss out playing it right now! Erin Hills is likely the least expensive it will ever be considering the Covid-19 restrictions and the opportunity to use a push cart and a forecaddie. I highly recommend getting out there before the end of the month and taking advantage of their special rates!
LB: Don't second guess the caddie's reads on the greens. There were several times I thought my caddie was dead wrong with their read on the green but I just went with what they said anyways. If I had gone with my own read, I would have been wrong 10/10 times.
- Don't try and replicate Justin Thomas's shot from the plaque on the 18th fairway, Just don't. You'll hurt yourself. Mere mortals don't have that kind of power or precision needed to pull that off.