Erin Hills: A modern classic set to host the 2017 U.S. Open
ERIN, Wis. -- Erin Hills -- a Michael Hurdzan-Dana Fry-Ron Whitten design -- opened in in 2008. Three years later it was hosting the 2011 U.S. Amateur. In 2017, of course, it will host Wisconsin's first U.S. Open.
Set 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, the course climbs and tumbles over natural dairy cattle pastureland. So what makes it so special?
I posed this question to Dr. Hurdzan, and he provided his thoughts:
"I think that there are many factors that [the USGA] likes: A) [Erin Hills] is in the Midwest close to huge markets like Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, etc.; B) the course can accommodate upwards of 100,000 spectators per day, all of whom can be close to the action; C) the course can be a stern test of shot-making, strategy, and endurance; D) there is loads of room for corporate areas and parking; E) the course is very photogenic and will look terrific on TV; F) it is a public course; G) Erin Hills' maintenance philosophy is environmentally in tune with the USGA philosophy."
Even the expansive practice facility is special. Dr. Hurdzan calls it "one of the best in golf by any measure."
"This facility has it all, and yet it does not prevent using the rest of the land for another golf course if they should chose to do that," he said.
Most of all, though, Dr. Hurdzan characterizes the course, and the idyllic atmosphere of the grounds, clubhouse, and lodge as "cool."
Visitors to this bucket-list modern classic will agree. The brawny, big-shouldered layout sprawls over a former dairy cattle pasture whose natural landforms were so well suited for golf that land had to be moved on only three holes (nos. 1, 2 and 17). A few blind shots in the original design were removed at the USGA's request, but even the drainage was nearly perfect from the start. The green complexes are some of the most artistically inspired that you will find anywhere.
The waving purple fescue is wispy but tough -- you'll probably find your ball, but trying anything other than wedging it back out into the fairway is risky.
The elevation changes, especially atop the fourth tee box, make for some inspirational moments. Erin Hills is playable for everyone (from the right tees), but can be a bully if the winds are blowing hard.
Although Erin Hills' green fees are steep -- and caddies are recommended, adding to the cost -- this is a must-play for serious golfers. The rustic beauty of the lodge and clubhouse will make you want to stay long after your round is over. So book a night in the lodge and replay for a steep discount the next day.
The green on Erin Hills' 660-yard 18th hole will undoubtedly be the site of historic drama on the final day of the 2017 U.S. Open. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
The 481-yard, par-4 17th hole at Erin Hills is the only one without any sand bunkers. But the fescue here is so thick, it might be the most likely hole on which to lose a ball. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
The 370-yard 15th at Erin Hills is one of the few holes where driver isn't the best club choice off the tee. But a poorly struck shorter club will be severely penalized by the fescue, too. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
The swooping, snaking, 609-yard 14th hole is just the third longest on Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
The 165-yard ninth hole is actually one of the hardest at Erin Hills. Competitors in the 2011 U.S. Amateur averaged more that a stroke above par. The turtle-backed green and the deep bunkers surround it are the reasons for this difficulty. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
Amorphous, shaggy, fescue-lipped bunkers dot Erin Hills and frame fairways and greens. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
The green complexes at Erin Hills are quite simply works of art. One of eight trees on the golf course decorates the green of the fourth hole. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
From the tee box on the 439-yard fourth hole at Erin Hills, you can see 14 other greens as well as Holy Hill National Shrine and Basilica several miles away. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor
The fairway of the 478-yard, par-4 third at Erin Hills cants from right to left, from fescue to thick brush. Fortunately the fairway looks wide, even from far above on the elevated tees. Andrew Hollingworth/Golf Advisor