When golf pro Joey Hines finished his round at Chambers Bay two summers ago, he and his wife had dinner on the patio of the club restaurant and surveyed the spectacular Puget Sound scenery stretching out below them.
But what he really wanted to do was curl up on the deck and go to sleep in a state of exhaustion.
No other course in U.S. Open history, Hines said, will exact the physical toll on golfers that Chambers Bay will.
Hines may be unique in offering that perspective since he’s played the site of every Open.
Fifty-one courses still exist, 52 if you count Ridgemoor Country Club in Chicago, where Ben Hogan won the Hale America Open, which took the place of the national open in 1942.
“I’ve never played anywhere where I walked as much as I did at Chambers,” Hines said. “The closest, as far as the physical demands are concerned, was Bethpage (Black course, Long Island, New York).”
The 56-year-old club pro at Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington, North Carolina, didn’t start his golfing odyssey with the complete circuit as a goal. But it picked up momentum when his first job as a pro in the early 1980s came at Northwood Club in Dallas (site of the 1952 Open), and he then started taking outings to other Open courses with club members.
After completing the full list of Open courses, he mounted another quest, playing the site of every major tournament, standing just 12 short of the PGA total, and seven from finishing all the British Open courses.
Since you’re probably wondering, yes, he’s been married for 27 years to a wife he said, in a massive understatement, who “is very supportive.”
Hines tried to qualify for the Open field several times, getting through the first stage fairly easily, but never cracking the second stage. From 1984-87, he went through the PGA Tour qualifying school, but never got his Tour card.
So he created something of a “tour” all his own.
When courses are clustered in areas of the Northeast or Midwest, he was able to knock off a few courses on each trip. To get to Chambers, though, he left North Carolina at 4 a.m. for Sea-Tac, but didn’t tee off until late afternoon after his flight was delayed. It made for a long day.
Over the years, he said, he’s learned ways to fly on the cheapest days of the week, and save expenses once on site.
His sentimental favorite of the Open courses is Northwood, since that’s where he got his start, but he’s also partial to the old-style courses such as Oakmont and Winged Foot. Merion, he said, should be a course every architect plays before ever setting out to design a course.
Each course is like a lesson in the history of golf, he said. “They’re all unique in their own ways … each of them gives you a different memory and a different taste. Chambers is just developing its history, and they’re going to evolve and get better.”
He predicts no shortage of excitement for the June 18-21 tournament at the young Chambers Bay layout in University Place.
“Chambers is going to be a very, very different and unique Open – not like any you’ve ever seen,” Hines said. “It’s a completely different style of golf course and I think it’s going to be exciting.”
When Hines played Chambers, it was still in the process of maturing toward Open readiness, and he’s certain the USGA will have it fully prepped and polished when the field arrives.
The weather could be the determining factor on how Chambers holds up to the pros, he said, and although the links layout with dramatic terrain is unusual, he thinks the top players will adapt by the weekend.
“The length doesn’t matter to these guys anymore, the way Rory (McIlroy) is hitting that driver, it should be illegal,” he said. “I think if Rory is on, it’s like when Tiger (Woods) was on, he can win the tournament by playing mediocre.”
But the course itself?
“It should be a great tournament,” he said. “It’s certainly going to be different.”
He should know.