At first glance, with cranes and bulldozers parked all over the property, the upcoming changes to Chambers Bay Golf Course, site of the 2015 U.S. Open, appear massive.
But given all the United States Golf Association’s extensive reconstruction done at previous U.S. Open sites, especially at the two other municipal courses, at Bethpage Black in New York (2002, 2009) and Torrey Pines South Course in California (2008), this 18-month job is a face-lift by comparison.
Much of the work mandated by the USGA comes after how Chambers Bay played during the 2010 U.S. Amateur. The biggest changes will come on the landing areas and around the greens of the first, seventh and 13th holes.
Ed Taano, who was hired by course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. for the original construction, was hired by KemperSports Management for this project. The USGA is expected to cover most of the cost per the 2007 agreement to bring the two USGA championships here.
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“On the golf course changes, we had an idea early on some of them,” said Larry Gilhuly, director of the Northwest region for the USGA. “The U.S. Amateur really confirmed them.”
The work will be done in six distinct phases, starting Oct. 20. The highlights:
• Starting a week from Thursday, the first hole will be closed for roughly six weeks as the area short-right of the green will be leveled. This should help prevent golf balls ricocheting across the green and down the severe slope toward the 18th tee box.
Also, the entire first-hole green will be resodded.
With that hole closed, golfers will play the 10th hole twice – from a different set of tee boxes. Also, tee times during peak play will be spaced out to 15-minute intervals to alleviate any traffic issues, said Chambers Bay general manager Matt Allen.
“The turn (for golfers playing their second nine holes) will take precedent should there be a conflict,” Allen said. “We don’t expect it to be an issue at all considering the volume of play typical in the offseason.”
• Work on four holes (fifth, 13th, 14th and 17th) will take place in the second phase, which is scheduled to start Dec. 15.
For the U.S. Amateur, mainly because of the way the green was designed – long and shallow – the 13th hole was changed from a par 5 to a par 4. But during that tournament, even short-iron approach shots would not hold on the putting surface.
Subsequently, the green will be enlarged by 25 percent. Also, a protruding hump on the left-side apron will be lowered.
The hole will stay open during reconstruction. Allen expects a temporary green will be utilized for four months, starting in late December.
• The most significant work to a hole – No. 7 – will start during the final phase in early March.
That dogleg-right par 4, which plays uphill for the last 100 yards, was one of the toughest holes during the U.S. Amateur, primarily because of how poorly the green held approach shots.
First, the redesigned green area will be lowered and shifted to the southwest. The hump in the back will be leveled as well, so approach shots that fly to the back of the green do not slip back down the fairway slope.
Then, the front part of the green will be elevated so that golf balls that barely clear the false front will stay on the putting surface. That change will also give the USGA the option to use a front-pin location during the U.S. Open.
Also, both sides of that fairway will be leveled and widened for gallery traffic. The fairway hummock closest to the green is expected to be altered as well.
With that green area expected to be closed until spring 2013, a temporary green will be in play some 110-115 yards closer to the tee just beyond the right-side waste area.
Allen said that during that time the back tees will be used most often so the hole does not turn into a drivable par 4.
Overall, during the project’s duration, no more than two temporary greens on any of the affected holes will be utilized at the same time, Allen said.
Also during construction time, Allen said, the offseason rates have been altered. The month of February will slide back into the cheaper rates for December and January ($70-$75 for out-of-state residents, ranging down to $50-$55 for Pierce County residents), and the month of April will be paired with the less expensive green fees of March ($99-$109 for out-of-staters, down to $65-$75 for county residents).
“Chambers Bay will still be the firmest, fastest and driest place to play golf all winter,” Allen said.