Chambers Bay, host of the 2015 U.S. Open, has received mixed reviews from PGA Tour players and other golfers.  (David Cannon/Getty Images) The par-3 17th hole at Chambers Bay runs along the Puget Sound and railroad tracks. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) The par-4 10th hole at Chambers Bay plays through dunes to an elevated green.  (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) The ninth hole, named Olympus, offers panoramic views of Chambers Bay from the tee, but don't get distracted. It's a 100-foot drop over a chasm to a bunkered green. (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor) Golf Channel's Cara Robinson takes on a tricky lie during her round with Damon Hack, Gary Williams and Charlie Rymer at Chambers Bay.  (Damon Hack/Golf Advisor)

Like it or not? PGA Tour players and golf reviewers critique Chambers Bay prior to 2015 U.S. Open



It's a yearly tradition: The United States Golf Association and Executive Director Mike Davis getting firmly into the psyches of the world's best golfers. With 2015 U.S. Open host Chambers Bay, the USGA voodoo appears to be well ahead of schedule.

It's a novel, if not experimental concept for the U.S. Open, normally staged on Golden Era designs that are exclusive country clubs. With Chambers Bay, opened in 2007, the massive property that was formerly a sand and gravel quarry will draw record attendance. The course setup can change wildly day to day at the hands of the tournament committee thanks to long, ribbon tees and enormous putting surfaces.

Also unique in 2015, virtually no player will have the benefit of knowing the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design very well. The only other event it has hosted is the 2010 U.S. Amateur (2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth shot a second-day 83 and missed qualifying for match play). The USGA then took that feedback to continue to develop the ideal test for the main event in 2015.

Davis said he believes players should take it upon themselves to visit the course many times prior to the event.

"I would contend that there is no way a player will have success here at Chambers Bay unless he really studies the golf course and learns it," Davis said at U.S. Open media day. "The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and just walking it and using your yardage book, that person is done, will not win the U.S. Open."

Some tour players like 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson have scoffed at the notion they have all sorts of free time to go out of their way to study the course. Others have been less than enthused with what they've seen. Henrik Stenson called it a "tricked-up links course." Ryan Palmer had the most flamboyant comments following his visit.

"(Davis') idea of tee boxes on down hills, up hills and side hills is ridiculous," Palmer told USA Today's Steve DiMeglio. "That's not golf. I don't care what anybody says. It will get a lot of bad press from the players. It is a joke. I don't understand it. I just don't know why they would do it."

Ian Poulter, who hadn't yet played it personally, fanned some flames with this tweet in April:


(Update: Billy Horschel phoned into Morning Drive to share his thoughts on his visit to Chambers Bay)

**Update 2: Tiger Woods heeded the advice of Mike Davis and planned his own two-day scouting visit to Chambers Bay the week of The Memorial Tournament. Matt Ginella was on site and had this reaction on Morning Drive.

Chambers Bay rated by the daily-fee golfer

Whether or not the tour pros love the venue, regular golfers can revel in the fact Chambers Bay is the latest addition to the USGA's shift toward publicly accessible U.S. Open venues. But the caveat is that the course has been under a watchful eye of the USGA and constantly tweaked and renovated ever since opening. Temporary greens and other operational interruptions, due in part because Chambers is wall-to-wall fescue grass, which can be tougher to manage than bent grass in the Pacific Northwest, have been a common occurrence, which some golfers haven't been too happy about after plunking down $150-$200 or more for a round.

On Golf Advisor, Chambers Bay has had 14 reviews since summer 2013. (I played the course back in 2009 as part of a jaunt from Harding Park to Bandon Dunes to Chambers Bay.)

In the chart below, we compare Chambers Bay to the top Seattle-area course since 2013, the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain, as well as to the Seattle average.

The most negative review on Golf Advisor came in June 2014 from golfer theonlybfc. He felt like a second-class citizen due to nets protecting parts of the fairways and four temp greens and awarded the experience one star.

"The greens were in worse shape than any muni course I have ever played," he wrote. "Caddy said that we would be seeing seven different green speeds throughout the day, and he was right."

Perhaps due to a full summer of added grow-in, reviews for the remainder of 2014 were very positive, with little mention of condition issues. Golf Advisor's own Mike Bailey awarded the experience five stars. Golfer JLandenburg was a staunch defender of Chambers:

"This course is an incredible opportunity to learn a new kind of golf," the single-digit handicapper wrote. "But many here are simply too closed minded to get it."

There seems to be a little more on the line than usual for this U.S. Open, whether you're Davis, the course or new TV partner Fox. If you've had the chance to play Chambers Bay leading up to the U.S. Open, we're curious how you found the experience, and whether it's a fitting test for a major championship.

Update: Morning Drive team discusses their visit to Chambers Bay

Golf Channel's Morning Drive team played Chambers Bay the week before it officially closed to the public for U.S. Open preparations. You can read Damon Hack's review here, Gary Williams' here and Charlie Rymer's here.

May 18, 2015



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DonRS's avatar
DonRS wrote at 2015-06-21 22:01:57+00:00:

What was Mike Davis and the USGA thinking?  Chambers Bay is little more than a gravel pit converted into a cow pasture.

Watching the U.S Open is very painful.  The fairways are little ribbons with AWFUL hills and roughs alongside.  The bunkers, rather than being sand are stone dust and pebbles.  The greens are just patches mown a bit shorter (if at all) than the "fairways".

The Fox Sports announcers are attempting to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear.

Most of the players are too gentlemanly to say anything, but you can bet they are thinking it!  Three cheers for Billy Herschel for saying what needs to be said.

The USGA, involved in the design and construction (according to the TV announcers) is clearly embarrassed (if not, they are truly pig headed), criticizing the players who have to suffer from their bad judgment.

It is sad!

Loriludders's avatar
Loriludders wrote at 2015-06-19 23:45:29+00:00:

As a U.S. Open Spectator ;  I give the event a 2 , meaning , not good.  The great number of people ATTEPTING to watch there was not near enough access to viewing !!!   We were forever 5 6 people deep and the bleachers were always full.  We noticed towards the end of the day people were ignoring the ropes and climbing the mounds to get a vantage point. They could have MADE those areas seating areas instead of hiding the players from view !!  We payed big money to WATCH not scurry about trying to poke our nose and one eyeball through the throngs of people. The people that did get a seat didn't dare even leave to go to the bathroom.  They just sat in one place .  I could go on and on but the point is made . I want my money back!!!!

trg4545's avatar
trg4545 wrote at 2015-06-05 15:06:53+00:00:

Played in 2012 Loved it, thought it was tough but fun. Would love to play it a second time. This is a course that you really have to know where NOT to go. If I remember right most holes better long than short.  It is like taking Pacific Dunes and putting the course on hills.  12 HCP 

chaseawalker's avatar
chaseawalker wrote at 2015-05-22 23:25:33+00:00:

Played Chambers Bay 2014 in late May, yes there was netting in some areas... was not a huge deal.  My thoughts are the elevation changes, tough track to walk (granted I was hungover) but walking the course 6 days in a row would be a battle i think depending how hot it is.  There is no greens, the fairways and the greens are the same....true links style.  They will have to Bus loads and loads of people in because they will not be able to use the tiny clubhouse which is on top of the hill.  Personally for $230usd, id rather play University of Washingtons home course..... $100usd and was immaculate.  From a Canadian

dsimp's avatar
dsimp wrote at 2015-05-20 15:30:54+00:00:

Everyone in the world knows that the US Open will be the most difficult venue players see all year. Players will due their due diligence. No matter how many times you play it, or how well you know the course, it will still come down to how you are playing THAT particular week. I believe the US Open, year in and year out, because of it's set up, affords the journeyman pro the best chance of winning a major. By the way, I'm picking Jordan Spieth !

dsimp's avatar
dsimp wrote at 2015-05-20 15:27:33+00:00:

Everybody in the world knows that wherever the US Open is played, it is the most difficult set up they will encounter all year. A player that covets the title will due their due diligence. You can play it as many times as you want but it will still come down to how you are playing THAT particular week. I believe the US Open is a tournament that can afford a somewhat obscure player/journeyman the opportunity of a lifetime to win.

schwabea's avatar
schwabea wrote at 2015-05-19 15:52:35+00:00:

We played Chambers Bay 2 years ago and found it to be a challenging but fun golf course.  The scenery is gorgeous, the holes are all different, and they test every part of your game..... a true championship test. I think the pros that are already complaining are spoiled.  Almost every week they get to play with perfectly prepared bunkers, fairways and greens.  I'd love to have them play my home course where there is quite a bit more variability.  Some bunkers have more sand than others, some greens are a tad quicker than others, some fairways have a few rougher patches.  That's part of the game of golf!  It takes more skill to deal with variable conditions, so I'd expect the pros to be able to handle it.  

NotSpoiledPro's avatar
NotSpoiledPro wrote at 2015-05-19 15:27:15+00:00:

Ah, the "new" most overrated pro already is griping and he hasn't set foot on the track?  Any wonder many of us don't watch pro golf (or pro sports in general) - a bunch of overpaid crybabies.  Get a life.  Having played it a couple times, CB is different for a "normal" US Open site but who cares?  Everyone has to play the same course so quit whining.

thouse0313's avatar
thouse0313 wrote at 2015-05-19 04:09:57+00:00:

I am a single digit handicapper who lives about 35 minutes south of Chambers Bay. I have played Chambers approximately a dozen times, including a day last June when they set up the course from the Open tees for members of the mens club.  That day we played the course as a 7400 yard par 70.  Brutal!  I just recently played Chambers (May 10th, 2015) and found the course to be in terrific shape tee to green.  Since the day this course opened, the condition of the greens have always been this courses' weak point.  During this past round, I found 12 of the greens to be very, very good, not perfect, but very good.  6 of the greens did not roll quite as smoothly as the other 12 but their speed was consistent with the other 12 which historically has not been the case.  Cosmetically these 6 greens are not as attractive as the other 12 because there are places where the grounds crew has graphed new fescue sod into the old sod to replace thin patches that have never really taken hold.   Also, these 6 greens are a bit sandy, as you might expect as they are bringing them up to speed, so that also contributed to their play.  For a bit of perspective, I played Chambers last August, and thought to myself then, that I didn't know how the USGA would get the fescue to fill out in time given our Northwest Winters and the period of time that fescue apparently goes dormant.  During that round last August, the greens where inconsistent, bumpy and in some cases very thin.  Having said that, I was amazed at how good the 12 greens that I described above were during my most recent round (especially considering how bad they were last year) and have complete confidence that the remaining 6 will be as equally good in the next month.  I also must say that it is my experience that putting on fescue is definitely different then putting on bent or poa annua.  It is hard not to let the appearance of the fescue taint your perception of how true the ball is rolling or how healthy the grass is.  To be blunt, fescue is gnarly looking and makes it hard to accept as a putting surface, especially after a lifetime of playing on bent or poa.  I completely understand any critical comments from anyone who played the course more than a couple of months ago.  The greens have been terrible at times as they tried to get them into shape.  It is also my opinion that because of the undulations of the greens and their vast size, reading short putts is very challenging.   As a result, most people I know who have played Chambers have putted poorly (comparatively speaking) given the difficult nature of reading these greens and immediately conclude that it must be the condition of greens and not their chosen line or speed.  Again, from tee to green the course condition is superb.  I look forward to the Open being played here and believe this course is a terrific test of golf requiring total focus and a commitment to each and every shot; anything less will cost you precious strokes.  

BrandonTuckerGA's avatar
BrandonTuckerGA Staff wrote at 2015-05-19 14:23:01+00:00:

Excellent local insight, thanks! 

tommygolf000001's avatar
tommygolf000001 wrote at 2015-05-18 16:08:14+00:00:

Everyone will be playing the same course and same conditions so why complain about the setup?Get happy, have fun, play on.  Isn't that what golf is all about?


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Brandon Tucker

Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.