Whoa, Black Knight. Take it easy. Chambers Bay is a "tragedy?" Shouldn't we save that word for something a little more serious?
Unlike most of us, apparently Gary Player isn't enjoying watching the U.S. Open. Or as Brandel Chamblee said on "Live from the U.S. Open" before Saturday's third round of the U.S. Open, maybe Player is just saying all the things he wished he had said during his years as a player, maybe even when he won the U.S. Open on a burnt-out, 5-year-old Bellerive Country Club course in 1965.
Video: Live From discusses Gary Player comments, U.S. Open setup
Gary Player goes off on Chambers Bay
In case you missed it, here's some of what Player had to say on Golf Channel's Morning Drive before the third round of the 115th U.S. Open:
"We're playing the U.S. Open, this great championship, a group of people, the USGA, that I have great respect for, but this has been the most unpleasant golf tournament I've seen in my life. I mean the man who designed this golf course had to have one leg shorter than the other."
"I understand [why the USGA came here to a public course]. What they did at Bethpage was tremendous ... But you don't bring [the U.S. Open] to golf courses like this. This is devastating. To see a man miss the green by one yard and end up 50 yards down there, caddies falling and hurting their ankles and knees, players falling ... This is terrible."
He also said it must have been designed by a man with one leg shorter than the other, referring to Robert Trent Jones Jr. The rant went on for what seemed like an hour. Golf Channel's Matt Ginella was quick to defend Chambers Bay on Twitter:
And do we want to discuss Gary Player designs? Not many do. Which is another can of worms. Architects critiquing architects makes me cringe.— Matt Ginella (@MattGinellaGC) June 20, 2015
I'm not saying Chambers Bay is perfect. It's possible that before this 8-year-old municipal course near Seattle gets another U.S. Open, the greens will change, probably to bentgrass. But I still think Chambers Bay is one of coolest golf courses I've ever played.
Chambers really is fun to play
I didn't play Chambers Bay it in U.S. Open conditions, which is exactly how nearly all handicappers play these kinds of courses. I loved all the teeing options, the different ways you can get close to the hole, the risk-reward opportunities and, of course, the views. Yes, hit a ball short and it can come back 60 yards. So what? It's different. Hit it to the right spot.
And as Jay Blasi, Chambers Bay, project architect pointed out in my recent interview, the less skilled golfers from the forward tees have actually enjoyed the course. Why? No forced carries. There's always a route to the hole.
This place is also stunning. You've got Puget Sound, the old gravel quarry remains, the trains that come by and incredible elevation changes. Even if you don't play it, have a bite to eat from the restaurant above this course. Good food and even better vistas.
Some of Gary Player's designs are tough, too
I'm not really surprised by Player's take on Chambers Bay. He's always been prone to exaggeration. It seems like he's said a million times that the no. 1 problem in America is "obesity." He's relentless on that front, too.
And while I generally like Player's designs -- they're usually pretty playable -- The Links at Fancourt in his native South Africa is no picnic. Having recently played it, I can tell you I enjoyed it, but it isn't easy by any stretch, no matter what tees you play.
Like Chambers Bay, Fancourt is walking only. Also like Chambers, it isn't an easy walk (though admittedly easier than Chambers Bay). But in both cases, five-hour rounds are the norm.
And if you're a high handicapper, you're going to have a devil of a time finding those greens. Because the Links at Fancourt, which played host to the 2003 Presidents Cup, isn't really links; it's links-looking, with plenty of treacherous and sometimes impossible pot bunkers throwing up a minefield before you have to hit target greens in the air for the most part. Interesting, but hardly easy, and some might even argue, a little bit unfair. Not me, though: I liked it, and I love Chambers Bay.
As for those who don't like Player's designs, there are a few. Ask Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, a billionaire scratch golfer who apparently didn't think much of Player's 1996 course when he bought The Floridian from Wayne Huizenga in 2010. He immediately tore it up and replaced it with a Tom Fazio design, a much better test.
Even at Fancourt, where there are three courses, when it came time to renovate the parkland Montagu Course, German billionaire owner Hasso Plattner didn't ask Player to redo the course. Instead he brought in David McLay Kidd of Bandon Dunes fame. Needless to say, the Black Knight didn't approve of that one either.