US Open at Winged Foot: Welcome to the Jungle

US Open at Winged Foot: Welcome to the Jungle

Six-inch rough, severely undulating greens and softer bunkers are lurking at the 106th edition of the United States Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, NY.

The United States Golf Association (USGA), in its continuing quest to protect par–and drive the best golfers in the world to utter madness–has created many new challenges for the best players in the world when they play this weekend. The New York Times, in a thorough Open preview section on Monday, June 12, detailed the challenges that will confront everyone that plays the 18th hole at Winged Foot. The Times diagram of the 18th green reads more like a wind map on the Weather Channel than a green on a golf course. Any ball that barely lands on the front of the green will likely roll right back off the green, or roll into rough that is as thick as four inches.

The highest point of the 18th green is an astronomical 3.6 feet higher–at the extreme back left side of the green–than the lowest point on the green. With a back left pin placement possible, even a golfer that manages to get their shot over the false front guarding the green will have an extremely difficult uphill putt that could be more than 3 feet uphill. Not only that, one New York Times diagram of the 18th green, provided by green analysts Mark Sweeney of TPS Golf and Scott W. Pool of GreenScan, shows that a putt from the front of the green to a back left pin position will most likely be a double-breaker; that is, the putt will first start off moving left-to-right, but it will be breaking right-to-left by the end. Considering the treacherous green conditions that existed at Shinnecock Hills in the 2004 U.S. Open–where putts on one side of the green would end up off the green or in the rough–this isn’t much of a surprise.

As if the green at 18 isn’t tough enough as is, the bunker on the front-left side of the green is 8 feet deep and is filled with soft sand, which means that anyone who lands in the bunker will have a great deal of difficulty negotiating the last hole of an incredibly difficult golf course.

The rest of Winged Foot is very complex, as the rough has been widened and lengthened. Essentially, it will become a game of “pick your poison” for the world’s best golfers. There are varying degrees of difficulty. First, the golfer will have to hit the ball into fairways that have been narrowed from 28 yards to 20 yards. If the golfer misses the fairway, there are three different kinds of rough, each one increasingly more difficult than the other.

The first cut of rough is the intermediate rough, which is about 6 feet wide and 1 ½ inches tall. After that, the challenges get harder and harder. The primary rough, which is 20 feet wide and 3 to 4 inches tall, will force golfers to use “[l]ofted clubs to hit shots back to the fairway.” This type of rough is common in another major across the Atlantic, the British Open, where many golfers have almost had to play shots backwards because of the overgrown, thick rough that lurks on either side of the fairways.

One the biggest changes regarding Winged Foot, however, is the widening of the secondary rough, which is five to six inches tall. The secondary rough has been extended to where the spectator galleries previously existed, which means errant drives by the game’s big hitters could spell deep trouble. The Times’ description of the secondary rough says that “[p]layers will have all they can handle trying to hack a shot back into the fairway.” The president of the USGA, Walter Driver, told the Times that “a player’s sense of humor may be tested” by the extended rough.

It is good that the USGA wants to protect par and punish golfers for hitting sweatshirt (lưới bảo vệ ban công) shots that are 30 yards away from the fairway, because the association has to keep up with the technology changes that make even difficult rough and bunker shots easier to hit. There is a difference, however, between difficult and ridiculous. I only hope that the USGA didn’t make Winged Foot as seemingly impossible as Shinnecock Hills was two years ago.

This tournament is currently being billed as the long-awaited battle between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. At the end of the weekend, however, the billing may change to a battle for survival between the golf course and the golfers themselves.


“The 106th U.S. Open Preview.” The New York Times, June 12, 2006.

write by Azaria