I played Chambers Bay during winter conditions (on a mild enough day). My only real knowledge of the course prior to this were from reviews online and the TV coverage at the 2015 US Open.
Arriving at the course, I was captivated by the panoramic view from the cliff beside the clubhouse. The grounds are expansive and you can see it all and more from this vantage point. It certainly adds to the anticipation levels.
Firstly, let’s focus on improvements. There was of course criticism of the greens at the US Open in 2015, both in terms of surface and the severity of some of the slopes. The course now boasts newly planted poa annua greens replacing the previous fescue surfaces. There is no doubt these greens are now top level putting surfaces. The only question would be whether they are in keeping with the links feel the layout leans towards. I would need to play it in summer to truly decide that but I was impressed with the condition I found them in.
The most striking thing about this course is the elevation changes and the apparent severity of some of the contouring around the green sites. In parts, this contouring was also criticised after the US Open. Work has been done on a number of holes to lessen the severity of the green shapes and run offs, most notably at the 7th and shows a policy of continual improvement on behalf of the management committee.
Turning to my views on playing the course, I have to say I really loved it. It is boisterous, bold and in your face and asks lots of tough questions. I knew all the holes before I played them from T.V. footage but I was more impressed by some of the feature holes than I thought I might be and a number of the weaker holes had more character than I had expected.
The Redan hole at the 3rd is a well framed example, although I didn’t get the pleasure of playing the hole with a back left flag. Hole 7 is one of the toughest par 4’s you’ll play in the world, with the uphill elevation change adding at least two clubs on to the 482 yards. Hole 9 is an incredible par 3 with the elevation drop to the green even more spectacle than can be appreciated on TV.
The back nine is even more memorable as a collection of holes with the standout being the run 15-17 and the par 4 10th played down towards the Puget Sound. My least favoured hole resides on this nine however, the driveable par 4 12th. For me, the green is too severe and the uphill tee shot is quite frankly, the dullest on the course. It may be a little harsh but I imagine you would play that hole a lot of times with similar results to the same flags. I think it tries to be a memorable feature hole but for me, it is memorable for the wrong reasons.
Overall this is a wonderful golf course and a unique test in terms of courses I have played in the USA. I note it is just outside the USA top 100 courses right now. I think with the change to the green surfaces and subtle changes to a couple of the green sites, this may well make its way back in there in the coming years.
Date: March 07, 2021