Chambers Bay will be uncharted territory for most of the U.S. Open field. Two PGA TOUR players have played dozens of rounds on the 8-year-old course, though.
Michael and Andrew Putnam grew up in a house less than a mile from the course. Chambers Bay opened months before Andrew began his collegiate career at Pepperdine. Michael was in his first full season on the PGA TOUR. Another brother, Joel, was a caddie at Chambers Bay before carrying Michael’s bag on the PGA TOUR.
Michael advanced through sectional qualifying into this week’s U.S. Open in his hometown, while Andrew competed in the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.
Andrew said he describes Chambers Bay as an “entertaining” course that is unique for an area known for verdant courses lined by tall trees. Chambers Bay has just one tree, which doesn’t come into play. The sandy soil drains well and almost guarantees that the course will be firm. Chambers Bay will play like an Open Championship site, requiring players to calculate how the ground will influence their ball.
“There’s so many nuances to it, especially in the greens,” Andrew said. “There’s so many big slopes. It’s pretty severe in some points and you really have to know where to miss the ball and where to hit the ball to get close to certain pins. We’re used to looking at the pin and hitting at the pin. Chambers Bay is a little different. Sometimes you have to hit away from the hole for the ball to feed toward it. It’s something we’re not used to doing.”
Players also will have to make a lot of decisions off the tee, debating how much risk to take in an attempt to leave themselves a shorter approach into the greens.
“If you hit driver and you play aggressive, there’s a lot of holes out there that you can take an aggressive line,” Michael said. “If you’re hitting it well you can score on the golf course. A lot of guys will lay back, but then they’ll have longer approach shots into the green.”
The dramatic contours and constant decisions are why USGA executive director Mike Davis said players should put in extra preparation for this year’s tournament.
The Putnams know Chambers Bay better than most, though. They describe each of Chambers Bay’s holes below.
No. 1: 598-yard, par 5; 496-yard, par-4
Chambers Bay’s uniqueness is immediately evident. The first hole will be played as both a par-5 and par-4 in the championship. A severe slope left of the green, which will leave players with a difficult recovery to a green several stories above them, is the hole’s defining characteristic. With a long-iron or fairway wood, players can hit their second shots right of the green and let the slope feed their ball onto the green.
Michael Putnam says: “As a par-4, it has a pretty generous driving area. There’s a hill at about 290 yards that if you can get on of that, the ball is going to roll pretty far and you might have 200 yards into the green instead of 230 yards.
“There’s a huge, severe drop-off on the left side of the green. Your ball will roll 50 yards left if you miss the green by more than 10 yards. You’ll be 40 or 50 feet below the green. You’ll have to play (extra) yardage from 50 yards.
“It’s a better hole if it’s a par-5 because, with a wedge in there, you’re not going to go down that left side. But with a 4-iron, it could be pretty severe. It’s going to be a really tough par-4 or a decently easy par-5.”
No. 2: 399-yard, par-4
This slight dogleg-left has a fairway bunker that will force players to decide how aggressively they want to play from the tee.