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Paul Jansen gives his views on the much-discussed Chambers Bay

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| BY DESIGN Chambers Bay I Rory McIlroy (opposite top) plays his tee shot at the par-4 17th at Chambers Bay, a hole aptly named “Derailed”; make no mistake, the course isn’t exactly a walk in the park, here Jason Day (opposite bottom) requiring the assistance of his caddie to make his escape from a bunker 44 HK GOLFER・AUG 2015 – My Verdict Architect and regular HK Golfer contributor Paul Jansen gives his views on the much-discussed Chambers Bay, venue for June’s US Open. have never been to Chambers Bay in person but I have seen enough pictures and read enough articles to know what I would expect if and when I do pay a visit. Admittedly I watched bits and pieces of the US Open – I was travelling at the time – but what I did see made for riveting viewing. Chambers Bay is one heck of an engineering exercise. What was previously a sand and gravel quarry has been transformed into a championship golf course at considerable cost. Manufacturing a sports arena out of a derelict parcel of land is some achievement and is testament to the equipment we have to work with today and the creativity of all involved in the design, build and ongoing maintenance. The golf course shows just how much the industry has progressed, particularly from a construction and maintenance perspective and how it’s now possible to build golf on just about any terrain. What struck me most about Chambers Bay was its uniqueness. I am not one for the ‘same old, same old’ approach to the US Open and Chambers Bay certainly isn’t that. I don’t think America has seen anything like it before and I am sure most Americans are still perplexed by what they did witness over the four days. In fact, Chambers Bay is so different from your standard golf course found in North America – or anywhere, mind you – that it would be like comparing chalk and cheese. The Hollywoodlike design and maintenance we so often associate with American golf was replaced by a more links-like character golf course – although I can’t think of any golf course in the British Isles quite like it either. Nonetheless anything that keeps the game alive and prevents us being bored with it is has to be an advantage … and Chambers Bay was far from boring. What I liked about the golf course is that it was far from one-dimensional. Instead it presented a high number of memorable shot opportunities on each hole – in fact it seemed to me that there were a multitude of holes within holes. Max Behr, the first editor of Golf Illustrated, spoke of golf architecture as giving “an intelligent purpose to striking a golf ball” and this was very evident as golfers had to plot their way around the course with real purpose. Golden Age architect Tom Simpson spoke of the importance of emphasising the necessity of the golfer to use their head as much as their hands; or, in other words, to make their mental agility match their physical ability, and you can’t argue that this wasn’t the case during the US Open. I am also a sucker for ground contouring and the promotion thereof through firm and fast conditions. Thanks to these conditions the ground was very much an option and whilst some would argue that the contouring was over the top you could probably make the case that small scale contouring would get lost on that property. Nonetheless the ground – coupled with the course conditions – made for fascinating viewing and was a great departure from the standard aerial game bombardment we see week in week out. Golfers had the option to fly the ball through the air towards the flag or alternatively use the humps, bumps, cants and ridges to propel their ball forward and towards the hole. HKGOLFER.COM AFP On the negative I can’t imagine Chambers Bay being a very walkable golf course. I suspect the design team wanted to maximise the sea views and this necessitated the need to build high ground, with the result being that the golfer now has to hike their way up the hills to afford a spectacular view of the surrounds. Add to that the length of the golf course – I believe it is nearly 8000 yards from the tips – and I bet you would feel like you had run a marathon if you did opt to walk, should you be permitted to play from these back tees. To end on a positive I do like that each of the holes has a name. Take the fifth, for instance, which is called Freefall because of the long drop from the tee area to the fairway. The 17th is aptly named Derailed thanks to the rail track that is visibly in view and in play. Architect Albert Tillinghast wrote about naming holes nearly a hundred years ago and I still very much aspire to his way of thinking: “Let every hole be worthy of a name. If it does not possess a striking individuality through some gift of Nature, it must be given as much as possible artificially, and the artifice must be introduced in so subtle a manner as to make it seem natural.” I would really like to visit Chambers Bay Golf Club one day and I can’t say that about many golf courses. I think it would be interesting to look at and fun to play. I may not agree with everything they have done but I bet I would come away with more positives than negatives, even if I did rack up a big score. Paul Jansen is the principal architect for Jansen Golf Design. For more information visit his website at jansengolfdesign.com HKGOLFER.COM I would really like to visit Chambers Bay Golf Club one day and I can’t say that about many golf courses … even if I did rack up a big score. HK GOLFER・AUG 2015 45



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