The 117th U.S. Open Championship heads to Hartford, WI this year for our first glimpse at Erin Hills—a course that features one of the most unique challenges a golfer will ever face.
Chiseled away from a natural glacial landscape, Erin Hills embodies every innate aspect of its Wisconsin terrain. This is most apparent in the form of rolling fairways, natural dunes, and soon-to-be signature erosion bunkers resemble twisting creek beds. Erin Hills is sure to test the players’ mental fortitude and creative shot-making ability.
Here are the 11 unique features that make Erin Hills, Erin Hills:
1. ALL YOU CAN EAT
Erin Hills can stretch to a ridiculous 8,100 yards, but for the U.S. Open, it will play to approximately 7,600 yards. All four par-5s on the course stand over 600 yards, with the 18th hole stretching out to 663 yards.
2. BUNKER MAYHEM
Erin Hills is unique to other golf courses as it incorporates 3 different types of bunkers:
3. COW PRESERVATION
Before opening for play in 2006, the land where Erin Hills resides was a grazing farm for cattle. The land was not disturbed and all of its natural features/contours remained in tact. The course is built over the kettle moraine areas that were left by glaciers, which significantly influences the tilt and undulation of the fairways and land. You will be hard pressed to find a flat lie. Nearly every single approach is uphill or downhill to a green that is perched in a different direction.
When Erin Hills originally opened, it had over 300 trees on the internal lining of the property, but now only five remain. Architects Dana Fry, Michael Hurdzan, and Ron Whitten wanted to expose the natural vistas and beauty of the course. By removing over 300 trees, it gave the course a much more scenic feel and Wisconsin farmland look. Of the five remaining trees, the smallest is between holes No. 5 and No. 7. The other four are located behind the 7th green, right of the 8th fairway, right of the 10th fairway, and right of the 15th.
5. NO CARTS ALLOWED
Erin Hills is operated as a walking-only golf course and no carts are permitted on the property.
6. MOVING GREENS
Since the 2011 U.S. Amateur, Erin Hills transformed the 3rd green to move it down to the right and flatten it out to make it more accessible. The original green had two tiers that were built off the natural glacial tilt of the land, but at 510 yards, it was limited with pin placements since players had such long clubs coming into the green and couldn’t stop the ball on the putting surface.
7. SANDLESS 17
The par-4 17th hole is the only bunker-less hole on the course—one of very few bunker-less holes in U.S. Open history. In comparison, the par-5 18th hole has 24 bunkers placed from the fairway to the green.
8. RISK REWARD
There is a potential for 2 to 3 different drivable par-4s. Most notable is the 15th, which can play as short as 252 yards. Surrounded by many of the aforementioned erosion bunkers, the 15th will make players commit to executing their strategy or it could lead to a big number.
9. HOLY HILL
“Holy Hill” lines directly up with the 18th tee box and can be seen from the top of the 4th tee box as well, giving golfers an aiming point and some rich history to admire as they make their way through the round.
10. BELL RINGER
When Erin Hills originally opened, it included a 19th hole that was used to settle bets at the end of rounds. But the course has since been renovated to a traditional 18-hole golf course. The old No. 7 was a blind par-3 that was about 170 yards and was removed in the renovation. There is a historical bell to the right of the green golfers would ring as they walked off the hole to notify the next group the green was clear. And yes, the bell still works.
11. THE SHORTEST PAR 5 IN GOLF
The old 19th hole is now No. 9, which was dubbed as “The Shortest Par 5 in Golf” by the local caddies, although it is a short par-3. One looper kept tabs of his first 72 golfers to play the 9th hole, with handicaps ranging from scratch to 15. Of those 72 players, 60 recorded a 5 (double bogey) or worse, despite only playing about 150 yards, depending on the tee selection…
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