Colorado Springs, Colo. - Talk about getting acclimated to the altitude, talk about the record heat in Colorado this week. Talk about the difficulty of club selection, the important of hitting fairways and greens. Talk about all of those things that are important at the U.S. Senior Open.
But the locals will tell you, when you play The Broadmoor, when it gets right down to it ...
|Players this week are mindful of the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun that stands about 200 feet above the East Course at The Broadmoor. (John Mummert/USGA)
The "shrine," in this case, is the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, located on Cheyenne Mountain 8,000 feet above sea level and some 200 feet above Colorado Springs. The imposing monument hovers over the East Course at The Broadmoor, a majestic landmark that seems to watch over the 29th playing of the U.S. Senior Open this week.
The shrine was commissioned in 1934.by Spencer Penrose's El Pomar Foundation. Penrose made a fortune in the gold mines of nearby Cripple Creek in the 1890s. He built The Broadmoor Hotel, as well as many other landmarks around Colorado Springs. The philanthropist was close friends with Rogers, the legendary cowboy philosopher and humorist.
Rogers died tragically in an airplane crash on Aug. 15, 1935 and never saw the monument completed in his honor. But while Rogers is buried in Claremore, Okla., Penrose's ashes are sealed in the mountain shrine he had dedicated to his friend.
To be sure, the East Course at The Broadmoor, which opened in 1918, is considered to be some of legendary designer Donald Ross' best work. Likewise, the Will Rogers shrine is an architectural wonder. It was built entirely with Pikes Peak granite, 200,000 pounds of steel and 30 wagonloads of cement. There is wood, no nails to be found.
The tower is made from a single stone yielding 6,000 cubic yards of granite and stands 114 feet high. The entrance to the structure is made from hand-hammered, ornately detailed iron and bronze doors. Let's see a golf manufacturer incorporate that into an oversized driver.
But the stunning structure is more than just a marvel or construction with a spectacular panoramic view. It is a key to playing the golf course.
"The main thing to know, they talk about the monument, the Will Rogers monument up there, and keeping the ball on the other side of the flagstick from the monument," said Tom Watson. "And that's pretty simple logic. It's right-on logic, really."
In truth, the logic holds no magical power. The influence the shrine has on the golf course, the place it has in course management and strategy, is as a point of reference. More specifically, all but two of the greens on the course – the exceptions being Nos. 3 and 17 – slope from west down to east – or away from the mountain. Since the mountain can be a little difficult to put in perspective, it is easier to use the shrine as the reference point.
What's more, as with most older golf courses, a majority of the greens at The Broadmoor were built to slope from back to front for drainage purposes. Combined with the mountain - or shrine – effect, and you have yourself some tricky greens.
"Jack Nicklaus once said of this place, you can hit 17 greens out here and still end up shooting an 82 all day long," said Dave Delich, a six-time club champion at The Broadmoor and an amateur qualifier into the Senior Open. "With a normal 25-footer, you're thinking automatic two-putt. But there are no automatics out here."
That's where the shrine comes into play. The locals know there is a fundamental formula for success when approaching the greens. "In theory, it is pretty simple," said The Broadmoor director of golf Russ Miller. "The general rule is to keep the ball on the front part of the green with the flagstick between you and the Cheyenne Mountain."
Of course, where the USGA places the flagsticks this week could undermine the shrine philosophy a bit. While opening the championship with a pace-setting 65, Fred Funk said he had to improvise.
"I'm more looking at that mountain (first), than if you can find the shrine," Funk said. "Because sometimes on the green, the shrine itself is blocked out from the trees.
"But yeah, I've been looking at (the shrine). I got here last Thursday night, and I've been practicing since Saturday and that's our landmark. That's what everybody said. You go off of that."
In other words, if you want to shine at The Broadmoor this week, you have to keep your eye on the shrine.
Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.