Colorado Springs, Colo. – A small countdown clock residing just outside the golf shop at The Broadmoor slowly works its way toward the start of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.
At the championship’s media day on May 24, the number stood at t-minus 41 days.
A little less than six weeks for USGA and Broadmoor officials to prepare the Donald Ross/Robert Trent Jones Sr. East Course for the game’s best female golfers.
It’s really coming around, said Fred Dickman, director of grounds for The Broadmoor, which features three 18-hole courses. I think the greens are right there. We’ve got some good speed out there. We always want it to be perfect, so we still have a lot of work to do. But I think we’re really on a good path to get where we want to be.
One thing is certain: The Broadmoor, at 7,047 yards (par 71) will play as the longest course in Women’s Open history, surpassing Interlachen Country Club, which measured 6,789 yards (par 73) for the 2008 championship.
Part of that is due to the altitude. The Broadmoor sits at more than 6,000 feet above sea level, enabling players to get approximately 15 percent more distance.
You may say the USGA has lost its marbles playing a golf course that long for women, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, who has been in charge of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open setup, said at media day. Obviously we are here at elevation so the ball does go farther. Length is never an issue here. The East Course is all about local knowledge. If you are not from Colorado, there is a lot to figure out.
The greens, however, won’t be quite as fast as they were last year at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club when they measured 14 feet on the Stimpmeter. Davis said the green speeds on the East Course will likely measure between 10½ to 11 on the Stimpmeter.
Because of the severe undulations in the green complexes, Davis said having the greens any faster than that would make them too severe. In fact, the USGA learned from the 2008 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor that the speeds were about a foot too fast.
It’s not a male/female thing, said Davis, who has been transitioning the Women’s Open setup duties to Ben Kimball since being named the USGA’s executive director in March. The staff that did the setup for that [Senior] Open felt that the speed was slightly too fast. We started to lose some unique hole locations that we don’t want to lose for the Women’s Open.
I find [these putting greens] to be the hardest I have ever been around anywhere. You have the effects of Cheyenne Mountain. Everything breaks away from the mountain. But even though you know that, trying to get yourself to understand that and actually do that is a slightly different story.
From an agronomic perspective, Dickman said it was an unusually dry winter. While the resort courses are open year-round, The Broadmoor kept traffic off the East Course in preparation of the Women’s Open, which will be the sixth USGA event at the resort dating back to the 1959 U.S. Amateur , which was won by Jack Nicklaus.
While the resort averages 55 inches of snow, it only received half that during the winter. Dickman and his staff covered 11 of the 18 greens to prevent any winter damage and the course came through the period with minimal damage.
Resort and member play will continue on the East Course until two weeks prior to the competition. Carts will be forced to stay on the paths.
We’ll protect the tees that the players will be using, said Dickman. We’ll use a lot of manpower [to maintain the course]. We’ll be double-mowing all the greens versus single-cutting. We’ll be rolling them every day. We’re doing a lot of hand-watering to get the golf course firm. Hopefully it will warm up soon. It’s pretty much the stuff you do on a normal basis multiplied by 10.
Like in other USGA championships, especially the Opens, Davis and his setup team will mix up teeing grounds to challenge the players from a mental perspective. Weather conditions and hole locations also could dictate changes in yardages.
One change from the 2008 U.S. Senior Open will be the long downhill 17th hole, which will be played as a par 5 for the women. It can be stretched to 600 yards from the back teeing ground. The other two par 5s each involve water, creating interesting risk-reward possibilities. Should the USGA move the tees forward, it might make for some interesting decision-making.
Sometimes we tell the players up front what we are going to do and other times it’s just guess work, said Davis. The mental side and course management side of the game are all part of the test.
The course has wonderful ebb and flow. Anybody who has ever played the East Course knows it’s a wonderful test of golf.
David Shefter is the USGA’s senior staff writer. E-mail questions or comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.