Stepping up to the tee on any of the holes at CordeValle is a visual treat because the course is set against the golden, rolling hills of Northern California’s wine country.
But equally appealing to the field of 132 players at the 52nd USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship is the test of golf that begins on each teeing ground. Course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed the resort course, which opened in 1999, to accommodate both high- and low-handicap players.
As the USGA staff in charge of the course set-up for this national championship, which demands shotmaking and mental tenacity, Teresa Saponaro Belmont stressed the variety of options players will have off tees and into greens. This translates to using 14 clubs and a thoughtful approach.
"I still like the options because it allows for the flexibility of the player to choose based on their games, whether they are going to run it up or fly it in high," Belmont said. "I like the fact that they get to choose, based on their game, how to approach the hole and get themselves in the best position possible."
Belmont cites the par-3 seventh hole and the 320-yard par-4 eighth as key examples on the outward nine, where different tee angles can bring hazards into play. The par-4 14th hole also offers various tee and approach angles.
"It allows for thinking by the players," Belmont said. "It’s not just hit and grab the next club. It’s where they want to place the ball."
In addition, architect Jones built the par-4 ninth hole with a creek running through the middle of the hole, creating two fairways.
"We definitely look at what the architect planned," Belmont said. "We also look at varying tees. Sometimes you see where the fairway narrows and that’s not where (the architect) wanted the drives to be and we needed to pick the tees that are conducive to where the landing zone is supposed to be."
There is also the prevailing afternoon wind to consider.
The past few days the winds have been stronger in the afternoon and from a different direction, said Belmont. We need to pay attention to the direction of the wind and the intensity of the wind in reference to where we will place the tee. It really comes down to the wind.
Carol Semple Thompson, a four-time Senior Women’s Amateur winner and a member of the World Golf Fame of Fame with more than 110 USGA championship appearances, agreed with Belmont.
"Off some of the tees, there are options to go over bunkers or hit well to the sides of bunkers," she said. "Sometimes it looks like I can go over but I can’t. Mostly to me, it’s on the driving that I have options. Do I go over a bunker to get the downhill bounce and scoot toward the hole or do I play safely away and make sure I don’t go in the bunker? (Thursday) the wind was helping on par 3s and some of the par 4s (played) longer or shorter. The wind had an effect. The wind was quieter (Friday) and we hit different clubs."
Three-time champion Marlene Stewart Streit, also a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and at age 79 the oldest competitor this week, brought her usual candor and humor to the discussion.
"They have a lot of options. I don’t. I don’t hit it far enough," Streit said. "They can either take the chance and go over some of the bunkers or play left or right and be safe.
"But, I think they moved the 150 [-yard] markers back," she quipped.
The course, which will host the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open on Oct. 10-13, will not need special attention given the close proximity of the two competitions.
"There will probably be longer rough but the green speeds might be about the same," Belmont said. "It was a fun golf course to set up because of the multiple options. The tees allow for flexibility."
Streit, who owns four USGA titles, won her first in 1956 – the U.S. Women’s Amateur … It has been 10 years since Streit became the oldest USGA champion at age 69 at the 2003 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at Barton Creek … Some insiders insist that she is so straight off the tee that she can play the same ball all summer…Two 2013 USA Walker Cup Team members will be making their professional debuts in two weeks at the Frys.com Open – Max Homa and Justin Thomas … Homa, playing for the University of California-Berkeley, won the NCAA Men’s Division I individual championship in 2013 … Thomas was a member of the University of Alabama’s NCAA Men’s Division I championship team … Hazards come into play on 16 of the 18 holes … There are grandstands already in place for the Frys.com Open.
Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.