The U.S. Open Setup

October 29, 2008

The USGA selects venues for the U.S. Open that rank among the most challenging in the U.S. We intend that the U.S. Open prove the most rigorous examination of golfers. A U.S. Open course should test all forms of shotmaking, mental tenacity, and physical endurance under conditions of extreme pressure. At the same time, we try to ensure that a well-played stroke produces a positive result. We formulate a detailed plan for conducting the Open, but unanticipated variations in weather and other conditions may force consideration of daily adjustments.

The following factors impact U.S. Open course setup. The mix of these varies from course to course, year to year. Evaluation of course setup should not focus on any single element but consider the composite result. The factors are:

  • 1.      Length, variation and playing characteristics of individual holes;
  • 2.      Length of overall golf course relative to total par;
  • 3.      Teeing ground locations (i.e., angles of play, variation of distance day to day);
  • 4.      Fairway width and contours;
  • 5.      Fairway firmness and speed;
  • 6.      Green speed relative to percentage slopes and contours of the putting greens;
  • 7.      Putting green firmness;
  • 8.      Rough height, density and stages of severity;
  • 9.      Bunker preparation (i.e., create challenge of recovery);
  • 10.  Surrounds (e.g., closely mown areas vs. primary rough);
  • 11.  Hole locations (relative difficulty, balance in location of left vs. right, front vs. back of green, anticipated wind, anticipated length of approach shot);
  • 12.  Risk and reward options;
  • 13.  Anticipated weather conditions;
  • 14.  Pace of Play

    In addition, the championship will arrange the U.S. Open primary rough cut at different heights, determined by the hole and its yardage. 

    Each hole also will have two distinct cuts in the primary rough.  Generally speaking, a show that barely trickles into the primary rough won't be as severely punished as one that misses the fairway by 15 yards.

    There is no target score for a U.S. Open.  While the final score at some U.S. Open sites will be at or near par, the USGA does not try to formulate a course setup that will only produce a winning score of at or near even par.  Our goal is to provide everyone attending a U.S. Open with the finest experience possible.
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    The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

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