Colorado Springs, Colo. – The Broadmoor is no ordinary golf venue. It has been home to some of the most memorable USGA championships in history, including Jack Nicklaus' 1959 U.S. Amateur win, Juli Inkster's third consecutive U.S. Women's Amateur victory in 1982 and Annika Sorenstam's first professional triumph at the 1995 U.S. Women's Open.
But it's not just golf history that makes the grounds at the base of the Rocky Mountains something special. The only thing typical at The Broadmoor is the atypical.
It's an exhausting golf course, said reigning Women's Open champ Paula Creamer. It's a long walk, lots of thinking. Definitely, if you lose your (concentration) on one shot, it's gonna cost you big time here.
No one knows the warning label better than Sorenstam, who remains – until the end of the week – the only player to win a Women's Open at The Broadmoor. As honorary chairman for the event, Sorenstam remains respectful of the special challenge it presents.
The practice rounds are really important for the players, Sorenstam said. Getting to know how much the elevation is affecting their shots, how the greens are, where the slopes are. I mean, you name it. The practice rounds are going to be very, very important here.
Practice doesn't make perfect in golf, but practice makes prudence. The wisdom players ascertain early in the week can be critical to their chances as the week progresses.
Local knowledge is huge here, said Ben Kimball, the director of the Women's Open. Players are going to see putts that are toward the direction of the Rockies that are significantly slower than away from them. There's no grain, so you can't read anything into that, but it's a strange push or pull that it has.
So even though we're monitoring our green speeds, where it may say 11.3 or 11.5 [feet on the USGA Stimpmeter], that's only in the spot where they can find a flat lie, which there's not many out there. But if you putt uphill, it's probably 10. You turn the other way, it's probably 12. There's no way you can keep it all the same, so it will be consistently inconsistent.
There's the rub with a golf course that feature some holes originally designed by Donald Ross (Nos. 1 through 6 and 16 through 18) and some originally tailored by Robert Trent Jones Sr. (Nos. 7 through 15).
The East Course is not only a series of adjustments for those who play it; it also presented unique challenges for those who set it up for a national championship. It has been 16 years since the best female players in the world came to The Broadmoor. Advances in technology and agronomy have significantly changed the way the game is played.
When Sorenstam won the championship in '95, the course was just under 6,400 yards long. This week, it has been stretched to 7,047 yards, the longest layout in Women's Open history. But Kimball explained the numbers are misleading.
It's just a number on a piece of paper, Kimball said. I can guarantee you that the yardage is not going to be an issue this week. With the elevation, with the hot, arid weather and dry conditions that we can get here, 7,047 is not going to be a whole lot for the best female players in the world.
Kimball used No. 17 as an example. The par-5 hole is set to play at 600 yards, which is the longest hole in Women's Open history. But it also is downhill and slightly away from Cheyenne Mountain off in the distance. In effect, No. 17 probably won't play like the longest hole in championship history.
If that was going the other direction, maybe we would have to reconsider that one, Kimball said. But since it's going downhill, away from the mountain, we feel it's going to be nothing for these ladies.
Making adjustments, paying attention, figuring out quirks will be part of the Battle at Broadmoor. As Kimball suggests, the only certainty this week will be uncertainty.
The USGA once again is employing graduated rough, but the farther one strays from the fairway, the worse it gets. The rough is very deceiving, Creamer said. It doesn't look very thick, but it's nasty.
Because of the lack of humidity in the air, the USGA likely will have to put water on the course at various times, meaning it might play slightly differently in the morning than it does in the afternoon.
Of course, the field switches starting times the first two days to level the playing field.
I think players have to do a lot more thinking here than just what they see in front of them, Kimball said. That applies to everything. Not just physically and mentally, but I wouldn't be surprised if some players come in with higher lofts in some clubs to take advantage of the elevation.
I think you'll see morning and afternoon changes just in conditions. In order for us to survive in this climate, we have to be pretty aggressive with our water management plan. That's why we have morning and afternoon rounds.
Conditions are going to be a little different.. And the weather conditions can change in a heartbeat here, because there's no humidity. Those are all things we think about and take into consideration.
Those are all things that make The Broadmoor extraordinary, and make this 66th U.S. Women's Open special.