The Open Doctor makes a visit; Rough going at Winged Foot

Another golf course is turning to Rees Jones to make it worthy of the USGA. The latest is Chicago’s Cog Hill, which hosts the Western Open. This was in today’s Chicago Sun-Times:

Cog Hill owner Frank Jemsek had been in negotiations with Jones and his staff for nearly a year in Jemsek’s efforts to make the Western Open site a suitable U.S. Open venue. Jones associate Greg Muirhead visited Cog Hill last July before
Jones toured the course with Jemsek on Oct. 11. Jemsek revealed during last weekend’s Chicago Golf Show that negotiations were successful. “They’ve cashed our check,” said Jemsek, who said work will begin on a limited basis after this year’s Western, which ends July 9.

So what is Jones doing, exactly?

The heart of the renovation will be on Dubsdread’s last four holes. No. 15, which plays as a short par-5 now, will become a long par-4 with new tees shortening the hole. Nos. 16 and 18, both par-4s, will be lengthened with green-side hazards accentuated. And the par-4 17th, deemed much too easy by Jones, will be completely rebuilt with the green reduced and bunkers added.

Is it just me, or this all that Rees’ office has become known for? In Canada, he recently opened Grand Niagara, but there have been few courses with less buzz open in this country in recent memory. Have any of my readers played it? My contacts say it was nice, but built on flat land with few natural features. The club’s website is not operating currently, but it says they are going ahead with a Greg Norman designed course on the same property. I’ll believe that when I see the actual course.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Steve Elling has a story on the US Open at Winged Foot in New York.Apparently the USGA thinks variable heights of rough will make everything equal again. I don’t see how this is going to impact Bubba Watson’s 350-yard drives, but who am I to say anything against the USGA?

When the pros pull out their whompin’ sticks this summer at Winged Foot, they will be greeted for the first time by multi-fanged rough of variable lengths, a departure from the traditional, do-or-die norm associated with golf’s most punitive set-up.”It’s a done deal,” said Marty Parkes, a USGA spokesman.Under the new plan, the length of the grass will increase in inverse proportion to the misfire. Sort of like serving detention, the punishment for bursts of wildness will indeed fit the crime.Moreover, the rough heights will be adjusted depending upon the length of the hole, which means missing a fairway by a few yards on a 495-yard par-4 won’t be as bad as hitting it sideways on a shorter two-shot hole.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I played Grand Niagara in mid-September. The course was finished but not the amenities. I thought it was really terrific and very well groomed but quite forgiving. I recall wide fairways with the most friendly rough one could imagine. In fact, since my golf buddies insisted on playing from tees too long for me, I often found myself aiming drives for the rough to better enable a 3-wood approach.

  • Thanks for the comments, Brian. I have heard a few positive things about Grand Niagara, but largely all has been quiet. And it wasn’t in Golf Digest’s Best New Course ratings for this year, which surprised me as well.

  • Hi Robert,

    I played Grand Niagara in the fall and I’ve got to tell you, that there are some very good golf holes out there, A few that we’re OK and the rest. I really really liked the short 2nd hole alot, visually it sits there, but mis it right and you’ver got a tremendous amount of options. Would love to here your views on it.

    My only complaint is that I would have liked to see a little more movement in the greens.

    See ya on GCA.

    BTW – Love the blog and glad to see ian jumping in also.

    John Foley

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