The U.S. Senior Open begins on Thursday at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich. Don’t be fooled by the relaxed atmosphere and over-50 age requirement, this is a U.S. Open.
The course is tough. The 6,862-yard layout was designed by Wilfred Reid, who is known for designing a plethora of golf courses in Michigan. The layout features an exorbitant amount of heather, which makes it look at times like it is in the United Kingdom rather than the Great Lakes State. There are elevated greens, deep bunkers and everything you would expect from a USGA Championship-caliber course.
The real star of Indianwood is the 18th green.
In a word, the 18th green is unique. The first thing you will notice is its size. It’s massive. It looks more like a double green at St. Andrews or Carnoustie than the finishing hole of a private club tucked away north of Detroit. The possible hole locations on this green are never ending, and the USGA will certainly find some diabolical locations for the weekend rounds.
But it isn’t just the size of the green that makes it unique, it is also its drastic slopes and undulations. The picture above doesn’t do it justice, but trust me, you’ll find flatter pieces of bubble wrap.
Bernhard Langer, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion discussed the challenges of preparing for the 18th green, as well as a new golf course, in his pre-championship interview on Tuesday. “Well, the 18th is so big you can spend an hour on there trying to chart that thing down, I think, with all the slopes and undulations,” Langer said. “Never seen anything like it, and I just saw it, I’ll spend a couple of extra minutes looking it over and writing down some of the humps and bumps.”
Humps and bumps might be the perfect word to describe the green. David Feherty usually refers to bumpy greens as having “Rhinoceroses buried underneath them,” but Tom Lehman had other ideas.
“I mean there’s something in there (under the 18th green). Volkswagen Bugs, maybe a few General Motors cars and Buicks. Something is in there. I don’t know.”
One thing is for certain, The unique green will be pivotal in deciding the champion of the 2012 U.S. Senior Open.
“You really have to do your homework to understand if they put the pin in this spot, where is it that I can actually make a par from and where is it that I can’t,” Lehman said.
One interesting difference between the U.S. Senior Open and a regular Champions Tour event is the same reason the majors on the PGA Tour are unique: The venue changes from year to year. Aside from the Masters, changing major venues provide an interesting challenge in learning a golf course in one week and trying to get comfortable enough to deal with the pressure of a major championship.
“This is a course that I’ve never seen before, so I take a little bit more time checking it out and making notes and trying to figure out how to attack it,” Langer said.
What most golf fans might not realize is that golfers and caddies make detailed green charts of every course, and it takes a significant amount of legwork to make sure every break is accounted for. With a new golf course, this has to be done from scratch. The green chart for the 18th hole looks like a topographical map of the Himalayas. No word yet on if the club has made Sherpas available to help players scale of some of its numerous bumps.
The point of this discussion is to highlight the fact that Indianwood is a unique and challenging course that is worthy of being called a U.S. Open site. The USGA prides itself on setting up the toughest test in golf for its respective fields. This week, that field is made up of over-50 golfers. Some are well known, like Tom Watson, and some are lesser known, like Larry Daniels.
The third U.S. Open kicks off tomorrow. Expect a tough and fair test.