Erin Hills Stands Ready for Challenge of U.S. Open Golf

Wisconsin is rapidly becoming an unlikely presence in the world of major professional golf. While a complete non entity as recently as 25 years ago, there are now multiple nationally known golf destinations in the state with another about to join the ranks.

A state known more for isolated dairy farms and brutal winters hosted 2015’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Next year, the U.S. Open will come to the quite rolling hills outside of Milwaukee and the traditional Scottish links style of Erin Hills.

Also: PGA Championship Week: Exploring Elite Midwestern Golf in Milwaukee

Opened 10 years ago, Erin Hills was designed by the trio of Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten. Entirely a links course, it’s dominated by rolling hills, tall grass hazards and frequent bunkers. If you’re looking for water and trees, you’re better off looking for a park style or resort course.

Erin Hills is not the latter of those extra choices. It is a very difficult, tournament level track already setting itself up to offer a mighty challenge to the best players in golf come 2017.

Long, rolling fairways of short kept fescue give way to thicker reeds along the edges. Hit your ball into that taller grass, and you might as well drop and take. It’s gone.

The hills make sure there are ample blind tee shots and view obstructed angles throughout the round. In keeping with the traditions of links golf — where hills and depressions send the ball silly places — it helps to have a caddy on hand to suggest angles. 

It’s a physically demanding round whether using that caddy or walking it in loop yourself. There are some considerable strolls from green to tee box along rises that would challenge any hiker — let alone a man with 40 pounds of clubs on his back.

Aesthetically, it’s a modest course. It can’t lay a glove on Whistling Straits and its Lake Michigan-nuzzled venue for overall beauty and atmosphere. However, it plays every bit as challenging as its Wisconsin rival and will present the USGA with an entertainment tournament and proper show piece come next summer.