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FOCUS ON GOLF / U.S. OPEN

Here's a Coarse Assessment of Five U.S. Open Venues

June 18, 1998|THOMAS BONK

If there have been some really great U.S. Open venues, in 97 years of the U.S. Open, there must have been some really bad ones too.

Well, yes, there have.

So here they are, the Bottom Five, each and every one of them nothing but 18 holes of ground under repair:

The Country Club, Brookline, Mass.: With apologies to Arnold Palmer, who didn't play in the 1988 Open, this place was a mess that year. There are two 18-hole courses here, but for the U.S. Open, the layout near Boston is something the members never play. Part of one course and part of another is used. Plus, it's a spectators' nightmare, which was evident in 1988 when fans stampeded the place as if there were a sale on baked beans.

Atlanta Athletic Club: Jerry Pate won at the place in the 1976 Open, which wouldn't have been held at the layout if Bobby Jones hadn't written a note to the USGA a month before he died, asking for the Open to come to Atlanta. Most players considered the place a modest PGA Tour venue.

Hazeltine, Chaska, Minn.: In 1970, runner-up Dave Hill enriched the world of Best Golf Quotes when he called the place a waste of good farmland. Said Hill: "The man who designed this place [Robert Trent Jones] had the blueprints upside down."

So what did it lack? Said Hill: "Eighty acres of corn and a few cows."

With 13 dogleg holes and some sort of blind shot on more than half of the holes, it was roundly blasted by the players. Hill knew what do with the place, though. "Plow it up and start over again."

Bellerive, St. Louis: Gary Player is a great champion, sure, and he won here in 1965, but that still didn't shower glory on the place. It was only six years old and in no condition to host a U.S. Open. The greens were as big as the Missouri and looked so bad that two club members spray-painted No. 16 and 17 emerald green so they didn't appear so sickly on television.

Medinah, Ill.: In 1975, when Lou Graham won, it featured probably the worst 18th hole in major championship history. It was such a severe dogleg right that if you hit a three-wood off the tee, it would run through the fairway and into the gunk. Players were forced to hit a cut three-wood just to keep the ball on the fairway grass.

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