REVIEW: Erin Hills Golf Course, WI

Can you handle a US Open Course?
Every year the discussion around the US Open seems to be, would an amateur golfer be able to break 100?  Erin Hills was the host of the 2017 US Open and you can try your luck at breaking 100.  While the scores at the 2017 US Open weren’t hovering around par, it is still a tall task for an amateur to break 100 on Erin Hills.  Especially if you are playing the pro tees; those can be stretched to almost 8000 yards.  Unless you are a big bomber, you will need some extra shots to reach the greens, making it hard to score well.  But if you are more realistic, it is still hard, but you can shoot a respectable score.  From the proper tees however this course can be enjoyed in all its beauty by regular golfers.
1. 2017 US Open Course
 It was nice to watch a US Open where the entire discussion wasn’t about the crazy set-up or conditions of the course.  We didn’t have to hear how the turf conditions got away from them or watch some silly results because they didn’t water the grass.  I enjoyed watching the world’s best shoot good scores on a tough course.  Brooks Koepka is a big hitter and that certainly helps at Erin Hills.  If you want to relive his accomplishment, you can arrange a tee-time and bomb away to see how low you can go on the 2017 US Open Golf Course.

2. Big Layout
The scale of Erin Hills is massive.   While it appears to be a simple location, the farm land rolls in every direction and the course is spread out over 652 acres.  Once you drop your clubs at the bag drop you will start to see how big all the “resort” area is, the large driving range, the space between everything is big as well as the holes themselves.  There are so many tee options and everything is simply spread out, but yet you always feel connected with the rest of the course because of the many vistas on the tee boxes.  The most noteworthy part of the big layout is the longer walk it takes to play Erin Hills.  Many courses are about a 5 mile walk, while Erin Hills pushes 8+ miles to walk (which is the only option)

3. Natural Contours
Erin Hills is a course that was revealed rather than built.  If you look closely at the surrounding land you can see all the natural ups and downs of the land.  There were numerous trees removed for this course, but the hills, valleys, bumps and dips were almost all there already, they just needed the right grasses and a proper routing.  The trio of architect moved minimal dirt to create this natural layout in the rolling kettle moraine area of WI.

4. Fescue Fairways and Bent Grass Greens
Fescue has returned as the golf grass for new courses.  It used to be the most popular but then blue grasses and bent grasses became the manicured turf of golf courses.  The return to fescue allows courses to water less, manicure less and yet have great flexibility with the course in terms of width and depth.  Erin Hills does have bent grass greens and tee-boxes.  This makes for smoother and more forgiving greens.  They are certainly more receptive to golf balls and are easier to maintain an identical speed from hole to hole.  They are simply a better putting surface.

If you can play a round of golf at Erin Hills without hitting out of a bunker, I’m impressed.  There are bunkers on 17 holes and lots of them.  They are all different shapes, sizes, and locations; some  are blow-out bunkers, some are vertical, some frame the holes and some are hidden.  The 9th hole is a tiny green surrounded by bunkers and 18 is another that seems wide and should be easy to avoid the bunkers, but is well guarded in the front by numerous bunkers.  The list goes on and on about the sheer volume of bunkers on this course

6. Sea of Fescue
This is greatest hazard of Erin Hills.   What makes the Seas of Fescue so difficult is either finding your ball, or the different lies it will have.  Sometimes it is super thin and you have to hit off some fairly hard soil, other times it sits up so high it will give you a “flyer” and other times is sits so low in thick rough that you have to hack out with a lob wedge.  If you can avoid the tall fescue, your score will certainly appreciate it.

7. Old World Feel
If you didn’t know better, you’d think Erin Hills, especially the buildings, were 100 years old.  They made everything with an “old world” craftsman sort of feel.  I really like the use of barns, rough woods, natural looking materials and things that already look old, even though they are brand new.  This place transports you back in time to a more pure golf experience.  There are a couple carts running around the course for assistance, snacks and maintenance, but the walker and caddies combined with the property make it feel authentic.

8. Increasing Amenities
I’ve been to Erin Hills now a number of times since it first opened.  It has really grown up over the years.  I actually got confused by some of the new buildings this last time as to which one I needed to stop at.  They have greatly increased their lodging opitions and continue to make it more than just a golf course.  The new putting course they are working on will be a great addtion to the property.  This is a great post round way to unwind and relax with your buddies on property.  The patios and other places on site to soak in the property are great too.

9. Conclusion
Erin Hills keeps moving up the rankings because of all that it offers to the golfer.  It is a great experience start to finish and just keeps getting better.  The course conditions have improved greatly over the years and they keep adding amenities to make it a destination.  I’m still bummed that they don’t allow push carts on the course, but their caddie program is said to be outstanding.  This US Open course in WI might not be where you regularly play your rounds with your buddies, but it is one of the bucket list courses you need to play.  It is certainly one of the best in the state and in the US.