What It’s Like To Play Chambers Bay Golf Course

I’ve said this once, and you’ll hear me say it again and again — I have the greatest job in the world. I cover sports for a living. I talk about them, I watch them and every now and then I get to play them — like yesterday. I was paid to play golf, and not just on a typical course. I was paid to play Chambers Bay Golf Course — home of the 2015 U.S. Open.

Chambers Bay Golf Course

Chambers Bay Golf Course

Chambers Bay Golf Course, which is located in University Place, Washington, is expensive (at least in my eyes). Greens fees cost anywhere from $119 (non-county resident sunset rate from June-September) to $219 (non-Washington resident rate from June-September). That means not everyone can afford play Chambers Bay. If you can’t make it out there, or even if you can (you’re planning a trip, etc.), I’m here to tell you what it’s like to play Chambers Bay Golf Course.

I had never even seen the Chambers Bay grounds before, so this was an entirely new experience for me. The clubhouse sits on top of a hill, so you have an opportunity to look out on the entire course when you first arrive. At first glance, I asked myself, “This is a golf course?!” Chambers Bay is designed (by Robert Trent Jones II) like a traditional Scottish links course. That means there are no trees (there’s actually one tree on the course, but it doesn’t come into play), it’s just a rolling mess of grass, dunes and sand. One of the guys I played with described it as “the surface of the moon.”

Chambers Bay Golf Course doesn’t just look different, it also plays different. Even though I’ve been to Scotland, I didn’t play golf there. That means Chambers Bay is unlike any course I’ve ever played before. There aren’t traditional golf hazards, like water and trees, but there is trouble everywhere at Chambers Bay. Precision is the name of the game there. A foot the wrong way and you’ll end up in the sand (or waste areas). A few inches too long and you’ll be in thick fescue. You need to be spot on with every shot or your round can quickly unravel.

Chambers Bay Golf Course

Looking up the No. 7 fairway toward the green

There’s another thing you need to know about Chambers Bay Golf Course — it’s long (7,165 yards from the blue tees), firm and fast. I was talking to a caddy before the round, and he told me that I need to take 10 to 15 yards off every shot because the ball rolls, and rolls, and rolls once it hits the ground. When the 2015 U.S. Open comes to town, they’re actually going to have a 520-yard, par-4 (no joke). An employee of the USGA explained to me that yardage at Chambers Bay doesn’t mean the same thing as other courses. That’s because Chambers Bay is so firm and so fast. The distance can also be deceiving when you’re out there playing at Chambers Bay. There’s nothing to obstruct your view, so it looks like every hole is 500-yards away.

NOTE: There are no golf carts allowed (unless you need one for health reasons, etc), so you have to walk Chambers Bay Golf Course. That doesn’t matter to me, because I’m young enough and healthy enough to trek 18 holes. With that said, Chambers Bay still isn’t an easy walk. The hazards are the hills and dunes, so you feel like you’re constantly walking up and down hills. They give you a push cart as part of your greens fees, and that definitely helps. But, just keep that in mind if you’re planning a trip to Chambers Bay. Your body needs to be golf ready.

Since you can’t always tell the difference between the fairway and the greens (again, this is a traditional links course), that means putting is a challenge at Chambers Bay as well. That firm and fast description doesn’t end on the fairways. It goes for the greens, too. And, the hills don’t stop rolling on the greens either. I think I lined up three straight putts my entire round yesterday. The greens sometimes feel as wavy as the Puget Sound you’re playing next to. One of the guys I was playing with said it was like “putting on a frozen lake.”

NOTE: If you’re looking for a pristine, green golf course, Chambers Bay is not for you. The grass dries out and turns pretty darn brown. If I didn’t know Chambers Bay was a championship level course, I would think it was a poorly maintained public golf course. But, that’s far from the truth. The crew at Chambers Bay puts in tons of work — that’s just the way the course is supposed to be.

Chambers Bay Golf Course

Chambers Bay Golf Course

While the course might not be much to look at, the views are top-notch at Chambers Bay Golf Course. Like I mentioned, you play alongside the beautiful Puget Sound. When you’re up on the course, it feels like you can see for miles. We were out there on a perfect day (80 degrees and sunny), so the weather wasn’t a factor. But, the wind off the sound can make Chambers Bay play much different than it did for us. Rain is always a possibility in the Puget Sound area as well.

When I was on the course (probably on hole No. 13), I mentioned to one of the guys I was playing with that I liked the front nine better than the back nine at Chambers Bay. He had played out there before, and he quickly said, “Just wait. The back nine gets even better.” It was so true. I jotted notes when I was playing out there, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but all four of the holes I listed as my favorites (No. 10, No. 15, No. 16 and No. 18 – I could probably throw No. 17 in there as well) were on the back nine. In other words, I didn’t think there were any bad holes on the course.

Danny Sink, the director of the 2015 U.S. Open, explained to me that the USGA wants to make the open “golf’s toughest test.” That doesn’t mean they want to penalize golfers for good shots, but they want to test them mentally and physically, and they want to challenge their shot-making skills. They picked Chambers Bay to do that, and I think that says a lot about the golf course. It’s meant to test the best golfers in the world, so it definitely cause problems for an average weekend hacker. I know first-hand how difficult the course is.

I hope this did a good job of summing up what it’s like to play at Chambers Bay. I could have written ten more paragraphs, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you with information. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have, or feel free to leave a comment below. You can always connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out All Around Tim for more on the world of sports, music and food!

Chambers Bay Golf Course

A view of Chambers Bay from the clubhouse area

Masters Golf Tournament Challenge

The Masters is easily one of the best sporting events on the planet. There’s Augusta National, the green jacket, amazing golfers past and present — everything about the tournament is amazing. I’ve paid attention to the Masters every year for as long as I can remember, and now thanks to a fantasy-style game my friend calls the Masters Golf Tournament Challenge, I can be more involved than ever before. The best part is — you can try this same idea with your friends, coworkers and family.

Here are the rules we use for the Masters Golf Tournament Challenge (with my bonus comments written in italics):

1)  Buy in is $20 per person and the limit is one entry per person.

You can make the buy in as much as you want. In fact, you can still play this for free (with only bragging rights on the line) and it will still be fun.

2)  Each participant picks ONE golfer. Once that golfer is selected, he is taken off the board.

In other words, no participants can have the same golfer playing in the tournament. Once Keegan Bradley is taken, no one else can choose him. It works like that for every golfer picked during the draft.

3) This is the fun twist — you can NOT pick a golfer in the World Golf Rankings top 10 at the time of the Masters.

I know this is easy to understand, but here’s an example anyway: this year’s Masters begins on Thursday, April 11th and the latest World Golf Rankings came out on Monday, April 8th (they’re released weekly). A golfer in the top 10 on the 8th can’t be selected for the Masters starting on the 11th.

4)  The participant whose golfer finishes the tournament highest on the leaderboard (with the lowest score) wins the entire pot.

You can change the payout to include more people if you want (maybe a 70%, 20, 10 for the top three participants), but I personally like the “all or nothing” part of our Masters Tournament Challenge.

5)  In the event of a tie, the participant whose player had the lower final round score wins all the money.

If you need an extra tiebreaker, you can go with the lower score in the third round or maybe even really single it down to the golfer who scored the best on No. 10 ”Camelia” (historically the toughest hole at Augusta National) in the final round. It’s totally up to you.

Those are the five rules we use for our Masters Golf Tournament Challenge. It’s really simple, and it’s easy for the person running the contest as well. There’s very little work for them to do, because you can find the Masters leaderboard all over the internet throughout the tournament.

If you’re wondering how we select a draft order, my friend literally throws our names into a hat and pulls them out randomly. We hold our draft the Tuesday before the Masters begins (again, the first round of the tournament is on Thursday every year).

I don’t have a favorite golfer, so the Masters Golf Tournament Challenge finally gives me someone to hang my hat on. We haven’t held our draft yet, but I’ll be rooting for my golfer like crazy. We usually get around 30 people playing, so our field of golfers runs pretty deep. That means I might be pulling for a guy like John Merrick. Again, your golfer doesn’t have to win the Masters, they just need to score better than the rest of the golfers picked in your Masters Golf Tournament Challenge pool.

It’s called the Masters Golf Tournament Challenge, but you can obviously use these rules for any tournament throughout the season. Feel free to alter the rules however you want. I just encourage you to have fun with your friends, coworkers and family. Let me know if you have any questions — or if you have a fun rule that you use that we don’t. You can simply leave a comment below, or you can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on the world of sports!

Masters Golf Tournament Challenge