Golf

Expect thrills and spills at Erin Hills

The US Open's latest course keeps the Major's tradition of tricky layouts

The US Open is about as close as golfers get to stepping into a ring and this year they face a new contender for the sport's toughest test when they take on Erin Hills.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) pulls no punches when it chooses a venue and sets up the course and this year, it has chosen Erin Hills, a links style layout that weighs in at a beefy 7,800 yards.

Winged Foot, the Olympic Club and Oakland Hills are just a few of the courses that over the years have brought golf's best to their knees and now Erin Hills will try to add its name to that list of heavyweight layouts.

One round of golf at a US Open can be like going 18 rounds in the ring, both capable of leaving the unprepared bruised and battered.

Traditionally, US Open courses challenge golfers both mentally and physically with a combination of lightning-fast greens, narrow fairways and gnarly rough.

"Just a mental test, just dealing with the mental side of the game more than any other tournament," said American Jordan Spieth, winner of the 2015 US Open on a similar links style course at Chambers Bay.

"It's always a physical test. "It's a big golf course.

"It's a tough one to walk ... the rough is always thick.

"You're just putting more effort into each round.

"It (US Open) certainly tests the mental game more than any other place in golf.

"If you came for a stress-free tournament you didn't come to the right place."

Over time, some US Open layouts such as Oakmont (nine-time host), Baltusrol (seven) and Winged Foot (five) have developed frightening reputations.

Jack Nicklaus, an 18-time Major winner and noted course designer, rated Winged Foot a 12 on a scale of one-to-10 in terms of difficulty.

At the 1974 US Open, it proved so brutal that Hale Irwin won with a seven-over score, inspiring a book entitled "Massacre at Winged Foot".

The legendary Ben Hogan won the 1951 US Open at Oakland Hills but called it a "monster" and the hardest course he ever played, with not a single player breaking par in the opening three rounds.

Just 11 years old, Erin Hills has no such bona fides but some, including reigning British Open champion Henrik Stenson, are wary of the dangers that lurk.

"As always, the USGA likes to trick it up a little bit at times and if you go off track, then you're going to notice that that's not the place to be in a lot of areas, said the Swede.

"It (the US Open) is one of the toughest mental tests that you're going to encounter out there, and it's important to be fresh." - REUTERS

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