William Flynn believed golf was an athletic endeavor, a sentiment to which anyone who has played one of his designs can attest. In line with that tradition, the newly lengthened tee boxes at Cherry Hills Country Club are guaranteeing that the U.S. Amateur participants get their steps in.
The 123rd U.S. Amateur shifts to match play today after the opening two rounds of stroke play. Two of Colorado’s best, Cherry Hills and Colorado Golf Club, played as the host venues for the first 36 holes, but players will exclusively see William Flynn’s Cherry Hills for the rest of the tournament.
Having watched golf at both Cherry Hills and Colorado Golf Club on Tuesday, it’s hard to believe they’re hosting the same golf tournament. CGC, a firm-and-fast short grass fest with bold greens, requires plenty of ground game. Cherry Hills, meanwhile, could be confused for a U.S. Open, setup-wise. Hack-out rough awaits players just off the fairway, aerial shots are required into many of the greens, and the pins are rarely more than three paces off the edge. It was that setup that meant Cherry Hills played to a higher stroke average despite being 300 yards shorter than the 7,600-yard Colorado Golf Club.
Given that the comment period for the USGA and R&A’s rollback proposal just ended (a topic Garrett Morrison and Geoff Schackelford discussed on the Fried Egg Golf Podcast), it feels appropriate for these two different styles of course setup to be on display this week. Bad faith arguers have shouted about how distance doesn’t need to be reigned in, and that rough and narrow fairways are enough to curb scoring on their own. I’m sure those people would point to Cherry Hills playing more difficult than CGC to support their argument. But remember: it’s a bad-faith argument.
Ahead of the 2023 U.S. Amateur, Renaissance Golf completed a decade-long restoration of Cherry Hills. Their work included green expansions and tree clearing, but it also featured new tee boxes to accommodate modern length. Among the new additions are crisscrossing boxes on Nos. 5 and 9, which, along with the new box on the par-4 16th, wreak havoc on volunteers trying to keep things in order. There’s also a new box on the par-5 11th that requires about 130 steps to reach from the 10th green. There, players wait for the group in the fairway that’s waiting for the green to clear on the 640-yard hole. Of course, participants are also playing the tee box on No. 1 that sits about 100 yards from the original tee. You know, the one that Arnold Palmer hit from when he famously drove the green en route to his 1960 U.S. Open win. The plaque commemorating Palmer’s accomplishment still exists, but it doesn’t see any action. Nearly every back tee on the course is either disconnected from the rest of the tee boxes on a hole or pressed against the property line. The golf course literally cannot get any longer, yet rough is still its only effective defense. Well, at least the only defense to par.
Please don’t take any of this as reason not to tune in to the matches for the rest of the week. There are notable names in the bracket, Cherry Hills is still a great test of golf, and exemptions into major championships are on the line. It’s just a shame that of the two properties this week, the setup with long rough and gerrymandered tee boxes is viewed as more of a championship test than the firm and fiery course offering a variety of ways to play.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.