I took one look at the 17th hole of Scioto Country Club and could not help but shutter. What normally was a private golf club opened up to the media for U.S. Senior Open Media Day.
Why the 17th hole? Well, some of the attending media got to play the course after a 45-minute press conference, lunch and having open access to the driving range and putting greens.
It was less than 30 minutes before that USGA Managing Director, Rules & Competitions Jeff Hall, told everyone in attendance that the 17th hole had the smallest green on the course.
Immediately after Hall said that, I looked at my sheet and saw that, yes, I was indeed starting my shotgun round of golf on 17. I had not even picked up a golf club in almost a year. Living in Pittsburgh and juggling several jobs both it near impossible.
This was going to be more of an unfair fight than the Philadelphia 76ers taking on the Golden State Warriors.
Everyone was grouped in foursomes and I hit my opening tee shot into the water. It was going to be one of those days.
Going into this round, a media member I consider a friend asked me if I had ever played Scioto before, and my answer was no. He knew I had played Muirfield Village Golf Club prior to the 2013 Presidents Cup and told me Scioto would be harder.
At first I found that impossible considering Murfield Village had the fastest greens I had ever putted on but I quickly found out my media friend was correct. Why should I have expected anything different from the course Jack Nicklaus worked on his game en route to become one of if not the most successful golfer of all-time?
Taking quick looks at holes, many were uphill as you got closer to the hole. Approaches needed extra clubs and that caused plenty of frustration in my group.
The USGA does not quite have the rough where it needs to be at yet, but it is getting there. If a golfer hits the ball in that rough, especially the more penal rough you can kiss birdie goodbye.
On the front side, holes 1-5 present the toughest tests. Hole 1 was difficult for me considering I have a left-to-right ball flight. There are trees on the right side that are meant to punish wayward tee shots. If you just miss your tee shot, then there are bunkers on both sides.
Hole two was as advertised. Golf Magazine ranked it a top-500 hole and many refer to it as the best second hole in the United States. It is an uphill 460-yard par-4. The need to carry the ball is there but if it goes past the green your chance of par is as good as gone.
Hole four is a 198-yard par-3 where getting a par is a great score. The wind becomes a factor, especially on this hole, and so do the many bunkers which surround the green. Placement of this tee shot is especially important as right-center on the approach is no good. None of my group hit this green in regulation and the wind played a role in that.
Don’t even ask me about the fifth hole, it kicked by butt. The par-5 ended with a 10. That green is very picky on approaches and I had absolutely no touch on that green. Needless to say, I was glad when that hole was over.
Highlights on the back-nine including the par-5 12th which plays longer than the 548 yards it is listed, the par-3 14th a 230-yard hole, the par-4 16th which has a difficult tee shot and par-4 18th which has trees left and bunkers right off the tee in addition to large bunkers on the right side.
I did get two pars on the day, the first being on the 10th hole. The wide fairway suited my eye and I was a foot away from making birdie on the hole from a putt off the green.
The second par came on 13 which is a big accomplishment in my eyes. This hole usually has some teeth because of the wind but I found the fairway and stuck the approach to a few feet. Unfortunately I recalled the USGA line in which they said by the U.S. Senior Open green speeds would be up to 12.5 on the Stimpmeter. They weren’t there yet and I respected the green too much, leaving the putt short. Birdies will not happen here often.
Overall, this is a great U.S. Open and though I was disappointed in my lack of touch on and around the greens, I shot 113. Considering the circumstances I will take it. I am not a great golfer by any means, but I did not slow the group down.
Scioto Country Club will be playing at or around 7,129 yards all U.S. Senior Open week and plays as a par-70. The course was originally designed by Donald Ross with Dick Wilson doing a renovation in the 1960’s. Jack Nicklaus and Dr. Michael Hurzdan most recently renovated the course in 2008.
This is Scioto’s 100th year of play and 2,791 golfers entered hoping to join Bobby Jones, Bruce Fleisher and Dale Douglass as winners at the Columbus, OH course. This will be the second U.S. Senior Open hosted at Scioto and 82 golfers of the full 156-man field are fully exempt, which includes 12 past champions including Jeff Maggert, last year’s winner.
The U.S. Senior Open will be from Aug. 11-14. If there is a tie after 72 holes, there will be a three-hole aggregate playoff which begins as soon as the fourth round concludes.