Commentary: New Chambers Bay greens? It’s better late than never

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Later this week, Chambers Bay Golf Course will open to the public for the first time in six months, after renovating its greens. And I can confidently say: You won’t be disappointed.

We all remember the criticism from some of the best players in the world during and after the U.S. Open in 2015. From Billy Horschel’s antics on the 9th green, to Henrik Stenson saying they looked like broccoli. And while many of us took the whining personally – as an attack on our region – the simple truth is, those greens should have been in better condition to host a major championship.

The experiment of using fine fescue grass on all the greens did not work - not here in the Pacific Northwest. And although there are many we could blame for being so stubborn, at least the decision makers finally got it right.

Yesterday, I had a chance to play Chambers for the first time in about a year. The difference is night and day. No longer do you stand over a ten-foot putt worrying about a bad bounce. The greens are finally rolling true. On a scale of 1 to 10, if the old greens were around a 2, I’d give these new ones about a 9 with some tiny spots to improve on a couple of greens.

And don’t just take my word for it. Local Tour Pro Michael Putnam joined us and had nothing but rave reviews: “Love love love the new greens!” he tweeted. “Putts can drop from anywhere now.”

That kind of endorsement has value. It has clout. And it’s those kinds of opinions that will now begin to spread – spurring curiosity among other prominent voices in the world of golf. And with its biggest bug-a-boo now behind us, the course can now legitimately be considered for all kinds of championships again.

Its first major test will be in two years, when it hosts the USGA Four-Ball Championship, which will hopefully be a precursor to a U.S. Women’s Open or a U.S. Amateur. But the prospect of another U.S. Men’s Open at Chambers isn’t likely to come at least for another 10 to 15 years.

And as a golf fan that feels slighted by the lack of major golf events in our area, I don’t think it’s fair to make us wait that long before the likes of Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy return. And this is where I’ll continue my sales pitch for everyone to hear:

The annual Boeing Classic needs to consider upgrading to a PGA Tournament instead. The precedent was set when the PGA upgraded the Champions Tour event in Minnesota to a regular tour stop this year.

Boeing’s current naming-rights deal is up in 2021. Upgrade the event, change the venue, and Chambers could host an annual PGA Tour event starting in as early as three years from now. And nothing against the Boeing Classic which has been a success for the past two decades, but everything has a shelf life, and an upgrade like that would create a significant buzz.

I’ve always been an advocate for golf fans in our region, and I truly believe that the latest changes at Chambers could be a windfall for Pierce County and the golfing world in the Pacific Northwest. And now that their biggest problem is being solved, we should continue to push decision makers to take advantage of every option on the table.

So welcome back to the discussion, Chambers Bay. I know the old saying goes, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression." But in this case, I’m willing to side with the other old adage:

“It’s better late than never.”

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