US Open 2012: Is the course too hard?

After Rory McIlroy romped to victory at Congressional last year, the USGA swore revenge. But is the Lake Course at San Francisco's Olympic Club an unfair challenge?

Olympic Club hole18
(Image credit: Getty Images)

At the 2011 US Open at Congressional, Rory McIlroy stormed to victory, smashing multiple records along the way.

The USGA were embarrassed someone was able to shoot 16-under-par in the event dubbed 'golf's toughest test,' and promised a much harder examination this year.

Mike Davies, the USGA's executive director, promised revenge at San Francisco's Olympic Club, claiming the first six holes would be "absolutely brutal" and "the toughest ever start to a US Open."

He wasn't wrong. In yesterday's first round, the fist six holes, cumulatively, played more than 250 over par, with many labelling the 670-yard par-5 16th hole unfair.

So, have the USGA taken it too far, and is the course simply too hard?

Granted, the aforementioned statistics would tend to support such a viewpoint, but I would argue against such a stance.

Whilst there were only six under-par scores, it proved that, if every facet of your game was working, good scores were attainable. It's hardly as if Justin Rose, for example, played out of his skin. He only hit six fairways and took 30 putts.

The rough, compared to other US Open courses, has to be considered fairly generous and, after the first six holes, there are genuine birdie and even eagle chances (the seventh and 17th).

No one is denying, however, that the course isn't a brute. Bubba Watson said he felt "beaten up" after his round, but this is the US Open, and that is the way it should feel.

It is a genuine test of golfing aptitude, and the majority of players welcome that. They recognise it is refreshing to play a course where par is an excellent score; a course that simply cannot be overpowered or bullied into submission.

Many players have spoken about the sheer difficulty of the course, but how many have complained it is too difficult? None.

It is a different experience for the professionals, and it is a different experience for television viewers. Most weeks produce a plethora of birdies and eagles, and winning totals well into double figures under-par. Par could easily win this week and, last night, Twitter was full of comments from golf fans saying how enjoyable it was to see top professionals grind.

Yes, it is isn't as fluid to watch, but the US Open takes place once a year, and it should present a different challenge.

If you win the US Open, no one can say you got lucky, or didn't deserve the title - the way a major should be. Who exactly is complaining the Lake Course is too tough? Not real golf fans, that's for sure.


Nick Bonfield
Features Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, writing, commissioning and coordinating all features across print and online. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x