This June, Congressional Country Club in Bethseda, Maryland, will host the 111th US Open Championship. It will be the third time the club’s Blue Course has staged golf’s most gruelling strokeplay event.
Located just outside Washington D.C., Congressional Country Club has always maintained political connections. In fact, when it was founded in 1924, Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge were founding life members. It remains an exclusive club with a significant waiting list and annual subscription. But, during the third week in June, the golf public will be given a view of this fabulous old course as the world’s best players battle it out for the year’s second Major Championship.
The Blue Course was designed by Devereux Emmet, but Robert Trent Jones was employed to make alterations in preparation for the club hosting the 1964 US Open. In that memorable event, the final day’s 36 holes were contested in sweltering temperatures of over 100 degrees. Ken Venturi came out in round three and fired a superb 66 to get within two of Tommy Jacobs. But the heat took its toll on the American and a doctor advised he didn’t play the last round. That was never an option though and, despite becoming increasingly disoriented, Venturi shot a 70 to win by four. It was an awesome display of grit and determination.
Congressional was revamped again prior to the 1997 US Open, this time by Robert Trent Jones’ son, Rees. Ernie Els won, beating Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie by a single shot. Rees Jones has made one further significant alteration to the Blue Course that will be a factor this June. The 18th was a par 3, but the USGA decided it unfitting as a 72nd hole for a Major. So, the old 18th now plays as the 10th. The old 17th, a long par 4 with water in front of the green, now plays as the 18th.
On June 16 Graeme McDowell will begin his US Open defence. He will have to deal with Congressional’s thick rough, narrow fairways and firm greens. At 7,574 yards it will be an extremely demanding, yet fascinating test.