Omaha is an event town. Olympic swim trials, the College World Series, opening round games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and more bring sports fans out in droves. As the College World Series ended yesterday, Omahans are anticipating the next big event- the USGA’s 2013 U.S. Senior Open.
As the temperatures here in Omaha continue to rise, as does the excitement for the upcoming Open at Omaha Country Club which starts on July 11. As many in Omaha have never seen the track (it’s a pretty exclusive place to play), let’s preview the course hole-by-hole to give attendees (and maybe a competitor or two) a feel for what they can expect to see at O.C.C.
The front nine will be set up to play approximately 3400 yards. This yardage is pretty typical for seniors, but the USGA events always play longer as rough is higher and fairways are narrower. This side will surely test players’ long irons, accuracy and patience. There aren’t many “green light” holes or guaranteed birdies to be found before the turn.
No.1 is a fairly tame opener- a par 4 measuring just under 400 yards, avoid the rough and fairway bunker off the tee and a reasonable second can be expected. The dogleg right may yield some birdies if players can manage to find the short grass.
No. 2 is a healthy par 5 (550 yards) and should be a true three-shotter for nearly the entire field. It probably doesn’t pay to get too aggressive this early in the round, so find the fairway, find it again, then hit a wedge in to have a shot at 4.
No. 3 is the first of three par 3s on the front and measures 230 yards from the tips. The hole plays downhill, but the green is protected and balls are subject to any and all wind gusts on the way to the hole. It will be interesting to see how the wind blows and how the USGA places the tees. This hole could play anywhere from a downwind, 200-yard par 3 to a 240 yard, into-the-wind par three-and-a-half. Pars are always good at the U.S. Open, but it is especially good here.
No. 4 is pretty stock. A narrowish par 4 that measures just over 400 yards, an accurate tee shot should provide players a chance to hit a short iron or wedge into the green. Again, find the fairway and the thought of a birdie becomes realistic.
No. 5, a mid-length par 3 at 188 yards, is a microcosm of what it will take to win here- an accurate long-to-mid-iron game. The hole is just long enough and just protected enough to be a “middle-of-the-green” type hole. Not many 2s will be made here, but if the wind is helping, numbers could get lower as clubs get shorter.
The 6th hole is the second par 5 on the front. Measuring 540 yards, it is a typical 5 par, but it is also downhill. If the hole plays wind-aided, this one could be a “go for it” hole if the fairway is found. Missing the fairway will make it another true three-shot par 5.
The 7th is the third of three par 3s on the outward half and plays about the same distance as No. 5. The 190 yard hole doesn’t let you go left (bunker), right (bunker), or long (rough and a green that could be hard to hold), and there aren’t many areas to bail out. Like No. 5, this is another long shot for birdie- more like a “get your 3 and run” hole.
No. 8 is a stout par 4 that could stretch up to nearly 500 yards. At 477 officially, the tee shot needs to be long and accurate. After that task is completed, a second that will likely be taken with a long iron, hybrid, or metal wood, requires the right shape and trajectory to hit and hold the green. From a distance, this one looks to be the toughest hole on the front.
The final hole on the front is a sneaky-long Par 4 with a steady uphill climb towards the clubhouse. No. 9 will measure at about 400 yards and the fairway is essential if players want to end their nine with a par. It’s a straight away hole that should fit everyone’s eye, but miss the fairway and a par could be tough to pencil in.
The back nine is an eclectic mix of holes. A handful of birdie holes (even some looks at eagle) are present, but three of the nine on the outward half comprise the toughest holes on the course. The length will be a little shorter than the front, but again, don’t let the 3350-or-so number fool you.
The opener on the back is one of the aforementioned “treacherous three” coming home. No. 10 is a 494-yarder and is the longest par 4 on the course. A downhill tee shot helps take a bit of the yardage off, but placement is key. Fairway bunkers lie on both sides of the hole and a long club will be needed to get home in regulation. Grab a par and run, fellas.
After playing No. 10 with the utmost patience and care, players will need to flip the switch to “go mode” for the 11th. A short, downhill par 3 will favor the high-ball-flighters and will yield more birdies than any of the other par 3s (I think). Protected by bunkers, No. 11 is only 165 yards, and with the downhill path, should only be a short iron for the pros. Hit the green, give yourself a shot at 2, but remember, pars are always good at the U.S. Open. That said; make a 2. There aren’t many out there…
No. 12 places players right back into defense mode as the uphill, out-of-a-chute tee shot starts the difficult, 450 yard par 4. Unlike 9, this one may not fit everyone’s eye. The second of the three uber-hard holes on the back, 12 is another hole in which par is just fine. Grab one here and you are probably picking up a half of a stroke on the field.
The schizophrenia of the outward half continues at No. 13. The tenth is a “proceed with caution” hole, but then 11 needs some aggression. No. 12 is back to playing defense, while 13 is a great opportunity to get creative, summon up some bravery, and try to make a low number. At only 312 yards, 13 is the shortest par 4 on the course. There are many ways to play the hole and it should be a great spot to camp out if you are a spectator. It could be drivable and players could have a chance at 2. It could also be the start of a back-nine run for someone on Sunday. No. 13 will yield a bunch of birdies, but a wayward shot could lead to a bogey, giving a shot or shot-and-a-half back to the field.
No. 14 is the only par 5 on the back side and is probably the first chance players will expect to make consecutive birdies during their round. The green is well-protected, so maybe only the longest of hitters can realistically consider going for this 525 yard par 5 in two. The last 100-or-so yards are also straight uphill, making wedges more difficult. Players can get crazy and try for an eagle shot from the surface or green-side bunkers here, or they could hit iron, iron, iron to the tucked away hole locations. Again, many ways to play this one, but birdies will be flying high around these parts.
The 15th is another traditional, tree-lined par 4 measuring 398 yards. If players can hit the fairway with any kind of distance, the green light is on again as there’s nothing between them and the front/center of the green. Maybe the third birdie in a row for someone on Sunday?
No. 16 causes players to pause and get back into par mode. The 223-yarder is the final par 3 on the course and plays long. It’s a downhill shot to the green and there are many “bailout” spots if players get a little timid. Short and left will leave a straightforward chip uphill to the hole. Three bunkers flank the green, but all of them will leave players (likely) with an uphill lie. Of all the par 3s on the course, this one will yield the most “sandies” as players will be hitting those always-scary long irons into the green.
The penultimate hole is likely your last shot at making birdie and may even yield some eagles. The 319 yard par 4, like No. 13, is super short and will provide scoring opportunities for all. The massive green is tempting and will invite many to get as close as possible from the tee. Long hitters will be looking to have a chance to roll or chip one in for eagle here as the 18th looms large just ahead. There isn’t much trouble between the tee and the green here on 17, so look for some fireworks.
The home hole at Omaha Country Club is the last of the three holes I mentioned as the teeth this back nine has. As it should be, 18 is a bear. Measuring over 450 yards, accuracy and distance are essential. For some reason, this closing hole reminds me a bit of the last at Augusta- just inverted a bit… The tee shot needs to be of a certain distance and on the correct side of the hole. The approach is uphill to a large, undulating green. At the risk of sounding obvious, I’ll say that this one will likely decide the championship on Sunday. Birdies will be far and few between on this one; bogies will be common, too. Make a par and walk off the green with a grin on your face.
If you’d like to see photos of the holes, the USGA has a quasi-virtual tour on their Web site. Click here to see a photo gallery of the course. Also, stay tuned for features, predictions, updates, and more as the 2013 U.S. Senior Open in Omaha approaches.