How U.S. Ladies’s Open will showcase work of this underrated designer

A gorgeous view of the 14th at Lancaster Country Club.

The 14th gap at Lancaster Nation Membership.

Courtesy of USGA

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“An incredible many gamers are averse to utilizing ahead tees…but it surely appears an amazing deal extra enjoyment may very well be had if golfers used the tee that actually suited their sport.”

“If the space gotten with the ball continues to extend, it is going to be essential to go to 7,500- and even 8,000-yard programs, and extra yards means more cash for the golfer to shell out.”

The course architect quoted right here is undoubtedly a steward of the sport, judging by his commentary on the golf ball and the significance of taking part in from the correct tees. Now think about that these writings appeared within the USGA’s Inexperienced Part Document almost a century in the past, penned by William Flynn in 1927.

Flynn is among the many most achieved — and least celebrated — architects of the sport’s Golden Age in america. Donald Ross, Charles Blair Macdonald, A.W. Tillinghast and Alister MacKenzie all spring shortly to thoughts when one considers the traditional designs of the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties; though that quartet was gifted and prolific, Flynn’s programs match or exceed their USGA championship pedigrees.

Flynn, a Boston native who went on to change into a member of the so-called Philadelphia Faculty of Design (which additionally included Tillinghast, George C. Thomas Jr., George Crump and Hugh Wilson), will earn one other notch in his USGA resume in late Could, when Lancaster (Pa.) Nation Membership hosts the U.S. Ladies’s Open for the second time in 9 years. And why not? The 2015 version of the championship at Lancaster produced a stirring back-nine cost by winner In Gee Chun and shattered championship attendance marks.

Whether or not or not the large crowds carry over to this yr, one long-standing impact of Chun’s sudden victory is the shut relationship she has cast with the membership — a basis in her identify offers faculty scholarships to caddies and members of the family of membership employees, thanks largely to a number of return journeys by Chun for fundraising occasions.

The course that Chun and 155 fellow opponents tackle will function fewer timber however a dozen extra bunkers than in 2015, due to continued restoration efforts by architects Ron Forse and Jim Nagle.

“Lancaster is an impressive golf course with implausible placing inexperienced complexes,” mentioned John Bodenhamer, the chief championships officer for the USGA. “Should you had been to place this course close to New York Metropolis or Boston, it could get much more consideration. Flynn’s programs similar to Lancaster stand the check of time; it’s a shotmaker’s course, and that by no means goes out of favor.”

Programs that Flynn designed or had a hand in producing are solidly among the many sport’s cathedrals: Merion, Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hills, The Nation Membership, Cherry Hills. Others are maybe much less recognized, however the USGA retains returning to locations similar to The Cascades Course at The Homestead in Sizzling Springs, Va., for the enduring qualities that Bodenhamer cites. The Cascades will host two USGA championships, its ninth and tenth, within the subsequent 5 years.

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“For Flynn and designers of his time, technique was paramount,” Bodenhamer mentioned. “It wasn’t about being brutally lengthy, or inserting bunkers so that you needed to drive it right into a 25-yard hall; it was about supplying you with selections. His use of brief grass across the greens and the best way he positioned greens on the land is sensible. You possibly can miss your goal by just a bit bit and also you’re working 20 or 30 yards away from the placing floor.”

Bodenhamer cites the par-4 eighth gap at Shinnecock Hills, a famend Flynn design on Lengthy Island that may host its fifth U.S. Open in 2026, as a main instance of his technique.

“After we performed there in 2018, that fairway was 65 yards, the second-widest in U.S. Open historical past,” Bodenhamer mentioned. “However in case you hit your tee shot on the fitting facet of the golf green and the opening is on the fitting facet of the inexperienced, you’ll be able to’t get inside 40 toes of the opening. You’ve received to consider the angles and shifting the ball a sure method, and Lancaster has a number of that as properly.”

Flynn outpaced most designers of his period in his information of agronomy and course upkeep, having labored for a number of years serving to to construct each programs at Merion Golf Membership in Ardmore, Pa., beginning in 1912. Flynn went on to steer that development effort and supply design enter to Wilson, the architect of the East Course, which has hosted a document 19 USGA occasions, two greater than The Nation Membership and Oakmont Nation Membership.

William Flynn sketch
William Flynn had a hand in designing honored programs like Merion, Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hills, The Nation Membership and Cherry Hills.

Courtesy of the USGA

“Flynn labored on the East Course from 1912 to 1934,” mentioned Wayne Morrison, the creator of an enormous Flynn biography. “A whole lot of that was with Hugh Wilson, however after Wilson died in 1925, Flynn and his affiliate, Howard Toomey, continued to work on and make adjustments to the East Course in preparation for a number of USGA championships.”

Lancaster Nation Membership was based in 1900, however by 1919, golf’s recognition required that its nine-hole course be up to date and expanded to 18 holes. The membership greater than doubled its acreage from 60 acres to 126, and it employed Flynn to enhance upon its choices. Flynn’s 1917 design of close by Nation Membership of Harrisburg and his expertise at Merion doubtless gained him the job. The hiring committee famous that Flynn was “one of the best man within the nation on establishing greens.”

Flynn labored for 10 months at Lancaster at a price of $44.92 per 30 days, and he continued to function its consulting architect for the remainder of his life. The fee for the brand new 9 holes and the reworking of the present 9 in 1920 got here out to only over $61,000.

Due to Lancaster’s proximity to Flynn’s dwelling base in Philadelphia, he visited the course many occasions, beginning together with his authentic efforts there in 1920 (at age 29), and persevering with till his dying in 1944.

“Lancaster is an fascinating Flynn case examine, as a result of he labored on it for therefore lengthy,” Morrison mentioned. “With the acquisition of latest land, and the continued evolution of the golf ball and golf equipment, he stored bringing it updated. To not point out that, whereas Ross was engaged on upwards of 20 or extra programs in a yr, Flynn was doing two or three a yr. He spent much more time on-site and received to know the property.”

One side of Flynn designs that has helped hold them related many years after their debuts is that a number of of them are par 70s.

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“Should you have a look at Flynn’s portfolio and his influences, lots of these programs have solely two par 5s: Merion, Pine Valley, Huntington Valley, Shinnecock,” Morrison famous. “It follows an fascinating sample, and I feel it’s one of many causes that these programs maintain up by way of championship scoring. Maybe he thought-about two par 5s sufficient, mixed with numerous lengthy and brief par 4s the place somebody who can execute all of the shot shapes and trajectories would have a bonus. It takes luck out of the equation.”

Flynn’s background in turfgrass analysis and course development at Merion included creating check plots for brand spanking new seeds and upkeep practices. This method was famous by “Joe Bunker,” doubtless the nom de plume of Tillinghast, in a 1916 Philadelphia Inquirer article about Merion: “Its greenkeeper William S. Flynn … directs a giant workforce, and so they have a system perfected whereby they’ll inform simply how a lot it prices per hour to water or lower a inexperienced, dig a pit, assemble a mound or lower the golf green or tough.”

There are about 50 Flynn programs nonetheless in existence out of greater than 70 that he designed, a far cry from the roughly 400 attributed to Ross, or the greater than 250 credited to Tillinghast. Flynn is honored for his course routings, which little question benefited from his time spent on the bottom. As Flynn described his course of, “It fairly continuously occurs that the architect will choose maybe 30 or 40 totally different inexperienced websites on a property when his final job is to safe solely 18.”

Morrison described Flynn as a fast examine, citing his aptitude in producing a extremely regarded structure for the Cascades Course at The Homestead over the course of someday in 1923, after a number of of his contemporaries had struggled and didn’t provide you with an acceptable routing.

The routing at Lancaster is amongst Flynn’s most interesting, and he up to date it with 4 new holes (Nos. 3-6) within the Nineteen Forties after the membership bought land throughout the Conestoga River. The river comes into play most notably for the U.S. Ladies’s Open on No. 7, the place gamers should determine how a lot of the water to try to cross with their tee shot on the par-5 gap that performed at 482 yards in 2015.

Morrison describes the 346-yard, par-4 4th gap as one of many iconic holes in American golf. “There are few holes prefer it,” he mentioned. “The creek performs down the fitting facet of the low-lying fairway, and you then’re confronted with an uphill method over the water to a shallow, raised inexperienced that parallels the golf green.”

The 2015 U.S. Women's Open was famously well-attended.
The 2015 U.S. Ladies’s Open at Lancaster was a sizzling ticket.

Courtesy of the USGA

Different noteworthy holes embody the demanding uphill ending par 4s on either side – the 421-yard ninth and the 437-yard 18th, each of which yielded barely greater than 20 birdies for all the week in 2015. Essentially the most daunting stretch in 2015 was Nos. 8-12, which performed as 5 of the six hardest holes for the week. One respite got here on the par-4 sixteenth gap on Sunday, when the tee was moved as much as 235 yards from the opening for Spherical 4. That led to gamers trying to drive the inexperienced and three eagles being logged, together with one by Amy Yang, who completed one stroke behind Chun.

Bodenhamer is most wanting ahead to the motion on the downhill, par-3 twelfth gap, which performed 169 yards in 2015.

“It’s a magical gap, and I feel it may very well be the place the Open is gained or misplaced,” he mentioned. “You need to be so exact, to a small, extreme inexperienced. There will probably be a number of 8-irons and 9-irons, and in case you put an excessive amount of spin on it, your ball can return into the creek. You may make something from birdie to triple bogey within the blink of an eye fixed.”

Shannon Rouillard, the USGA’s championship director of the U.S. Ladies’s Open since 2017, who helped with course setup in 2015, agrees.

“The par 3s stand out at Lancaster,” Rouillard mentioned. “There’s a lot motion to those greens; they’re going to check gamers in quite a lot of methods. Add in par 4s like No. 4, and it’s going to offer an entire check of golf.”

Combine in a few of the ambiance from 2015 that produced crowd roars that LPGA veteran Morgan Pressel mentioned gave her chills, and the weather are there for an additional particular week in Pennsylvania Dutch Nation.

“Lancaster wasn’t very acquainted to the golf group in 2015, but it surely’s a tricky, traditional course,” Rouillard mentioned. “And I’ve mentioned it many occasions since 2015, the encircling group supplied the form of assist that the U.S. Ladies’s Open ought to have yearly.”

Ron Driscoll is the USGA’s senior supervisor of content material and Golf Journal senior editor.

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