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U.S. Open Architect Sees Value in Controversial Rule Change

  • Gil Hanse is a proponent of the USGA's proposed rollback of golf ball distance.
  • The golf architect helped restore Los Angeles Country Club to its 1921 design.
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
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Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele shot U.S. Open-record 62s on Thursday at Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course as golfers shifted their focus from the sport’s recent turmoil to the third major championship of the season.

“It’s going to test every facet of their game,” renowned golf architect Gil Hanse told Front Office Sports as he walked the course he helped restore closer to its original design by George C. Thomas, Jr. in 1921.

Hanse’s project was completed in 2010 as part of the $60 million-plus LACC spent on its two courses, which helped the club secure this major championship and the 2039 edition. 

“By and large, this is still the same course,” said Hanse, who is also leading a $15 million renovation of a local par-3 municipal golf course, Maggie Hathaway alongside the USGA.

The architect hopes this week’s action makes others think twice about vast course renovations that resort to building new holes or simply adding length.

“We’re starting to see … that all these great classic courses were restored versus updated (or) renovated,” said Hanse, who has also done restoration work at recent U.S. Open venues Winged Foot and The Country Club of Brookline.

Ball Questions

Before the shock PGA Tour-Saudi Arabia merger, the USGA’s proposal to roll back golf-ball technology was set to be the biggest storyline this week, and many pros still expressed their opposition. But Hanse agrees with the change, which would make the ball fly about 30 yards shorter for professionals. 

“There’s definitely a knock-on effect that the distance has had,” Hanse said, noting the vast expenses it takes to build and maintain longer courses. 

There’s also the environmental aspect of water conservation, which becomes more difficult as a property grows larger. “That’s ultimately the most successful argument,” Hanse said.

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