It’s not often anyone gets the chance to play an iconic course in championship conditions leading up to a major like the U.S. Open. But a couple weeks ago, some of the MyGolfSpy crew had the opportunity to experience just that at The Country Club.
After diving behind the scenes at Titleist Ball Plant III, Harry, Tony, Chris and Phillip caught a mid-morning round before heading back to HQ. We wanted to bring you all along with us as the team reminisced about playing this week’s featured track. Rich with history and some of golf’s unforgettable moments, The Country Club at Brookline was one for the books.
Before we get behind the ropes, let’s introduce you to the field.
Meet The Players
A 4.5-year veteran of MyGolfSpy, Harry is the Director of Soft Goods Testing at Headquarters in Yorktown, Va. A double All-American athlete for both soccer and golf, the Christopher Newport University alumnus continues his golf career by playing on mini-tours around the U.S. Harry continues to be the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to the golfing staff here at MGS. Bonus points if anyone can guess where Nodwell is originally from.
Aka GolfSpyC, Chris is our Director of Business Development. He also happens to be a long-suffering scratch golfer. Growing up, his favorite sport depended entirely on the time of year. In the fall, it was football. Spring was baseball and winter was basketball or competitive eating (surely, we jest).
Chris didn’t grow up playing golf or spending his summers at the country club pool. After an entirely forgettable college football career, he started playing golf with some fellow public school teachers and coaches. It didn’t take long before he was hooked, as most of us are. “I’ll be damned if it wasn’t simultaneously the most vexing and fulfilling game I’d ever attempted.” Here we are, roughly two decades later, and those feelings remain.
At almost single-digit, he’s the least qualified of the staff to be playing The Country Club but it does feel like he’s come full circle.
Tony took up golf in his early 30s as an excuse to leave work early one day a week for sanctioned “team building events.” He played his first several rounds of golf at The Country Club’s adjoining Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course. At the time, it was called Putterham Meadows and, while he had no real understanding of the history of The Country Club, the guys with whom he played made sure to let him know the grass was indeed greener on the other side … or so they had heard.
Born and bred into the game (or so it feels like), Phillip has been at it since the age of 13. Just a few years before picking up his clubs, Bishop’s journey of being one of Pennsylvania’s youngest amputee athletes began. After receiving a scholarship to play at the University of Valley Forge, he competed all four years leading into his PGA apprenticeship program.
Phillip is now the Director of Club Testing here at MyGolfSpy. Any Most Wanted article you’ve read thus far has his hands all over it.
The Thick of It
I sat down with the crew to talk about their at The Country Club. From challenging rough to a fresh look at how the Tour players compete—all in all, their experience was something worth sharing.
What hole challenged you the most? Was there a star of the track?
Chris: “The first 18 holes challenged me pretty well. The pros will denote which holes represent the best scoring opportunities. But for us amateurs, it’s more like trying to figure out which holes give you the best opportunity to start and finish with the same ball.
“Holes 10 and 11 are two of my favorites. No. 10 is a long par-4 although we played it as a par-5. It’s a tight landing area with a rock ledge on the right-hand side of the fairway. If you negotiate the tee shot, you’re left with a long iron (possibly a hybrid/5-wood) to an elevated green that’s heavily bunkered. From there, you move to No. 11, a short par-3 (sub 140 yards) that plays slightly downhill. If you get a front-left pin location, I guarantee we’ll see some serious carnage.”
Tony: “I enjoyed the finishing stretch 16 through 18, and there are inarguably multiple great holes along the way, but I think 14 is probably the one that will be talked about the most. Even without the 600-plus yards it will play tipped out, it’s a bear of a par-5. Those guys will be teeing off so far from the fairway, there will likely be some in the field who quite literally won’t be able to see the short grass from the tee box. There’s a little bit of water on the right side but it’s in a different zip code from the tips so it may not be in play off the tee.
“The rest of it is a blind uphill dogleg. I tried to cut a 7-wood into the green. Turns out that’s not a shot I have but I did almost kill a dude instead.
Harry: “I would say some of the par-3s. No. 2 is 215 yards uphill to a green that slopes back to front but also right to left once you hit the middle of the green. Miss right and you’ll have a hard time getting up and down unless you’re dropping absolute bombs. Hole 3 can bite you simply because of the length and blind approach for many. If the wind blows in your face, this par-4 is a beast.
“Players are likely to make up strokes on No. 5. Driving the green here is reachable and you could have a good look at making eagle.”
Phillip: “Hole 8 is formidable. I hit an extremely poor drive in the left rough. The trees blocked me out from having any attempt at a good escape and that, without a doubt, compounded the rest of the hole. In theory it’s a birdie hole but a double or worse can happen in what feels like the blink of an eye. Keeping the ball in play off the tee and managing the championship greens were key.
“No. 9 is stunning.”
Any player you’re looking forward to watching this weekend? Any predictions?
Chris: “If it gets firm and fast with perhaps a bit of weather, -8 wins. I don’t think any player will conquer the course. Conversely, the course will, once again, win and the player who makes the least number of mistakes will walk away the champion.
“In terms of whom that player will be, that’s more curious. I’d love to see either Rory or Justin Thomas hoisting the 8.5-pound trophy on Sunday. But don’t count out a player qho doesn’t necessarily have the pedigree of some household names. Because the U.S. Open can be such a mental grind and shooting even par will likely keep you in the mix, don’t overlook a name like Kevin Kisner or Will Zalatoris.
“Also, for whatever it’s worth, I’m fully expecting to see at least one significant implosion. Hopefully, it’s courtesy of Tyrrell Hatton who called Augusta National ‘unfair at times’ and criticized the greens at Southern Hills (site of the PGA Championship), likening them to those worthy of a ‘monthly medal, not a major championship.'”
Tony: “The running joke with my friends is that I always pick Bryson but those days are over. Never again. The heart is with Rory more than ever. I’d be happy with JT too. Anybody but LIV.”
Harry: “I’m looking forward to seeing how all players tackle these small greens. I don’t have much say on who will be walking away on Sunday but there’s not a doubt in my mind that every player will have a round this weekend they aren’t too thrilled with.”
Phillip: “Rory. He’s coming off a fiery, statement win. I think his game suits the course and if he can keep it in play, he’ll be in strong contention to hold the trophy. Love him or hate him, Phil is chasing the Grand Slam. Fans could be amped. He’s going to give it his all here this weekend, I think, but if it’ll be enough after these last few weeks? We’ll see.”
Any pointers to those competing in the U.S. Open?
Chris: “My good buddy, Kyle Danford, qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Brookline in 2013. He’s a hell of a golfer but posted a smooth 92 on the first day of qualifying. Every year on Sept. 2, several of our compatriots like to remind him of this fact. As is typical, none of the critics could break 100 at Brookline and some of them might even struggle to spell it correctly.
“Let the record show that he shot 73 the next day which might be the largest (unofficial) comeback in U.S. Amateur history.
“All of that is to say, good luck to all the competitors. And for fun, take a peek at the scoring range after Day 2. It’s very possible that you’ll see the leader a couple of strokes under par while others won’t break 80 over the two days—and nearly every golfer in this field is likely better than the best player most of us ever played against.”
Tony: “I’m the last guy that should be giving pointers. There’s the obvious stuff—stay out of the rough. I’d also advise avoiding the greenside—more accurately, green-fronting—bunker on 18 which I’m pretty sure was the inspiration for Amazon’s Outer Range. The pros will probably be fine but for the rest of us, it’s basically just a pit.”
Harry: “Don’t miss the greens. Let me repeat that. Don’t. Miss. The. Greens. As if that wasn’t obvious enough. The rough is about 5.5 inches thick.”
Phillip: “Rule 1: Don’t hit it in the rough like Tony. But, seriously, keep it in play. Bunkers around the green complexes might be the best bailout positions.”
What was the most memorable part of your time at Brookline?
Chris: “Brookline is a phenomenal golf course, particularly if you’re inclined towards “old school” park-style layouts. But for me, the measure of a course is twofold: 1) Would I tee it up again, right now and play another 18? Hell, yes. 2) To what other courses that I’ve played could it be compared? Possibly, Cherry Hills in Denver. But, with Brookline, it’s the totality of the entire experience that makes it memorable.
“As ‘The’ Country Club (realistically, only one course can ever have that name), Brookline has a unique place in the history of the game. Being able to say I could run around on the 17th green ala Justin Leonard or walk in Francis Ouimet’s footsteps is pretty damn cool.”
Tony: “Not all good memories are good memories. There’s a short par-3 (11) that was playing all of 85 yards. I landed on the back third and rolled onto the fringe. It took five more whacks to hole out. I wasn’t the only one. The only consolation is that our caddies told us we wouldn’t see the front left pin position at the U.S. Open because it was too goofy for the pros.
“It’s definitely too gimmicky for serious competition but there’s definitely a part of me that would love to see the pros play to the same pin from 100 yards or so.”
Harry: “Knowing how historical the site is with the likes of Francis Ouimet and Harry Vardon playing the same course blows my mind. Not to mention walking the same routes as the 1999 Ryder Cup.”
Phillip: “The Country Club is rich with history. Walking on the grounds, playing the course and witnessing the clubhouse all came together to make one unforgettable experience. Furthermore, to play the actual routing of the U.S. Open was incredible. Simply put: a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Any secrets you can divulge from your experience behind the scenes?
Chris: “I don’t know that there are many secrets, per se. That said, part of what you won’t necessarily see on TV is how large the entire property is. Typically, the members play an 18-hole layout comprised of the Clyde and Squirrel nines. The other nine holes (Primrose) create an executive course and the layout for the 2022 U.S. Open borrows 3.5 holes from this nine.”
Tony: “No.” (IYKYK)
Harry: “Without running any risk here, what I can say is play the center of the green. Period”
Phillip: “I’d have to kill you.”
It wasn’t but a few years ago, “The” (sticking with the theme here) Tom Brady was put on a two-year waiting list to claim his spot at Brookline. Holding the title as the sixth oldest course and one of the five charter clubs of the USGA, The Country Club rightfully keeps “The” in front of its name.
This weekend, we all will be witnessing the return of the USGA’s flagship event at Brookline after 34 years. Whether you gathered your history from this week’s anticipation or from The Greatest Game Ever Played, Brookline has played an intricate part in how most of us play golf, even if you didn’t know it.
From Ouimet’s triumphant win in 1913, Julius Boros’s unexpected finish, Strange’s electric sweep in ’88 and, of course, The Battle at Brookline in ’99, what better way to reintroduce The Country Club than the U.S. Open? I think we all needed a little treat after the last few weeks.
And there you have it, folks. I can’t speak for these gentlemen but what I will say is that in hearing from each of them, you could grasp the honor they felt having been able to walk the paths and fairways so many legends had before them and many more will walk this weekend.
If you’re tuning in, drop us a comment below, including your picks for Sunday, questions about our time at Brookline or really anything U.S. Open-related.
*We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.