As Justin Rose goes wire-to-wire (technically) to win the BMW Championship this week in Chicago, I had the opportunity to speak to a few marshalls, course officials, and caddies at Cog Hill this past weekend to get a few final thoughts on the course, the tournament, and the future of golf in the Chicagoland area. While the opinions shared are only that -opinions – I found a few responses to be rather interesting.
Speaking to the volunteers and tournament officials this week provided answers that anyone would have suspected: “Everything is ran great”; “Couldn’t have been better”; “Not sure what all the fuss was about”; etc. However, one particular marshall, who has volunteered at Cog Hill for over 20 years spanning the Western Open, Cialis Western Open, and now the BMW Championship, had the following to say about the tournament:
“I’ve worked here for quite awhile, and I can’t remember a tournament [BMW Championship] that has caused more of a stir among locals. This place [Cog Hill] is a public course first, and a tournament-quality club second. I think when the owners tried to focus more on the second aspect, that’s when things started to get a little nuts around here.”
What this gentleman had to say was something that perhaps the PGA players have also been noticing when making various criticisms about the tournament, and especially the course. Speaking of which:
From my perspective, the condition of Cog Hill appeared to be much better than last season. The rough was long and thick, the fairways appeared to be rolling true, and the greens were in impeccable shape. Even with the seasonably wet conditions, the course drained well and play moved along nicely even as the rain poured down throughout Sunday’s round. However, the course layout was still a topic of discussion among the gallery, and even a few caddies on the practice green following Friday’s round.
One particular caddie, who shall remain nameless per request, had the following to say about the recent “attention” that Cog Hill has been receiving as of late:
“I can totally see where guys like [Steve Stricker] and Phil [Mickelson] are coming from; the course is simply not convenient to get around, for one. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense; greens are here, then 100 yards back you have the next tee box. You can totally see places where the course has been stretched to its limits. But that is just cosmetic; technology calls for holes like this. But you can totally see this is a public course. Totally.”
The course plays long, especially on the par 3′s. For example, on Sunday, not one par 3 hole played under 220 yards. Furthermore, each green features a three-tier construction that is not always receptive to long irons or hybrid shots (the contours do appear to be excessive on some holes). The 12th hole is a good example of this contradiction; players have to either play to the center tier of the green, or hit an extra club and try to catch a left slope towards Sunday’s pin placement. Hit the ball 5 yards too far? You’re in the trees. For the front pin placement, if you are a mere three yards short, your ball will roll into one of the two large greenside bunkers due to lack of spin on the approach. This specific caddy agreed.
“My guy just steps up, chooses a stick, and prays.”
At this point, things aren’t looking good for another PGA TOUR stop at Cog Hill any time in the near future. While the venue is conducive to large galleries and stadium seating, players (and caddies) apparently don’t hold the course in a very high regard. From a spectator’s perspective, however, the course and tournament remains to be a fun atmosphere. Personally, I am saddened that one of my favorite activities of the year is likely to not return… unless the powers-that-be and tournament participants can get on the same page.