While Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have talked about the challenge of routing Sand Hills after having identified more than 100 golf holes that could be built, architects Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten had more difficulty at Erin Hills than one might initially expect from a site of 652 acres of rolling terrain formed by the glaciers. For starters, there are more wetlands than one would expect. Even after playing the course several times the golfer may not realize that the course is essentially surrounded by wetlands and a small river.
The course was also designed to be able to accommodate the U.S. Open, in terms of both the challenge to the players and the logistics for handling more than 60,000 spectators and the related support structure. This mix of traditional and modern elements as well as a championship test over a unique piece of property will leave many golfers marveling at how they have never played anywhere like Erin Hills.
As is the case with many great courses, Erin Hills was designed with the knowledge that it would be a work in progress, with refinements made after it was seen how the course actually played. Only arrogance and foolishness would have an architect believe that his work is beyond improvement before the course is even played. In its brief five years after opening, Erin Hills has been closed twice for significant work to the course. When Hurdzan, Fry and Whitten initially designed the course, they did so with the mindset of erring on the side of moving too little earth – a refreshing perspective after decades of heavy earth moving in the industry. While it is possible to return and push earth around, it is impossible to go back and return the ground to its natural state.
Michael Hurdzan Dana Fry, Ron Whitten