ERIN, Wis. -- There's no countdown clock at Erin Hills, which will host the 2017 U.S. Open.
Suffice it to say that would not be in keeping with the feel and flavor of a golf club where so much natural beauty abounds.
Players don't ride golf carts here. They walk on pristine fairways beside seas of golden fescue, which appear as waves when the wind hits just right.
But in a little more than 1,000 days, the USGA will hold its premier championship at Erin Hills -- a first for Wisconsin. That timetable has club officials making tweaks that cement its arm-in-arm relationship with the USGA.
During a recent round, Jim Reinhart approached a teeing ground on the par-3 16th hole and half-jokingly called it the "Mike Davis tee."
Davis is the USGA's executive director and the point man for its championships and setups. Reinhart, a former USGA executive committee member and the general chairman of the Erin Hills U.S. Open, said Davis favored a tee box near the 15th green that would tease the players, allowing them to see only the top half of the flag.
"The tee offers a little different angle and a different look," Davis said. "We'll certainly use the other teeing grounds too. That's one of the wonderful things about Erin Hills; it gives you so much in terms of day-to-day flexibility."
Erin Hills, in many ways, is a perfect U.S. Open venue.
That might seem an odd statement considering the course didn't exist until 2006 and is 35 miles northwest of downtown Milwaukee. That's hardly a prime destination along the lines of 17-Mile Drive (Pebble Beach) or Long Island (Shinnecock Hills).
But think about how many boxes Erin Hills checks off:
It's a giant property, allowing for high revenue from ticket sales and on-course hospitality.
Barring downpours, it will play firm and fast, just as the USGA likes it. Erin Hills drains well, and wind will be a factor.
It's public-access, though expensive at $225 plus a recommended caddie.
The areas around the green give players options -- flop, pitch, chip or putt a la Martin Kaymer.
The golf-cart ban helps keep the fairways in superior shape.
It's in the Midwest, helping USGA officials fend off accusations they're consumed with locations in California and New York.
It subscribes to the USGA's water conservation philosophy, recognizing brown as "the new green."
It features awkward and unusual bunker shots, making them a legitimate hazard.
It can stretch to 8,000 yards, virtually ensuring no one will finish double digits under par.
Its leadership has embraced the USGA's recommended changes, removing trees to provide better spectator viewing, enlarging greens and scrapping a blind par-3.
The latest alteration occurred at the third green, which Davis and club officials believed was too small and sloped for a hole that might require players to approach with a long iron or hybrid.
"A lot of people thought it was goofy, and you could not bounce the ball into it," said John Morrissett, the 2017 U.S. Open competitions director. "Given how long the hole can play (520 to 530 yards), it did not present a target for a 4-iron."
Morrissett called it "a joint decision ... at the USGA's urging."
Davis looks at the changes this way: Most U.S. Opens are played on "old, historic courses" that evolve over time. Erin Hills is in its infancy. So to accommodate the world's best players, numerous changes had to take place in a short period of time.
June 15, 2017, is on the horizon. Let the countdown begin.
U.S. Open sites
Five of the next seven U.S. Opens will be played along either the East or West coast.
2015: Chambers Bay (Wash.)
2016: Oakmont (Pa.)
2017: Erin Hills (Wis.)
2018: Shinnecock Hills (N.Y.)
2019: Pebble Beach (Calif.)
2020: Winged Foot (N.Y.)
2021: Torrey Pines (Calif.)
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