Four holes to watch - 2024 US Senior Open

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M. James Ward outlines the key holes that will play a pivotal role in determining this year's winner at Newport.
Posted on
June 27, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

NEWPORT, RI. The return to Newport Country Club for its 5th United States Golf Association (USGA) championship at this week's 44th US Senior Open is a much-anticipated event in a number of ways.

The Rhode Island club was on the ground floor when golf was organized in the United States serving as one of the five clubs that organized the USGA and then hosting the first US Open and US Amateur in 1895.

The club returned to the national championship scene when the US Amateur returned for a second time in 1995. That event was won by Tiger Woods and it propelled the club back into the national spotlight.

Eleven years later in 2006 the US Women's Open was contested there and another golf icon – Annika Sörenstam - claimed the title in an 18-hole playoff win.

William Davis, the club’s first professional, originally laid out a rudimentary 9-hole course at Newport Country Club, which was extended to 18 holes in 1915 by Donald Ross and then in 1924 it was redesigned by A.W. Tillinghast. Even the clubhouse mansion oozes style, originally designed for the Vanderbilts by pre-eminent New York architect Whitney Warren.

Wedged on a thin sliver of land between Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound, Newport Country Club has the look and feel of a seaside links.

The role of Mother Nature is always front and center as wind velocities can vary immensely as well as unpredictable weather patterns. The topography features sufficient movement throughout the round and the routing is skillfully employed to ensure players encounter the fullest range of compelling challenges which they must adjust to as called upon.

The nines have been reversed for this year's championship as the actual 9th plays as the final hole in order to provide better overall viewing for the assembled gallery.

The defending champion is Bernhard Langer who at 65 became the oldest winner of the event in 2023. With the win the German-native surpassed Hale Irwin for the most wins on the Champions Tour (46) and added to his record 12 senior major victories.

The par-70 layout will play 7,024 yards for the championship.

Four holes will play a critical role in determining this year's champion.

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3rd Hole / 472 Yards / Par-4

The two-shot hole is the longest faced by those in the event and plays generally into the prevailing south wind which blows off the water.

Players must find the fairway on this hole which turns slightly to the left.

A pesky creek runs down the far-left side and will likely be avoided by the competitors.

Those going too far right off the tee only increase the severity for the approach - both in terms of distance needed and the more challenging angle of play.

The putting surface is among the most vexing encountered at Newport. As with several other holes – there is a steep false front at the green. Players unable to get approaches deeper into the putting surface will see their ball roll back towards the fairway.

Those missing to either side will find two flanking deep bunkers.

The green is narrow in front and widens out towards the rear. The back-to-front slope is quite apparent and side sloping putts will be a frequent test.

Playing this hole in even par figures for the duration of the event will be a major plus for those fortunate few able to do so.

The 12th hole at Newport Country Club will play as the 3rd during the event
The 12th hole will play as the 3rd (USGA/Fred Vuich)

5th Hole / 203 Yards / Par-3

Newport is among the few top-tier clubs that provide for back-to-back par-3 holes. The preceding 4th plays noticeably uphill to a sloping green.

The 5th tee is immediately adjacent to the large clubhouse and play commences from an elevated tee which is entirely exposed to the wind. The prevailing movement is into the player's faces and the actual yardage for the hole can increase significantly depending upon the velocity encountered.

The green is configured as a modified redan. The putting surface is set on a lower-right to back-left diagonal angle. There are mounds to the right which can be used to propel the ball to the green. Those missing too far left will see their golf ball disappear into the native areas to that side.

Club selection at the tee is central as well as providing the appropriate trajectory for the shot.

The 14th hole of Newport Country Club will play as the 5th during the US Senior Open
The 14th hole will play as the 5th (USGA/Fred Vuich)

10th hole / 455 Yards / Par-4

Normally played as the starting hole, the 10th provides a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean in the near distance.

Played into the prevailing wind the hole features a crowned landing area for the tee shot. It behooves players to find the fairway as the rough areas to either side will inflict scorecard pain.

The green is well-defended by a trio of greenside bunkers and has an array of internal movements requiring a keen sense of pace and direction.

The 1st hole will play as the 10th
The 1st hole will play as the 10th (USGA/Fred Vuich)

15th Hole / 438 Yards / Par-4

The 15th is one of seven holes located to the west of Harrison Avenue which splits the club.

The tee shot is one of the most challenging at Newport and as with many holes that move towards the south the wind pattern is often into the player.

The landing area is defended by a series of bunkers on both sides of the fairway.

The approach is played to an elevated target that is also protected by deep bunkers to each side.

It is imperative to find the fairway off the tee given the rigors of the approach encountered.

The 6th hole will play as the 15th during the US Senior Open
The 6th hole will play as the 15th (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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