September 15, 2020 By: Gil Hanse, with Dylan Dethier — Only a handful of host courses in the United States can match the aura of our national championship. Think Shinnecock. Oakmont. Pebble. Pinehurst No. 2. Like those masterpieces, Winged Foot Golf Club is a dreamscape.
When the U.S. Open takes place there this week, we’ll be awed by the skills of the game’s best, but even more so by the fabled, 97-year-old club, so mythic yet still so mysterious to golf fans.
Now it’s back — as in way back. Seven years ago, club execs hired Gil Hanse to adapt to the modern game the original 1923 stylings and strategies of A.W. Tillinghast’s West and East courses. Hanse is overly modest about his effort and that of his brilliant restoration team, which in this case included design partner Jim Wagner and Steve Rabideau, Winged Foot’s tireless director of golf courses.
“My biggest hope is that our work is an authentic response to what was already there,” Hanse says, nodding to Tillinghast’s justifiably revered creations. In fact, he insists that his name should barely be mentioned in descriptions of Winged Foot’s West Course, the venue for this year’s Open.
“It’s Tillinghast,” Hanse says. Full stop.
Regardless of who gets credit, what remains is the magnificent playing surface. Hanse was so pleased by the work, he agreed to walk GOLF through the West’s full routing, breaking down the charm and treachery — and history — the pros will face. Get ready to take flight.