Greg Reynolds took a perfunctory swing at the rough on Tuesday, then shook his head. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to. His actions said it all: Pity the player who puts a ball in the deep stuff.
Similar to other USGA championships, the goal for the Senior Open is to present a stern yet firm test of golf. That said, the first cut of rough at Indianwood Golf & Country Club will measure 3 inches high and 8 feet wide. The primary rough will be 4 inches and will extend to the gallery rope line. The course, which features beautiful vistas, isn’t about length, according to USGA Managing Director of Rules and Competitions Jeff Hall.
It’s been that way since designers Wilfrid Reid and William Connellan put their touches on the Old Course, which opened in 1925. In 1981, Stan Aldridge purchased Indianwood and hired Reid’s great grandson Bill Zmistowski for club renovations.
Players are well aware of the rough and how penal it can be.
"If you hit in the middle of the fairway, you can make some birdies," said Michael Allen, who has two top-10 finishes in two Senior Open starts. "You should do decent. The fairways are narrow, and there's a lot of rough out there. I've never seen so much rough for any event I played in on the Champions Tour. I think it's going to be a real challenge."
Added 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer: "There are very severe greens with lots of slopes from each side and back to front. You can't short-side yourself and can't go long. The rough is up, you've got to hit the fairways, there are lots of angles off the tees. You've got to take the right line and hit the right shot. It's a very tough, challenging course."
This week the USGA is intent on presenting the toughest test it can.
"We do want the Senior Open to be very reminiscent of the U.S. Opens of the past these gentlemen have participated in," said Hall. "That said, it's not intended to be the U.S. Open. It can't be. It's a different group of players. But we do want it to be the toughest test in golf that these players encounter each year."
The three finishing holes could make or break a round. On No. 17, a 195-yard par 3, players will invite trouble if they miss left of the green.
"I think you're going to have to finish strong to have a chance," said defending champion Olin Browne. "You do have to do your work on 17 and 18. Right out of the box on the first hole, the fairway is 8 or 10 yards wide. Everything else is going to funnel down in the rough. If you want a shot at the green in two, you're going to have to hit an exceptional tee shot right out of the blocks."
The 18th hole, a 462-yard par 4, has by far the largest green at 2,400 square feet and 51 yards deep, and the most undulating.
"The green on 18, let's call it unique," said Browne. "It's three times the size of any other greens out here, it looks like. Got a bunch of other stuff going on. All of us are trying to figure out where the flag locations will be. We're all commiserating about that, trying to sort it out."
In the end, Tom Watson probably summed it up best, saying his mantra this week will be to hit fairways and greens. Anything offline will likely result in a bogey or worse.
"If you don’t drive it straight, you have no chance of winning," said Watson. "None. Zero. No chance."
Ken Klavon is the USGA's online editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org