Taking The Long Walk August 22, 2010 By Ken Klavon

Defending champion Byeong-Hun An played a six-hour round Sunday at Chambers Bay. (John Mummert/USGA)

University Place, Wash. - It’s built upon a former quarry and resembles a moon crater, as one official called it, from high above.

It’s like the first couple of holes you’re staring off into space, said William Miller, 21, of Venetia, Pa., upon completing a practice round Sunday.

But this is no moon walk, nor is Chambers Bay space golf. Its beauty – and length – had jaws agape as players finished practice rounds Saturday and Sunday. The links-style course that was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. opened in 2007. Along with stupendous views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains, players had better be in top shape when traversing Chambers Bay. The course was built entirely on fescue grass and features one tree – a Douglas fir – on the entire layout. Created from a former gravel mine, the course features wide fairways, large dunes and the kind of wispy rough one might encounter on the famous links venues in Scotland and Ireland.

More than that, it’s a demanding hike.

This course is the hardest course I’ve ever played, said Cameron Wilson, 17, of Rowayton, Conn., on Sunday. It’s forever long.

In Wilson’s case, his round eclipsed 5½ hours.

Defending champion Byeong-Hun An, 17, was right there with him, logging a six-hour practice round.

You go up a hill, then down a hill, said An.

It didn’t seem to play that long for how dry it is, said Jason Shano, 21, who played here two years ago in a tournament for the University of San Diego.

It took Shano six hours to get through his round, mainly because there were so many shots to work on, he said.

The course is scheduled to play 7,742 yards. Six par 4s will play longer than 500 yards, which has opened some players’ eyes. Mike Davis, the USGA’s senior director of rules and competitions, is quick to dispel the notion that the course will play that long.

It’s a great risk-reward golf course with great flexibility, said Davis. The scorecard says 7,800 yards but it will never play that on any given day.

That’s because certain holes can be played as a par 4 or par 5. The par-4 fifth hole, for instance, showcases two potential greens.

Jones was out to visit Sunday, taking stock of the nuances of the course and joking with players afterward. He doled out advice on how to play certain holes and manage the putting. Someone asked him what they could do about all the hills. Jones just smiled.

Earlier, Wilson perhaps said it best. It’s the same for everyone. We all have to play it.

Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Online Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at kklavon@usga.org.