Q&A: Prepping Salem Country Club November 17, 2016 | Peabody, Mass.

Ben Kimball and his team are working hard to provide a challenging, but fair, test at Salem Country Club. (USGA/Keane)

Tickets: 2017 U.S. Senior Open

Ben Kimball is the inside-the-ropes director of the U.S. Senior Open Championship for the United States Golf Association, and is charged with getting Salem Country Club ready for the 2017 championship, scheduled for June 29-July 2. He recently took some time with Morgan Goldstein to answer a few questions about the championship and about Salem Country Club, which will host its sixth USGA championship.

Question: What are the biggest challenges in preparing for the U.S. Senior Open?

Ben Kimball: Trying to predict the unpredictable, whether it’s how the golf course plays or what the weather does during championship week. You try and plan for everything but those who do this well and do it for a long time have become accustomed to hitting the curve. You never know when the curve is coming, but you better be able to stick the bat out there when it comes. 

Q: What are you checking on during your site visits?

BK: There is no one specific thing that we look at on each visit, but we do discuss appropriate rough heights for areas around fairways and greens, as well as putting green speeds. Donald Ross’ work can be seen at its finest on the putting greens at Salem, so we continue to do our due diligence analyzing them to ensure that we prepare them appropriately for the best players in the world. Course preparations remain on schedule, but Mother Nature could have a bigger hand in that as we approach winter.

Q: How different will the course play from 2001, and how different from normal member play?

BK: The course will play very similar from a yardage standpoint to how it did for the 2001 U.S. Senior Open, though we are using a few new teeing grounds that will get the total yardage to just over 6,800 yards. Our USGA course setup philosophy has certainly evolved since 2001 so players will continue to see a stern, yet fair test of golf at Salem that will test their physical ability and their mental fortitude. 

Q: What are the things that excite you about coming to Salem Country Club?

BK: It is always great to come back to a club that has such great USGA history. We have conducted some memorable championships at Salem and I look forward to being a part of the team that adds another chapter to the book. New England loves its golf so I am excited for the state of Massachusetts and certainly the Peabody/Salem area that gets to have the golf world descend on their community for what will surely be a memorable week. 

Q: What are your thoughts about the work that was done to restore the green complexes?

BK: I tip my hat to Salem CC for taking the necessary measures to restore these amazing Donald Ross greens. The restoration brought back a few hole locations that haven’t been available for membership use in years and it’s likely we will use a few of them for the championship proper as well, which is a nice perk of the restoration.

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