SI convened a panel of experts—senior writers Michael Bamberger, Damon Hack and Alan Shipnuck as well as special contributor John Garrity—and a PGA Tour pro (who participated on the condition of anonymity) to take up these and other questions
TOAST THE HOST
Van Sickle: Welcome back to the Olympic Club, gentlemen. How do you like this course for a U.S. Open?
Garrity: I love it, and not just as an Open site. I'd go there for a picnic, a funeral, a walkathon or a kite-flying competition. I'd pay to walk those cypress-lined fairways for the scenic value alone.
Shipnuck: It's not my favorite course, but it's such a great test of golf. It's good for an Open, and it'll look great on TV.
Van Sickle: Olympic probably does look better than it plays, but I love its look.
Shipnuck: The entire course plays off one hill. You're going up and down and across the same hill. It's an excellent test, though. It's like 18 punches to the nose.
Anonymous Pro: It's a fantastic course. How Olympic plays is more about the mowing patterns and the setup and where they put the bottom of the fairways. On some holes that won't matter because balls are not going to stay in the fairway. So many dogleg holes run the opposite direction of the way the fairways are pitched. The true art of Olympic is curving your ball into the slopes so you can maybe hold the fairways.
Van Sickle: In 1998 the course was exposed for being a little too Royal St. George's--like: Balls wouldn't stop in the bouncy fairways no matter what. It's funny that the course plays better in the winter when it's damp and chilly.
Garrity: Yeah, there are always setup issues. Too many balls rolling into divots at the bottom of a hill. Boomerang putts that wind up back at the player's feet. But please, bury me on the day I nitpick a track as distinctive as Olympic.