USGA overreacting to players complaints? Na.

By |  June 15, 2017 0 Comments

Tuesday morning the maintenance crew found themselves in the spotlight when they were sent out to mow down rough mid-morning, while practice rounds were being played.

I was standing right there with the crew when they started pull-starting mowers, blowers and pulling out about a dozen rakes. The guys got to work on No. 4 first, taking out a swath of rough about 60 yards long, 10 yards wide. The USGA’s Darin Bevard was standing there watching intently.Mowing rough at Erin Hills

I asked Bevard what was happening and he said, “We’re mowing the rough.” He didn’t seem to want to talk too much, but I had to ask why. He replied, “It’s for playability. We’re cutting down areas that were knocked down by the rain. It would be completely unplayable — that’s not our goal.”

Some people thought this was a knee-jerk reaction to a video Kevin Na posted on Instagram where he threw his ball in an especially dense area of rough and complained about how impossible it was to play out of that area.

I don’t believe that the USGA’s Mike Davis cares what Kevin Na thinks about the rough. I know that there was a huge storm that blew through the area on Monday night. I was sitting outside having dinner at architect Jason Straka’s rented house when a gust of wind hit and practically uprooted the heavy duty tent in the back yard. When I left, a small tree was laying next to my rental car, practically snapped in half. This was a significant storm. I talked to a volunteer on the crew who is a local superintendent, and he said he lost several big trees at his golf course in the storm.

Tree down!

It’s lucky that Erin Hills doesn’t have many trees. But they do have tall rough. And some of it, depending on rain and wind direction, got knocked down. It was unlucky, but it happened. Mike Davis saw it that morning, and he ordered areas of it to be cut out. He saw a problem and he fixed it.

The fairways here are wide. The course is huge. A really bad drive will be punished, as it should be. Some unlucky drives will find thicker rough than others. It’s the U.S. Open, it’s supposed to be tough. Both Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth came to the defense of the rough.

But was Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA reacting to criticism by players, or was he fixing what he saw was a problem caused by storm damage? I say the latter. Because ask yourself this: do you think Davis is a nervous guy, someone who isn’t comfortable with the high level job he has?

The answer: Na.

Photos: BASF


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About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

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