A lot has changed on Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course since it last hosted a U.S. Open in 2006, particularly with the recent restoration by Gil Hanse. Another notable change can be found on the scorecard, on hole Nos. 5 and 9.
In 2006, the fifth hole was a 515-yard par 5, and the ninth played as a 514-yard par 4. Not surprisingly, No. 5 ranked as by far the easiest hole for the week, the only one with a stroke average under par: 4.65. There were 10 eagles and 174 birdies, nearly matching the combined pars (215), while there were just 38 scores of bogey or higher. No. 9 played to a 4.39 stroke average, the fifth-toughest hole, yielding just 26 birdies all week.
This year, the course will continue to play to a total par of 70, but the pars have been swapped on Nos. 5 and 9, with the dogleg-left fifth playing as a 502-yard par 4 and No. 9 as a straightaway, 565-yard par 5. And while No. 5 is constrained from being lengthened by the property boundary and the ninth was able to be extended by some 50 yards in the course restoration, the decision was not simply about length.
“On the fifth hole, the green works nicely as a par-4 green,” said Jeff Hall, the USGA’s managing director for Rules and Open Championships, who sets up the course for the U.S. Open. “It slopes from back to front, it’s relatively receptive, and the undulations aren’t so dramatic as to make it unworkable as a par-4 green. The ninth green is more dramatic and is more suited as a par-5 green.”
Though No. 9 is likely to play as the easiest hole in the 2020 championship, its narrow fairway and heavily sloping putting surface could make it a little more challenging than No. 5 played in 2006. Still, as noted by Andy Johnson of the Fried Egg podcast, “It’s best understood as a par 4.5 that makes players feel like a 5 is a missed opportunity.”
When Winged Foot members return to the course next week, both holes will play as par 5s.