CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. — As far as closing holes go, Cherry Hills Country Club may have one of the best in the world.
The tee shot is terrifying. To the left is Cherry Hills Lake. On the right, a steep hill with thick, luscious rough as well as some trees that lurk. In the middle, the pristine fairway with a steep bank on the right and a flatter portion on the left.
Then there’s the approach shot. The green is uphill from the fairway. A large bunker guides the front right portion with a smaller one on the left. Any shot left short will roll back some 50 yards to the fairway, leaving nearly an impossible chip.
U.S. Amateur: Photos
The 487-yard par-4 closing hole at the 2023 U.S. Amateur is a brute, yet come match play, it’s going to provide excellent theater for fans and a strong test for 64 golfers aiming to become the next U.S. Amateur champion.
“It’s a great finisher,” said Piercen Hunt, who shot 6 under in stroke play and is the fifth seed for match play. “I’m sure any match that gets to that hole is going to be pretty exciting.”
In stroke play, it was the most difficult hole at Cherry Hills, with more triples or worse (17) than birdies (11). The average for the field in stroke play was 4.68.
The 18th is part of a strong finishing stretch at Cherry Hills, which hosted the 1990 and 2012 U.S. Amateurs. In 1990, Phil Mickelson hoisted the Havemeyer Trophy. In the latest rendition, history was made, as Steven Fox won as a 63rd seed, the only player to do that at a U.S. Amateur (In 2021, Jensen Castle won as a 63rd seed at the U.S. Women’s Amateur).
The 15th can play as the longest (245 yards) and shortest (115 yards) par 3 on the course. The 466 par-4 16th is home to the highest score in U.S. Open history (19 by Ray Ainsley in 1938) and has a tricky creek meandering the fairway. Then the 17th is iconic because it was the first par 5 in American golf featuring an island green. If that’s not tough enough, fairway bunkers are lurking for wary tee shots.
Meanwhile, the 18th hole is where Cherry Hills shows its teeth.
Take Caleb Surratt for example. He needed a par at the last to finish at 8 under and win medalist honors. He ended up making double.
“It doesn’t really matter how good you’re playing,” Surratt said. “You still have to step up and hit golf shots on that hole. It’s going to be hard to make a birdie on the 18th hole, but it’s pretty easy to make a bogey.”
Although not every match will reach the 18th hole, those that do are going to face a difficult test.
For players leading, it’s going to take a strong effort to stay on top and clinch the hole. For those trailing, two good shots give an opportunity to tie the match.
Any match that’s all square with one hole to play, the 18th hole will make for a memorable finish.