12th green from the 12th tee. Photo Jeff Ruppenthal.

Lancaster Country Club: A much different challenge than Pinehurst

Posted: June 15, 2014 2:44 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – After this, Lancaster Country Club figures to be easy for Ben Kimball.

Kimball’s title is tournament director for the United States Golf Association. His big annual event is the U.S. Women’s Open.

The job, starting today, is to prepare Pinehurst No. 2, one of the world’s toughest and most unique courses, for a Women’s Open right after the course has been used for the Men’s Open.

Starting Monday, his job, or at least a central part of it, will be to focus on Lancaster Country Club, which will host the Women’s Open July 9-12, 2015.

At Pinehurst, there’s more to it than just moving the tees up. The U.S.G.A. kept No. 2 “on the edge,’’ for the men last week, the course playing very hard and fast, straddling the line between “natural,’’ playing surfaces and plain old dead grass.

But the women don’t hit the ball as far because they don’t hit it as hard, and thus don’t spin it was much. They can’t control distance and make the ball stop, on something like linoleum, as well.

Kimball will have to pull No. 2 back a little. The line between providing a championship test for the women and embarrassing them could be vanishingly small.

It’s a post-graduate level course in golf-course prep.

By comparison, Lancaster, a year from now, figures to be a test for which he really, really knows the material.

“After we’re done here,’’ Kimball said Saturday, “we could probably take the flagsticks and tee markers out of the ground and take them straight to Lancaster and play the Women’s Open right away.’’

No. 2 will play anywhere from 6,341 to 6,649 yards for the women this week (par 70).

L.C.C. measures at 6,850 (par 70) from the championship tees, although the actual length the women will face a year from now is far from being determined and, perhaps, not that meaningful.

“The total yardage number doesn’t mean anything,’’ Kimball said. “It’s just there for you guys to write a story.’’

Kimball is a little concerned about the relative youth of L.C.C.’s greens, which were largely redone in 2011.

“The superintendent there (Todd Bidlespacher) does a great job,’’ Kimball said. “It’s just something to watch, not really something to worry about.’’

Bidlespacher and his crew have already begun overseeding the grass adjacent to L.C.C.’s fairways, at the U.S.G.A.’s direction, so that the rough can be thick and lush for the tournament.

Other than that, Kimball sees regular maintenance, and the avoidance of natural disasters, as the only golf-course concerns.

“It’s certainly a dynamite site,’’ he said. “It should show really well on TV. I think it’ll feel like what people think of as U.S. Open golf – a nice, easy stroll, but a test for every shot in the bag.’’