NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – From the moment players walk on the property here at Aronimink, it feels like a major. Everything about the historic Donald Ross design, including its stately clubhouse and oversized greens, feels grandiose.
The view from the first tee alone is a stunner.
“I mean they’re kind of calling it the ‘lumber yard’ right now,” said Cristie Kerr, referring to the number of woods players are hitting into greens.
Danielle Kang called it “monstrous,” and said she’s thinking about taking out one of her wedges and putting an extra hybrid in the bag.
“This is a proper golf course for sure,” said 2018 AIG Women’s British Open winner Georgia Hall. “It’s what a major should be.”
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To say I enjoyed @aroniminkgolfclub would be a huge understatement. THANK YOU @kpmgwomenspga for bringing us to this amazing course. @kpmg picked up our entry fees this week and opened up the clubhouse for dinner. The small things are incredibly huge this year. Video credit @hollywood_hilton #thebest #InspireGreatness
No one in the field owns as many major titles as Inbee Park. She turned to her caddie, Brad Beecher, at one point during her first practice round and asked, “Is this a par 5? Because it looks like we’re not going to get there in two.”
Even Brittany Lincicome barely reached the par-4 10th with a 3-wood, and her nickname on tour is, “Bam Bam.”
If Nos. 1 and 10 are into the wind, Park said she can’t reach the greens in regulation if the tees are played back. A tough way to start any round.
“I’ve gotten probably a little bit shorter over the years,” said Park, “but it is definitely one of the longest golf courses that I’ve ever played.”
The official scorecard has the par-70 layout stretched to 6,577 yards. They’ll definitely move the tees around depending on the weather. And with a field of 132 players in October, officials can’t set it up for never-ending rounds.
“We don’t have enough daylight to mess around too much,” said Lewis.
For Lewis, the length of the par 4s should depend on where the hole locations are placed.
“If you set up these pins pretty funky and pretty tight on corners, you need to move the tees up,” she said. “If you’re going to put them more in the middle, let’s play it 430, let’s play it 440, I’m OK with that. But the 10th hole is a good example; your shorter hitters are hitting right into the hill and it’s hitting and stopping; your longer hitters carry it on top and then they get some roll over it. To me, the setup really isn’t fair because they’re getting double the advantage now that they weren’t. And I hit 3-wood into 10 today, by the way.”
— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) October 6, 2020
Mel Reid won on a Donald Ross design just last week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic and knows that she’s in the minority in wanting the course stretched out. Carlota Ciganda told Reid she feels the same.
“It’s a beast,” said Reid. “It’s probably the toughest golf course I’ve played. … if it was the guys playing here it would be nearly 10,000 yards.”
Early TV windows on the weekend means players are going to be teeing off in the morning three of the four rounds in cooler temps. The golf course is playing softer this time of year, too. The winds are forecasted for 10 to 15 mph for the opening round.
“I’m hitting a lot of 5-woods and 3-woods into these greens,” said Park, “and the greens are big, fairways are big, so I hate to say it, but it is a really big advantage for the long hitters.”
Rookie Bianca Pagdanganan leads the tour in driving distance at 287 yards. Maria Fassi (282) Anne van Dam (281), Nelly Korda (272) and Nanna Koerstz Madsen (271) round out the top five.
Danielle Kang called the back nine “unbelievable” and said she had to go out for another look this afternoon to get a better grasp.
“The length of it, the protection around the greens, around the fairways,” she said. “Even if you want to hit the fairway, you might not be able to. You might have to play a mis-shot, and then from there you have to be able to hit a good 4-iron shot onto the greens. Just because you hit a good shot does not mean you have a good putt left, and there’s a lot of three-putt opportunities on the back nine.”
To that end Hall, a recent winner in Portland, pointed to pace putting as key on the large and undulating greens.
“You can have four or five different slopes on a 40- or 50-footer,” she said.
Put Hall in the camp of keeping the tees back this week. It’s a major, after all.
One thing they can all agree on is that pristine Aronimink is about as good as it gets, and that it’s a shame fans can’t be in here in person to enjoy the show.
“When people hype up a golf course,” said Reid, “sometimes you come a bit disappointed, but not with this one. This one is pretty special.”