Rees Jones: Adds Length to Give US Open Players the Congressional Blues

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Rees Jones: Adds Length to Give US Open Players the Congressional Blues
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When Ernie Els won the US Open in 1997 at Congressional, par was 70 and the Blue Course was 7,213 yards long. This year, when they tee it up in June for the 2011 U.S. Open in Bethesda, MD, they will be playing the same course, but they won't be playing the same course.

The new extended holes the pros will face add 355 yards to the 1997 total, bringing this year's version of Congressional Blue in at a whopping 7,568 yards.

The new par will be 71. 

Let's see, 355 yards longer and only 1 stroke added to par. 

I guess that makes sense since some of the guys can now hit it that far with one swing.

The revamp comes courtesy of Rees Jones who has been on-board with updates for the last 22 years, with the mandate to keep Congressional in step with the times.

According to the Rees Jones website, which is not given to exaggerations, Jones is one of the most prominent golf course architects in the world.

"As the game changes, we've got to keep up with it," Jones said, according to the same website, regarding his recent changes to lengthen Congressional Blue for the upcoming US Open.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Here's what those who get to play in the US Open will face.

The most notable recent changes Jones has made at Congressional include a 50 yard distance beef-up at the the par four 18th.  For a difficult hole that rolls downhill to a peninsula green and a pond, 50-yards is a lot of extra distance and makes it a 521 yard par four.

Jones went, in his own words, "As far back as we could go," after seeing Els reach the green with a five-iron in 1997, and then Hunter Mahan dropped a sand wedge onto the putting surface en route to shooting a closing 62 at the 2009 AT&T National. 

With the new length, the second shot figures to be a seven-iron, for folks who apparently hit the ball pretty long.

A landing area was re-bunkered on the 579-yard 16th, and after some inexplicable discussion about turning it into a par-four, apparently the USGA's Mike Davis believed it should remain a par five to present a risk-reward factor.

All the bent grass greens have been rebuilt and should be fast, like at Augusta, where if you aren't in the right place, you're in three-putt territory.

Other adjustments to lengthen and make the 11th hole more difficult were also implemented.

Of course none of this takes into account what the USGA always does to an already tough layout, to help make it more impossible for the US Open. 

With any kind of firm, dry conditions, the US Open could provide plenty of Congressional Blues for the players involved.

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