(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

The Course at Congressional

The U.S. Open may be the biggest of the three majors played in the U.S. Maybe because it carries the most tradition or because it is the national championship, but plenty of players have the U.S. Open trophy on their bucket lists to win.

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Doing so, though, is not easy. So while watching on television this week, keep in mind a few items regarding how tough it will play:

  • The par-71 layout will play 7,574 yards on paper. In reality it will never play that long, according to Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA.
  • The fairways will range in width from approximately 25 to 70 yards and average 35 yards. On each side of the fairways, a 6-foot-wide swath of intermediate rough running the length of each hole will be set to 1.5 inches.

Then a 15-foot band of primary rough will range from 2.5 to 3 inches depending on density. A second cut of primary rough, cut to 4 to 5 inches, extends to

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

and beyond the rope lines. The farther off-line a drive is, the tougher the recovery shot will be. This is the fifth year the USGA has used this graduated setup.

  • Fairways will be cut to .425 inches, while collars around greens, putting green approaches and closely mowed areas will measure .300 inches. The greens will measure 14 to 14.5 on the Stimpmeter for the duration of the championship. The primary rough extending for 12 feet around the putting greens will be maintained at 3.25 inches.

A Different Era

Ken Venturi won his only major championship here in 1964.

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Stifling heat made the conditions difficult for everyone involved, but Venturi, coming from the West Coast, had never experienced such conditions. Add to it a 36-hole final on Saturday and Venturi was completely exhausted after the first 18 holes. He needed medical attention in the intermission and then again after the front nine in the afternoon.

Venturi stumbled to a four-shot victory, but never really remembered how he did it and what he shot.

(Photo credit TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

“I got to the 18th hole, when I gave Ray Floyd his card there wasn’t a number on it,” said Venturi of his playing competitor’s scorecard. “I don’t know to this day what he even shot, I have no idea. And he gave me my card and I went over it and I saw the score. I kept going over it, and I couldn’t sign it.”

Venturi was assured his score was correct, signed it and to this day is amazed that he won.

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Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.