A year from now, 156 senior golfers and 125,000 fans will help The Broadmoor celebrate its 100th birthday during the 2018 U.S. Senior Open. And the grande dame can’t wait.
By Jon Rizzi
Ten years after Eduardo Romero bowed to the crowd at The Broadmoor after winning the 2008 U.S. Senior Open, the world’s foremost senior players will again compete for the Champions Tour’s richest purse on the Colorado resort’s fabled East course.
Much has changed since El Gato finished four shots clear of Fred Funk to take the title. For one, the Argentine champion is now the mayor of his hometown of Villa Allende. For another, The Broadmoor has a new owner, Philip Anschutz, who bought the property in 2011 for a reported $1 billion. Since then, he has spent more than $175 million on perpetuating the legacy of the resort founded by Spencer Penrose, whom Anschutz described in his book, Out Where the West Begins, as “the biggest builder and promoter the Pikes Peak Region has ever seen.”
Anschutz has himself built and promoted the Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five Diamond Resort over the last six years. He had the West building completely remodeled to mirror the Mediterranean architecture of the Main building, restored the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, expanded the Golden Bee and converted the Carriage House into the Penrose Heritage Museum, enlarging it to include an interactive homage to The Broadmoor-sponsored Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
The Broadmoor also purchased Seven Falls and now the scenic area around it hosts The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure. Thrill-seeking guests traverse the spectacular South Cheyenne Canyon via 10 zip lines, hiking trails, rope bridges, and a controlled 180-foot rappel that offers stunning views of the waterfalls below.
The resort has added distinctive lodging experiences. Large groups can now stay in a 12,000-square-foot five-bedroom “Estate House” across Pourtales Road from the Broadmoor Cottages that line the East Course’s 18th fairway. Atop Cheyenne Mountain, some 3,000 feet above the resort, perches the luxurious Cloud Camp on the original site of Penrose’s Cheyenne Lodge. Down-mountain, in the middle of the Pike National Forest, Anschutz converted the resort founder’s personal retreat—the idyllic log cabins of the Ranch at Emerald Valley—into an epitome of rustic opulence and comfort. And 75 minutes west of the hotel, The Broadmoor now owns five private miles along the Tarryall River for Fly Fishing Camp, a private escape that pairs world-class angling with exceptional dining and accommodations.
Together, Cloud Camp, the Ranch at Emerald Valley and Fly Fishing Camp comprise “The Broadmoor Wilderness Experiences.” There’s no official “Broadmoor Golf Experience.” Then again, just playing the classic, meticulously groomed East and West courses—both of which combine holes designed by Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones—uppercases the endeavor.
To showcase the courses and tap into the resort’s rich golf history, Anschutz in 2013 worked with PGA Director of Golf Russ Miller to revive The Broadmoor Invitation, a premier amateur tournament contested between 1921 and 1995. July 23-27 will mark the fourth edition of the resurrected event in its new team best-ball format.
The resort’s grandest showcase will, of course, come next June 28-July 1 during the U.S. Senior Open. Not only will fans be treated to the play of competitors like Fred Couples, John Daly, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Tom Lehman, they’ll also be celebrating The Broadmoor’s 100th Anniversary. According to Championship Director Justin Belanger, each of the tournament’s four days will have a Colorado theme.
One will pay tribute to John Elway, the Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback who is serving as the Senior Open’s honorary chairman and could very well qualify to compete in the event. Another themed day, June 29, will commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the grand hotel’s grand opening.
The Broadmoor anticipates 125,000 spectators and 2,500 volunteers for the Open. Orchestration of the event is well underway.
The key personnel involved in both the 2008 U.S. Senior Open and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open remain the same. The Broadmoor’s PGA Director of Golf Russ Miller will again work closely with Director of Maintenance Fred Dickman and the Bruno Event Team’s Executive Vice President of Golf Doug Habgood, who is again serving as the tournament’s executive director.
The frequency of their discussions naturally increases as the Open draws closer, revolving around some 400 “to do” lists encompassing everything from organizing 25 volunteer committees to determining where Lyft and Uber drivers will discharge passengers to coordinating the 200-plus Lexus courtesy cars provided to players and their families.
“The biggest difference since the last event here is technology,” says Habgood. “Back in 2008 and 2011, we didn’t allow cell phones. Now we encourage fans to engage on social media while they’re at the event. The USGA has a big social media team. They can respond to comments, suggest groups to watch depending on your location, tell you what happened on a certain hole. It’s all about engagement and enriching your experience.”
Technology has also increased the amount of television equipment required. In 2008 and 2011, NBC Sports had four trucks, Miller remembers. “Fox is bringing 15. They don’t cut corners. Graphics on golf telecasts have become so sophisticated that they need a tower on every hole.” Those perches aren’t necessarily for broadcasters; they’re for crewmembers to track the flight of shots in vivid color for viewers at home.
There are also “shooters” in the towers—USGA volunteers who laser the distance each ball sits from the hole. The device instantly beams the data to the TV crew, which synchs it with an existing digitized topographic rendering of the green. Seconds later, millions of viewers know the proper distance, slope and line of the putt.
For those attending the event, plans call for bleachers on the first tee; the fourth, 10th and 15th and 16th greens; and between holes 12 and 13, 13 and 14, and 17 and 18; and on the 18th fairway.
In addition to nine on-course concessions areas, food trucks will potentially park on West Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, which will close and serve as a fan thoroughfare between holes six and seven and holes 15 and 16.
The stacked bleachers at the 16th green—the last par 3 hole—will also afford views of the 6th green and 17th tee. Adjacent concessions and restrooms will naturally increase crowd size. “That will be the rowdy spot,” Habgood predicts, “but it won’t turn into a Raiders game. Throughout the property we want the fans to enjoy themselves, and cheer loud for great shots in a family-friendly atmosphere.”
To that end, children under age 17 will receive free admission with a ticketed adult. A Junior Tent off the first fairway will welcome kids.
Plans also call for additional bleachers at the 18th green that will be set back to afford views of the first and fourth tees as well. “Sometimes not having the gallery so close creates more challenging golf,” Habgood says. “It’s like a basketball player shooting a free throw when nobody’s lining the lane.”
What won’t be lining fairways are corporate hospitality tents. The Broadmoor has made available a number of existing structures for sponsor entertaining. Those include the comfortable Dow Finsterwald, Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones rooms directly above the golf shop (which will be open to the public) and overlooking the course, as well as the frontline of plush Broadmoor Cottages flanking the east side of the 18th hole.
“Our approach is to show off The Broadmoor,” explains Miller, adding that the resort’s rich golf heritage and culture of exceptional customer service dovetails with the USGA’s philosophy of holding exemplary championships.
USGA championships are known as much for the challenges of the course as for the player who overcomes them. The Broadmoor is no different. In the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open, 2008 U.S. Senior Open and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, a combined total of only eight players broke par on the resort’s East Course. Over the last 10 years, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor trails only the 2010 edition at Oakmont for having the most putts and highest stroke average.
As they did in 2008, the players will compete over holes 1-6 and 16-18 of the classic Ross course, with holes 7-15 coming from the layout Robert Trent Jones finished in 1964. The course will play at 7,256 yards.
Having worked on previous USGA championships with the USGA, Dickman, Miller and East Course Superintendent Michael Sartori know what to expect from USGA Championship Director Ben Kimball and Director of Championship Agronomy Darin Bevard.
So Dickman and his team will set about resurfacing and realigning the tees on all holes, tapering the fairways on numerous holes and creating three cuts of rough—a six-foot wide intermediate mown to 1¼ inches; a first cut primary rough of 2½ inches; and a second primary cut of 3¼ to four inches. “Also, the USGA prefers the rough to be inconsistent,” Dickman explains. “This way players won’t have the same shot every time.“ Dickman achieves this by the fertilization inputs to create varying degrees of density.
As Miller notes, hitting the fairway is essential on the East Course, where “playing from very dense rough grass to mostly elevated greens makes it very difficult to score.” Interestingly, though, Eduardo Romero and Fred Funk, who finished one-two in the 2008 championship, tied for 28th in the field in fairways hit. Romero, however, averaged 324.5 yards off the tee, which led him to hitting a tournament-high 54 greens in regulation.
For the upcoming tournament, the 339-yard second hole will only have one 3¼-inch cut of rough, giving second thoughts to players who attempt to drive the green on this par-4 dogleg. “The USGA has advised shorter height around greenside bunkers—1¼ inches instead of 2½ inches—so the ball won’t hag up on the bunker bank,” Miller notes.
Per the USGA’s request to keep the bunker sand soft, in the weeks leading up to the event and before each day of competition, members of the crew will use mechanical rakes to spin the sand in every bunker and then hand-rake it. The week before and during the Open, 120 workers—including 70 volunteers from other courses and properties—work three shifts to ready the course.
The Broadmoor’s fiddly poa annua greens require special attention, both from those who maintain them and those who putt on them.
During the Open, the crew will aim for consistent green speeds between 10.5 and 11 on the Stimpmeter—any faster (such as the 14 at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont) reduces the number of potential hole locations. Dickman has the same people mow the same greens every day, and instead of the usual four to five walking mowers on the greens, there’ll be 12—“all new ones,” he explains, “so we have consistent equipment.”
Then, before dawn each day, the team is already mowing, rolling, watering and, if necessary, squeegeeing the greens. The fairways are all cut to a half-inch and never “striped.”
And how to negotiate the greens that two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer described as “some of the most severe and punishing I have experienced anywhere in the world”?
“Always keep the hole between your ball and the mountain,” Miller explains. “This ensures an uphill putt, even if it doesn’t appear to be uphill.” Easier said than done.
The Broadmoor will set up its par-70 course differently than it did in 2008. Instead of a par-36 front nine and a par-34 back, par for both front and back will be 35. Hole no. 3, which played as a 601-yard par 5 in 2008—will play as a 541-yard par 4, and the 545-yard par-4 17th from 2008 will become a 605-yard par-5 eagle opportunity in 2018.
It’ll make for an exciting finish to four days of golf and a 100-year party.
This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Colorado AvidGolfer, the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.
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