NOTRE DAME — The Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame will host the US Senior Open in the summer of 2019, and preparations are already well under way.
"It's two very powerful brands coming together," says Ben Kimball, director of the US Senior Open. Kimball recently spent several days at the Warren, to begin writing the script, for the 2019 championship.
"What I'm working on today is developing what we call our course prep memo," Kimball told WSBT during a recent visit. "It's a fancy term for a blow by blow account of how we envision the championship being played, how the golf course is going to be set up."
Two things stood out to Kimball on his very first visit to Notre Dame's Warren Golf Course.
First: the condition of the golf course itself.
"(Superintendent) Matt Cielen, it all starts with him. He does phenomenal job at maintaining the golf course on a daily basis," Kimball praises.
"If we needed to play the championship today - we certainly could do that."
And the second: The subtle complexity of the greens.
"They are going to have to be so precise to set themselves up to have a good opportunity to hit these really small putting greens. It will be probably won or lost around the putting greens. So, that's what stuck out to me at first. Man this will be a difficult test of golf."
Kimball, along with Warren's course superintendent Matt Cielen will create that test, over the next two years. Right down to the most intricate details.
"We've got a lot of decisions to make.," Kimball admits. "Certainly ones we will talk about next couple of years, mainly rough heights, that's an important one, green speeds are an important one. But today, we were just walking around looking at potential teeing ground areas where we think the golf course is actually going to play and trying to get a better sense of what the routing is going to be. It's beautifully laid out to where you can use a variety of different holes to make up your championship routing."
Yes, the routing. The current plan calls for the tournament to begin, on what is currently the 16th hole at Warren. After 16-18, holes 10-15 will round out the front nine. The back nine will begin with the 7-9 hole loop, and then move to hole number one, with the 6th hole serving as the final hole of the championship.
"I said to the folks here at the Warren course, keep in mind whatever routing we do decide to play for the championship. That's going to be the Senior Open routing here, and when people know the Senior Open was played here, they're going to want to play that routing because they are going to see spectacular shots by the world's best players that they may want to recreate. So, we have to be a little bit careful in our decision making."
Kimball, and the golf staff at Notre Dame will make hundreds more decisions about the golf course over the next two years, all with one goal in mind.
"Mentally, between the ears, they've already got me thinking," Kimball says. "And they will certainly have best senior players in the world thinking as well."