Jon Jennings reflects on the U.S. Open

Superintendent Jon Jennings, CGCS, talks hole locations, Phil Mickelson, and how his staff and volunteers performed at last week’s U.S. Open.


Shinnecock Hills Golf Channel
Jon Jennings, CGCS (center) speaks with Golf Channel host Rich Lerner (left) and USGA director of championship agronomy Darin Bevard during the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Photo by Howard Richman

The members are back on the course. The regular mowing routine is back, too. Trash that was buried beneath mountains of infrastructure is being removed.

Life is gradually returning to normal at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Only a few days removed from hosting the U.S. Open, Jon Jennings, CGCS, tells GCM that he’s extremely pleased with how his staff and the legion of volunteers who came from throughout the country and around the world performed.

“It was flawless. I can’t imagine a better group of people,” Jennings says. “Everyone was on point. It was a high level of quality.”

Saturday at the U.S. Open was, well, interesting. The USGA’s course setup was widely criticized in some circles, including social media. Jennings, who isn’t involved in pin placements, says he was on the course but not in proximity when six-time U.S. Open runner-up Phil Mickelson hit a moving ball on the No. 13 green, which resulted in a two-stroke penalty. Jennings later saw the video of what happened with Mickelson. “It was kind of strange, I thought,” Jennings says. He added, “I don’t think the hole locations were that bad, to be honest with you.”

The wind Saturday afternoon was more of a factor than what the USGA says it anticipated. Jennings supported that thought — that the wind wasn’t supposed to pick up as much as it did in the afternoon — but he says that when you’re that close to a bay and an ocean, the wind can become a factor at any moment, and Saturday was proof. As for any player criticism of the course, Jennings adds, “The ones who played well didn’t have much to say about that (course setup) at all.”

Jennings noted that he had ongoing communication all week with USGA officials in regard to golf course hydration, weather conditions, etc. “We have meetings all the time. I see Darin (Bevard, USGA’s director of championship agronomy) constantly throughout the day, continually discussing playing conditions and wind conditions.”

As for any dryness on the course, that’s the standard at Shinnecock Hills. “We dry things down for member tournaments too. It’s absolutely no different,” Jennings says.

Champion Brooks Koepka finished 1-over-par, meaning that Shinnecock Hills is the first U.S. Open venue to defend par since 2013, when winner Justin Rose shot 1-over on the East Course at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Meanwhile, at Shinnecock Hills, the turf should return to normal within the next couple of weeks, Jennings says. For the areas that were outside the ropes it “could be a couple seasons before it’s right again.”

Jennings says he enjoyed hosting his first major championship, but that it’s now time to move on. If you’re in the area, you even may see him on the move. Today, Jennings’ streak of running at least 1 mile a day reached 1,268 days (he logs about 1,000 miles a year). The streak, which began Jan. 1, 2015, included U.S. Open week, throughout which he would get up at 2:45 a.m. for a run before going to work at Shinnecock Hills, which will host the U.S. Open again in 2026.

Although Jennings prefers not to dwell on the past, he says he won’t be forgetting his team’s hard work. “Everything went as planned for our team. We executed it,” he says.

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.