By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Aug 27, 2011 at 4:29 PM

TOWN OF ERIN – Golfers, media, fans, organizers all agree; Erin Hills is a spectacular, beautiful and challenging golf course and will be an excellent host venue for the U.S. Open in 2017.

The United States Golf Association was a fan before the course even opened, and awarded Erin Hills the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship in February 2008 and followed up by naming the course host for the '17 Open last June.

"The place is a grand slam," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "When we are all long gone, they're going to be playing big championships on this course. It's just marvelous.

"I think it is going to go down as one of the great championship tests in the United States. I start to go hole by hole, and I compare this to some of the great U.S. Open sites, like Shinnecock, like Pebble Beach, like Oakmont. This stands up with all of them. I really believe that."

Comparing Erin Hills to such legendary open venues is high praise for a young course that has gone through a lot of upheaval and change in its short history. Original owner Bob Lang nearly went bankrupt pursuing his dream and sold to current owner Andrew Ziegler just weeks before the Open announcement.

However, the 650-acre gem, nestled into the back country of the Kettle Moraine region, will have a decidedly different look when the world's best golfers gather here again in just under six years.

Overall, the USGA has been pleased with the way Erin Hills has played during the Amateur, though Davis does expect some changes and tweaks to take place between now and the Open.

"My concern for the Open is that it gets too tough," Davis said. "Believe me, this is a course we could set up so that 15-over par would win a U.S. Open ... I'm not kidding."

Operationally, the USGA likes the massive property for the purpose of setting up infrastructure; corporate hospitality tents, moving fans around and so on.

"I guess I'd put it this way: If I compare this to, say, Bethpage or Pinehurst, which would be our biggest U.S. Open sites, this makes those sites look tiny in terms of what you can do," Davis said. "It is a huge site.

"This might be the first U.S. Open where we don't have to put a cap on tickets. . . . Think about a University of Michigan football game. You could put that many people on this golf course and they would move around just fine."

The Amateur Championship is in many ways a trial run for the USGA, which is keeping a close eye on all aspects of the tournament with an eye towards 2017. At the same time, it's a bit of a training ground for competitors, many of whom have hopes of participating in the championship when it comes to Wisconsin.

Davis thinks Erin Hills' links-style set-up will be favorable to European golfers as it is quite similar to the courses found in the United Kingdom. Jack Senior of England agrees.

"This is like being at home," Senior said. "I mean this is very similar to being at home. I mean where the Walker Cup is in two weeks' time, this is exactly like it. A lot. This is the exact style of course I play week in, week out, so this is a real home track for me."