Jeff Schley----Happy to comment but as much as anyone, I realize that my thoughts on the course and club certainly are tinged with bias...much the same way as anyone's comments on their home club (e.g. Ran's thoughts about his recent review of Southern Pines GC).
First...to answer one question raised above, I have and have read The Story of Golf at The Country Club...it was published in conjunction with TCC's 125th anniversary celebration in 2007. It has been years since my reading of it...but my recollection is that its focus is mainly historical history of the club and course, without an emphasis on golf architecture.
Pat...you raise an interesting question. Frankly I don't know what course I would identify as the "great American golf course". IMO, first question would be to identify the criteria that would define the "great American course". I will not try to do that here, but will try to give you a my view of the course.
Regarding the course...I believe one of its best treats is that it is very very hard to "typecast" (btw...right now I am addressing the Open Course of today). It has holes that are brutally difficult (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 10, 12, 14), holes that are quirkly...but work (3, 5, 11, and 17), very very small greens, extremely difficult rough, and small bunkers with long perimeters (which I believe results in many many awkward lies...feet in/ball out and vice versa, etc). It creates lots of angles (nothing like The Old Course)...but good numbers of options and angles that get exaggerated by the small greens and trouble around them. But from an architectural standpoint, I agree w what Pat says and I believe it sits on its land as comfortably as any other course I have played...and it is important to note that this piece of land would be a difficult one to sit comfortably on.
With some winds blowing it can be an absolute brute. I was in Boston the summer of 1963 and went over to Brookline on Saturday of the Open (36 hole Saturdays in those days) and witnessed absolute carnage following Arnold Palmer for 36 holes. In the morning Jackie Cupid fired a smooth 76 and moved straight up the leaderboard!! The average score that morning was 78.23 (8.23 over par) and that was after the cut. I don't have access to data base to be sure of the following but after checking out some other nasty scores at Majors on after the cut rounds, I have yet to find one that is that much over par...remember, after the cut!! Doubt there have been any at a major in last 60-70 years.
Played on the Main Course from "normal" tees, it is both a challenging, but most importantly a fun course...especially due to the variety of terrains, lies and holes.
For those of you who have not played it in the past couple of years, the most transformative factor IMO is its condition. Five years ago quite frankly it was usually soft and slow. Dave Johnson arrived some 4 years ago and has transformed the place. When I played it upon our return to Boston last month, I was shocked (very pleasantly shocked). It is now firm and fast and in simply fabulous shape. I can honestly say that I have never played a course in better condition(but to be fair must also say that I have never played a course 2-3 weeks prior to a major)
History wise, IMO only Merion and Oakmont compare. Pebble has little history prior to 1972...and Shinnecock little prior to 1986.
Obviously weather will play a big role...it always does...but I think this has a chance to be a memorable event. We'll know in a week. Golf is like life (and vice versa), always full of surprises.
One last thought...until Hanse's efforts over the past 13 years or so, as well as Dave Johnson's transformation conditioning wise, I would have never put TCC into this type type of discussion. I am not saying it was overrated 10-15 years ago, but it never was in my mind deserving of these type of accolades. Today...it belongs in this discussion (which I take as NOT being "is this the best course in the USA").
P.S. Unrelated but interesting factoid. TCC has hosted 3 US Opens...all three ended in playoffs, AND the prior year's Open Champion lost bin all three playoffs (Ted Ray was , making 3 for 3 gettingoing to playoffs 1013 Open Champ, Palmer was Open Champ in '61 and '62. and Faldo was in 1987). To date 121 US opens...33 went to playoffs...27%...which makes 3 for three to playoffs a 2% probability!