MANCHESTER — It’s been 52 years since the Augusta Country Club last hosted the Charlie’s Maine Open.

The club welcomes the return of the tournament this week, but subtle surprises await the 156 golfers when play begins today.

“It’s going to be a difficult course,” said Country Club spokesman Randy Blouin. “These guys can bomb it all over the place. We needed to make it challenging. If you hit it on fairways and greens, you’ll be fine. If you are off, it’s going to be a tough time. We’re going to have fast greens and thick rough.”

Just how rough?

“The rough has been cut at 3 inches,” Blouin added, “and we’re letting it go for the rest of the week. It could be 3 to 5 inches. For a short course, it’s going to be difficult.”

The tournament gets under way today with 18 holes of stroke play. The field, which features 120 pros and 36 amateurs, will be trimmed to 50, plus ties and players within 10 shots of the leader, for the final round Wednesday.

The tournament features eight former champions, including the last two — Michael Carbone (2011) and Dustin Cone (2010).

“It should be an interesting week,” said Mark Plummer, 60, a 13-time Maine Amateur champion who plays out of Augusta Country Club. “I’m just hoping I play half-decent. I’m as set as I’m going to be. I know they’ve done what they can to make the course a good test.

“I have a lot of home-course knowledge, but I don’t know if it’s enough to make up for being 60 years old. I’m spotting them a few years. Home knowledge can only take you so far.”

Plummer teamed with Jim Quinn, Tom Bean and Jason Gall to win the Team Club Championship at Belgrade Lakes last month.

Plummer will tee off at 12:40 p.m. today with 2006 Maine Open champion Ricky Jones — the last amateur to win the tournament — and Tim Desmarais.

Bean and Gall are also in the field, as is three-time Maine Amateur champ Ryan Gay.

“Augusta, obviously, I’ve played a lot,” said Gay. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s not often you can play a tournament on your own course.”

Gay acknowledged his game is struggling. He said he plans to take some time off this summer from tournaments to fine-tune his game.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit,” said Gay, who transferred to St. John’s University from the University of New Mexico.

“The short game is really solid. I’m just struggling with the ball strike. I haven’t played well the last two months. It’s coming around slowly, but it’s still a work in progress.”

Gay teamed with JJ Harris, AJ Broderick and Joe Baker to share the pro-am victory on Monday.

“There are definitely some Maine favorites out there,” said Broderick, 24, of Plymouth, Mass.

The course measures about 6,200 yards, making it short in comparison to others in the state.

However, Plummer and Gay said that may not translate to low scores this week.

“A lot of people look at Augusta and see how short the course is,” Gay said. “The greens are hard. There are tough green settings. From my own opinion, the winning score will be a lot higher than what people think. I think it will be challenging. I don’t think people understand just how that course can play. You have to manage the game.”

Added Plummer: “They will have to be careful. You can’t just go out there and bomb it.”

Other past champions competing this week include: John Hickson (2008), Shawn Warren (2004), Kyle Gallo (1999), Jerry DiPhilippo (1995) and Don Robertson (1981).