U.S.A Open 2024: USGA have an obligation to make America’s golf meccas more accessible as…..

U.S.A Open 2024: USGA have an obligation to make America’s golf meccas more accessible as…..

The U.S. Open’s new anchor sites should find a way let more golfers in the door

 

By Joel Beall

 

Golf is the rare sport where its playgrounds are part of the story. And though scenery is often mistaken as a secondary character, the truth is where these contests are played says more about the game than any score ever could. So what does the U.S. Open, and the golf meccas it visits, say about the state of American golf?

 

The United States Golf Association has implemented an “anchor site” strategy for its tournaments, reducing the number of venues for its premier events and introducing a cycle of sorts around a handful of sites. The U.S. Open lineup features four anchors —Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Oakmont and Shinnecock—with a handful of other courses like Winged Foot, Merion, Riviera and Oakland Hills sprinkled in over the next 20 years. The USGA says it’s a decision based on extensive feedback from players, who prefer iconic venues they are more familiar with, while former USGA CEO Mike Davis was blunt on the mindset behind picking the anchor sites. “We’re going to make money when 

 

These are well-reasoned positions, and no one is questioning the formability of those courses. However, the hosts have a throughline that has nothing to do with their playing merits, but rather, who is allowed to play them.

 

There is not a single municipal or daily-fee facility—places where 90 percent of golf in the U.S. is played, according to the National Golf Foundation—among the U.S. Open’s future sites. This mostly falls in line with history; the first 101 championships were not held at truly public sites, with 2002’s U.S. Open at Bethpage Black breaking the barrier. The majority of U.S. Open hosts rank among the most restrictive and exclusive clubs in the game, who aside from their one-week hosting responsibilities do their best to keep the rest of the world at bay. And yes, Pebble Beach and Pinehurst are technically open to everyone, but so are first-class flights and courtside seats. Pebble Beach and Pinehurst No. 2 green fees are both north of $500. They are public in name only.

In fairness to Pebble and Pinehurst, their prices are the norm when it comes to the highest-ranked public U.S. courses. TPC Sawgrass is closing in on $1,000 for a tee time. Shadow Creek is $1,250. Whistling Straits, Kiawah’s Ocean Course, Bandon Dunes Resort and Erin Hills aren’t far behind. If you want to play these gems often, it helps to have a bank account that rivals the GDP of Switzerland. And to be fair to the USGA, they are not the only American golf entity to set up shop behind ivy walls. The PGA Tour’s home base is at Sawgrass, and its TPC network of courses are either private or boast expensive green fees. Many of the PGA of America’s PGA Championship hosts share the same cliquish DNA as U.S. Open venues, and the PGA’s new home in Frisco offers $400 green fees that come with a stay at its Omni hotel. Augusta National is exclusivity incarnate.

Gideon Canice

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