The recent news that the USGA has selected Pinehurst No. 2 as its first anchor site for future U.S. Opens and a new museum was met with widespread joy and acclaim.
“In an effort to expand its impact in golf and extend its mission to champion and advance the game, the USGA will establish “Golf House Pinehurst” in North Carolina, to include a new equipment-testing facility, innovation hub, museum/visitor center and offices by 2023….A USGA Golf Museum experience will also be added, giving visitors a chance to delve into the association’s premier collection of golf artifacts and connect them more deeply with the game’s rich history,” they stated in their recent press release. Pinehurst will host the 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047 U.S. Opens, in addition to the already scheduled 2024 event.
The decision accelerates the USGA’s strategy to stage its premier golf championship at America’s most iconic venues with greater frequency. While the Open Championship Rota has been somewhat fixed at the same UK courses for at least three generations, the United States’ rotation has been more diverse. But there have been a few venues that have become quintessential U.S. Open hosts – some in sheer number of events, some because of incomparable drama, and still others are epicenters of American golf history. Bravo to the USGA for this initiative. There are some obvious choices for the next anchor sites. Here are our nominations:
1. WINGED FOOT – Close to a century of historic and dramatic majors, dozens of USGA and PGA of America championships, and a tireless commitment to promoting amateur events makes Winged Foot’s contributions to American golf all but unparalleled. It’s also the single greatest multi-course facility in America: nowhere are there two courses of such equal quality as the West and the East. Gil Hanse’s restoration of both courses may be his best work yet.
Winged Foot prides itself as being a club for excellent golfers, and rightfully so, but it is also an index of American society. The list of members and their accomplishments is a tribute to American exceptionalism at home and abroad. The very greatest people, the very greatest golfers: that’s the club imprimatur. And yet, when they walk through that door, Winged Foot members put their egos aside and become stewards of both their course and their club history. One for all and all for one – you can’t help but feel that from the moment you set foot on the grounds.
If picking a place as an anchor site is based on merit, and if the idea is to honor and promote the greatest courses in American golf, then for all their service to the game, Winged Foot deserves it most of all.
2. PEBBLE BEACH – Can you think of a more perfect place for Golf House West? Again, a devastating combination of history and beauty catapults Pebble to the top of any list. Best of all, there are myriad courses the public can play including the U.S. Open venue. It’s a perfect vacation spot; we just have to remember not to price it outside of everyone’s pocketbook. It’s almost prohibitively expensive right now.
3. SHINNECOCK HILLS AND NATIONAL GOLF LINKS OF AMERICA – National Golf Links of America is the single most important golf course to be built in this country. It triggered the Golden Age of Golf Course Design, (1910-1939), and now is enjoying a second walk in the sun since the dawn of the Second Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture is now upon us, (1994-present). The golf world needs to know more about National’s contributions to the game, and how National’s golf design still inspires and influences golf design to this day.
Moreover, Shinnecock held the second U.S. Open ever in 1896. Since then it’s held four successful Opens It’s tough to think of a location more steeped in American golf history.
4. OAKMONT – Oakmont has hosted nine U.S. Opens since 1927, pretty much one each decade, with a 10th scheduled for 2025. While Pittsburgh doesn’t have an ocean view or mountain vistas, it is one of the best sports cities in America. It’s also easily accessible from the east, midwest, and south.
Oakmont is another course that, like Winged Foot or Oakland Hills, could host the Open upon the shortest of notice. At Oakmont, they might even have to shorten the rough and slow the greens…that’s how zany the membership gets about protecting their reputation as the hardest U.S. Open venue ever. Still, one can’t help but be absolutely staggered by how majestic the course is – a great grassy ski slope is what is fairways looked to me when I first saw it in 2007. I rocketed to the top of my favorites list, as it does to any golfer who has a Victorian soul.
5. OAKLAND HILLS – I don’t know what Amnesia Pill the USGA takes to make it forget about Oakland Hills, but it’s absolutely shocking that they can openly ask the media at a U.S. Open “If you’ve got a good Midwestern venue, shout it out,” and then overlook Oakland Hills for a full generation. It has everything they need to host a U.S. Open: plenty of room (the North Course can hold the hoopla, while the tournament will take place on the South course), plenty of places for people to stay, a difficult, U.S. Open-worthy course, and a over a century of U.S. Open history. And yet, the last U.S. Open held at Oakland Hills was in 1996.
Just look at what a monumental success the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills was…or the 2016 U.S. Amateur…and still they were once considering far lesser places like Cog Hill. It’s already held six U.S. Opens, two U.S. Amateurs, three PGA Championships, and one Ryder Cup. So what’s the hold up? Okay, so it’s a reach, perhaps, to call it an anchor site right now, but overlooking Oakland Hills and ignoring its storied past is like the R&A turning their back on, for example, Royal Birkdale.
6. OLYMPIC CLUB (Lake course) – Comparing TPC Harding Park versus Olympic Club Lake Course is, as Hemingway put it, comparing the lightning bug to the lightning. Oly has everything Harding Park doesn’t – strategy and terrain. It’s hosted six Opens, but its next scheduled major is a PGA Championship in 2028 with a Ryder Cup to follow in 2032, the first on the West coast since 1959 at El Dorado Country Club in Indian Wells.
That being said, San Francisco is a mess right now. I would understand the USGA’s – or anyone’s for that matter – reluctance to locate a huge project in a city that cannot affirm a commitment to basic public safety or sanitation. (Having an anarchist District Attorney doesn’t help.) I remember being able to jog safely around the downtown and baseball park area with no worries back in 2012 for the Open that Webb Simpson won, but my S.F. friends tell me not to try that next time I come. I’ll stay in Aptos or Santa Cruz and commute in, thanks.
7. BANDON, OREGON – A deal with Bandon would be a powerhouse. People already flock to this Mecca of golf for America’s greatest clifftop golf experience. A USGA museum and hub would further increase travel. Plus there’s nothing but room for the USGA to hold their events, and no end to the diversions. If you build it, they will come. At Bandon, they already have. So why not jump in with both feet?
8. TORREY PINES – Please allow me to file the minority report on Torrey. I know everyone is in love with the place because it’s beautiful and Tiger won there. And yes, another U.S. Open returns in 2021 and probably will get more on a rotating basis. But take my advice: don’t put it here.
Torrey is an ergonomic nightmare. Both fans and journalists have to get bused in from 90 minutes away. There are entire sides of holes that are unusable because of the clifftops, which means fans are sardined into small areas. Moving around the course is a nightmare.
And if it’s a choice between Torrey and Pebble Beach for Golf House West, that’s no choice at all. Pebble Beach is exponentially more of a golf course than Torrey is in both history and design.
9. LOS ANGELES COUNTRY CLUB/RIVIERA
One of the statements from the USGA press conference yesterday that really pricked up my ears was when Mike Davis, CEO, said we came “THIS CLOSE” to playing this tournament in Los Angeles in December.
I have not yet heard back on my question of “Would that have been Riviera or LACC?” but either one is a good choice, both for an Open or for an anchor site. The Open was held at Riviera in 1948, won by Ben Hogan, and the PGA Championship was claimed by Hal Sutton at Riviera in 1983. But we usually only see Riviera in February for its yearly Tour stop. Riviera would always be a welcome choice to host more Opens, and would defend itself quite well against the modern equipment and players.
The 2023 Open will be contested at fabled LACC, it’s first major championship. It’s a terrific George Thomas design with an assist from the ubiquitous William Bell and hosted the 2017 Walker Cup as well as a handful of other USGA events. Also, as much as it curdles one’s stomach to say it, strengthening the USGA’s ties to Hollywood further strengthens their ties to money, power, and access. So might SoCal edge out NoCal for Golf House West?
Which is the best choice for Golf House West? NoCal or SoCal? Let is know what you think.
LIST OF FUTURE U.S. OPEN VENUES
Future sites of the U.S. Open are as follows:
2021 — June 17-20 — Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course), La Jolla, Calif.
2022 — June 16-19 — The Country Club, Brookline, Mass.
2023 — June 15-18 — Los Angeles Country Club, Los Angeles, Calif.
2024 — June 13-16 — Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C.
2025 — June 12-15 — Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.
2026 — June 18-21 — Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y.
2027 — June 17-20 — Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.
2029 — Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C.
2035 — Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C.
2041 — Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C.
2047 — Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C.