David Fay, former USGA director, calls for America’s private golf clubs to open their doors to visitors in the same fashion as British clubs. A telling fact:
The British Open championship nine-course rota includes six prestigious private clubs: Muirfield and the five “Royals” (Birkdale, Liverpool, Lytham & St. Annes, St. George’s and Troon) feature golf courses that are among the finest in the world. Visitor information for each is prominently featured on the clubs’ websites. Visitors from overseas as well as Great Britain and Ireland aren’t required to play with a member and/or be introduced by one.
On the other hand:
There’s not a single private golf club that has been the host of a U.S. Open in the past 30 years that allows visitors who aren’t either playing with a member or sponsored by one. And the same is true for the majority of Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest, where most of the courses on the list are private.
I totally agree with Fay, and think that the USGA could do one simple thing to encourage this: refuse to hold any of their championships at courses that aren’t open to the public for at least limited play. Why should America’s national championships be held on courses where the vast majority of Americans aren’t allowed to set foot? Why am I, as a USGA member, not allowed to play courses where my organization holds events. (except as a paying viewer)? The private courses that host the US Open derive enormous profits from the People’s Championships—not necessarily directly from the events—but from the prestige they confer upon that course, which allows management to charge exclusionary entry and membership fees. Without the US Open, Oakmont is a slightly mad course that few outside Pittsburgh know. Without the US Open, Oakland Hills is just another old line club.
Open ‘em up!