Fay Calls For Private Clubs To Open Their Doors

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!

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4 thoughts on “Fay Calls For Private Clubs To Open Their Doors”

  1. I saw the editorial and agreed with the writer’s premise.  However, you make an even better point.  There are plenty of courses available that are “Open” caliber and allow access to the masses (or at least the masses who have some money).

    You have inspired me to write a letter to the USGA on the subject.  Thanks!

    Reply
  2. My military course is open to all golfers.

    One issue I see is liability. The UK isn’t as lawsuit happy as the US. I guess that’ll be something for the clubs’ lawyers to figure out.

    Reply
  3. Your point about why should you as a USGA member not be able to play a course is well taken – however, I recently went to a USGA seminar on handicapping and of the 15 folks there only one was a pro from a semi-private course, and the rest were all from private courses (although a couple may have allowed some sort of outside play).  Further, a high percentage of members at my club support the USGA via the handicap system.  I wonder how much of the revenue for the USGA outside the Open comes from private club members vs everyone else.  Also I wonder what kind of financial support those private clubs offer when hosting the US Open which reduces the burden on the USGA.  Certainly some public courses might have more trouble closing for the 2-3 weeks prior to start setting up for an Open than these exclusive clubs.

    All that said, I think I still agree more with the argument that the USGA should just flat out not hold it at exclusive clubs or barring that no more often than every other year.

    There are plenty of clubs open to public play, if not just flat out publicly owned courses where the US Open could be held – Heck just flop back between Pinehurst, Pebble, Torrey Pines, and Whistling Straits and that would be enough right there.  Then there are plenty in Florida, and I am sure that Disney would probably welcome the Open to one of their fantastic courses)- And you have the RTJ in Alabama and plenty of other very difficult and long public tracks.

    Reply

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