US Open Courses We Can Play

Now that the last blooming azalea has come and gone, it's the time of year where golf fans across the country begin to look forward to the summer's major championships. The U.S. Open kicks things off over Father's Day weekend, and is typically regarded as the sternest test of the four majors, even if it is only my third favorite to watch. This year, the U.S. Open is kicking off a welcome trend - one that started over a decade ago at Bethpage Black, and thankfully has stuck around.

For most of their history, the major championships on this side of the pond have usually been held at the most exclusive clubs in the country. If the average Joe Golfer picked up the phone and asked for a tee time, chances are he'd be greeted with hysterical laughter or a dial tone. This isn't the case in England and Scotland, where even the most prestigious clubs that host the Open Championship allow non-members to play at least a couple of days per week. To be fair, the clubs which host our U.S. Open are usually home to the best courses in the land, and rightfully deserve to stage the tournament - it would just be nice to not have to become pals with Bill Gates to also tee it up there. 

Starting this year, you - I mean, we - no longer have to hitch a ride on someone's coattails to play a U.S. Open venue, because 5 out of the next 7 championships are being played on public courses. 

Pinehurst #2 - 2014

This Donald Ross classic in the Sand Hills of North Carolina hosted memorable U.S. Opens in 1999 and 2005. The tournament returns this year, however, to a course that looks very different than the one the pros will remember. The design team du jour of Coore & Crenshaw were recently brought in to restore Pinehurst #2 to its original layout. The notorious U.S. Open rough has all been stripped away, and replaced with the barren waste areas that made Pinehurst unique. 

Welcome to Pinehurst

I was fortunate to play Pinehurst #2 last year, I can can attest that the pros will have their hands full with the famous Donald Ross domed greens and the "love grass" in the waste areas. The story behind the name of these tufts isn't suitable for small children or the elderly, but let's just say there is nothing to "love" about it. 

My suggestion: Stay in The Carolina hotel and don't miss the breakfast. The spa is equally spectacular. 

Chambers Bay - 2015

When the USGA picked Chambers Bay to host the US Open after the course had only been open 8 months, a large number of those that follow the game gave a puzzled scratch to the head - including yours truly. Slowly but surely, we've gotten to know this Robert Trent Jones design outside of Seattle, and have come to understand the genius behind the decision. 

Chambers Bay is a salute to the great links of the game found across the pond. There are no water hazards or carts. No bent or grass either. Just a rolling terrain of wild fescue, in a links-like setting on Puget Sound. 

Although I have never teed it up at Chambers Bay, I will be driving by during an upcoming trip to the Pacific Northwest, and will be sure to report my findings. 

My suggestion: Start in Seattle, play Chambers Bay before heading south to Bandon Dunes. 

Erin Hills - 2017

The story of Erin Hills is perhaps unlike any other course in America. So great was the piece of property on which the golf course sits, the USGA awarded Erin Hills one of its amateur events before it was even built. The expectations were high, but the dreams of the developer to host the U.S. Open were even higher. Unfortunately, that hubris led to his financial unraveling, and the dream of Erin Hills was nearly lost. 

A new owner stepped in - believe it or not, his name wasn't "Trump" - and Erin Hills was saved. The sand hills of Wisconsin might seem like an odd place for the U.S. Open, but one look at this incredible layout and you might begin to wonder why it took so long to build a golf course here. 

My suggestion: Stay at the American Club in Kohler, and play Erin Hills as a day trip from nearby Whistling Straits. 

Pebble Beach - 2019

This one really needs no introduction. Pebble Beach is the ultimate bucket list golf destination, and is slated to host its 6th U.S. Open. Setting aside the mind numbing beauty of the course, the highlights from past championships here are without equal. Jack's 1-iron on 17 in 1972, Tom Watson's chip in on the same hole in 1982, Tiger's runaway victory in 2000. My sincerest apologies to Tom Kite and Graeme McDowell - I don't seem to remember anything about your victories. 

Most memorable 9-iron of my life.

The U.S. Open aside, Pebble Beach truly is the one place that any golfer must visit at least once. I tried to put my own experience into words, but failed miserably, opting instead for a bunch of pictures to tell the story. But when it comes to Pebble Beach, that's really all you need.

My suggestion: Bite the bullet and stay at The Lodge. Don't skip Spyglass Hill - trust me, you'll regret it (I do). 

Torrey Pines South - 2021

Remember when Tiger Woods won with a broken leg? Yeah, that happened here. Some thought that Torrey Pines' days hosting major championships were in the past, but the USGA apparently has a differing opinion. I'm certainly not one to argue.

Torrey Pines was recently responsible for giving me a taste of my own medicine, and boy does it taste bad. You see, while I have spent the last few years galavanting around to America's prestigious golf courses, my brother - and regular golf partner - was forced to read about it here on the regular. Not long ago, he got a little revenge by teeing it up on Torrey Pines South and I was forced to endure the agony of play-by-play via text message photos. I probably deserved it. could have at least zoomed out the cart path.

My suggestion: Tee it up on Torrey Pines, then check-in to the Hotel Del Coronado. Which bears a striking resemblance to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. Or maybe it's the other way around.

No doubt about it, the next 7 years promises to be an exciting time for those that love to combine golf and travel. With no disrespect to Oakmont and Winged Foot - host of the other two U.S. Opens during that period - the ability to play the courses that play host to our National Championship is a pretty special treat. One that I hope the USGA keeps throwing out to Mr. Average Joe Golfer. 

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