UNIVERSITY PLACE – Attending the U.S. Open? Watch your step.
That might be the most helpful piece of advice for anyone who’s walking around Chambers Bay this week and doesn’t want to end up on their backside like all the patrons who did so during Thursday’s first round.
Consider this a spectators’ guide complete with tips about the sightlines (which are hit and miss), the foot traffic (which can get gridlocked), where you can spend your money (be prepared to do so) and most importantly, how to stay upright.
Grass experts will tell you that the fescue that grows throughout Chambers Bay loses its grip when it dries out, and in the course’s current condition, some of the matted down areas off the paved paths might as well be greased with dish soap. It was a problem back in 2010 when Chambers Bay hosted the U.S. Amateur, and it’s again been an issue for spectators this year.
Even some caddies, too. One of them (Henrik Stenson’s) slipped on Wednesday and injured his wrist. Another (Stephen Gallacher’s) sprained his ankle.
It’s especially hazardous for spectators given the course’s terrain, with many of the viewing areas requiring a bit of a climb up a slippery mound.
Consider wearing your golf spikes if you’re going to walk the course. You might look like a bit of a dork, but that’s better than looking like a total boob if you take a spill onto your rear end.
Where to watch
The positioning of the tee boxes at Chambers Bay makes it difficult for spectators to get a close-up look, and the same is true for many of the fairway shots. The lines for the grandstands tended to be long, too, all of which makes it difficult to follow certain golfers from hole to hole.
You’d be better off setting up shop near the greens, where you can see the approach shots land then watch as the game’s best players try to decipher some of its trickiest putting surfaces.
There’s a nice view from the grandstands on the par-3 ninth, which will be an especially interesting hole as throughout the tournament it will switch between two tee boxes that completely change the angle of approach. The structure that flanks the 18th green is the largest in U.S. Open history with 6,000 seats. If the tournament comes down to the wire on Sunday, this is where you’ll want to be.
It’s a bit of a trek to get to the grandstands on No. 12 but well worth it. It’s a par 4 that was playing 317 yards and could be even shorter over the weekend, making it drivable from either distance. That means you might see an eagle. Rickie Fowler’s tee shot actually came a couple inches from trickling in, and he probably won’t be the only player to flirt with a hole-in-one.
Another marvelous view is from the practice area. Sure, the shots don’t count, but here you can see from up-close and directly behind what a pro golfer’s ball flight looks like. If you play the game yourself, you’ll be impressed.
Where to avoid
The course has its traffic jams, none worse than the area of path near the 17th green and 18th tee box. It’s heavily trafficked because it’s one of the main access points from the course to what’s known as Spectator Square, and it gets even more backed up every time officials halt pedestrians so that golfers can tee off on 18 then cross the path to the fairway.
This is the Mercer Street of Chambers Bay, only if Mercer Street had a drawbridge that went up every few minutes.
One patron was overheard grumbling about having paid “$200 so that he couldn’t watch golf.”
If you’re heading back to Spectator Square, take an alternate route and avoid this cluster-you-know-what at all costs.
This isn’t the Masters at Augusta National, where the concessions prices are stuck in time (sort of like the club’s inclusion policy until a couple years ago). They’re not cheap here at Chambers Bay but still reasonable. A hot dog will run you $5.50, a turkey sandwich $7.50. It’s $6.50 for a Bud Light and 50 cents more for a microbrew. Bottled water costs $2.50.
As for the merchandise, there’s a giant tent with everything you could imagine located in Spectator Square. It looks like a Nordstrom inside, and it’s priced like one, too. A Chambers Bay polo is anywhere from $58 to $86. Most of the hats cost $27.
Anything they could slap a Chambers Bay logo on, they did. Like this bow tie that’s priced at $48.