Golf: Distance, logistics play key roles in choosing major sites

We're heading into the meat of golf's major championship season, which got me thinking?

What are the criteria to host a U.S. Open or PGA Championship? Do the powers that be at area golf courses desire to stage one of these events? And, perhaps the most critical question is: Are events of that magnitude feasible and make economic, logistical sense at a certain venue?

Let's discuss the pros for hosting a tournament with U.S. Open or PGA Championship magnitude.

First, the pros: 1. Exposure.

2. Business for the surrounding community.

3. "Prestige" label.

4. Advertising for possible future memberships.

Exposure and advertising (or showing off the club) go together. A tournament such as the U.S. Open or PGA Championship is the best advertising a course could want. Millions watch on television for four days. This is a window to show off lush fairways and picturesque setting (think of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits with those views of Lake Michigan).

Cash registers will sing with a big time tournament in the area.

Newport Beach Country Club hosts the Toshiba Classic every year and players repeatedly praise the location as close to shopping and area restaurants (when they're not eyeing birdie putts during the three-day event). The club has a prime spot along Coast Highway with ample parking both on-site and off at the Newport Dunes. Fashion Island is nearby, as are hotels such as the Island Hotel, Newport Beach Marriott and the Balboa Bay Club.

Big Canyon Country Club hosted the Pacific-10 Championships in 1996, won by Tiger Woods. The club's tudor-style clubhouse resembles that of Winged Foot in New York.

And the United States Golf Assn. is considering Big Canyon as host course for the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur, said David Voorhies, Big Canyon's general manager. The club hosted the 2000 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur, which was included in the petition for the Senior Amateur, Voorhies said.

The Senior Amateur would be the largest event the club could handle, Voorhies said.

"The course is narrow and because it winds through a canyon, it is not the most gallery-friendly," Voorhies said.

Then there are intangibles when selecting a course for a tournament. "Having a family environment really sells the club," Voorhies said.

Shady Canyon in the canyons of Irvine is another venue that appears as if it would be prime territory for a major tournament.

Not so fast. Brian Gunson, the club's director of golf, said when it comes to hosting a tournament, logistics play a key part.

"We don't have the space," Gunson said. "There are catering tents and TVs to set up and there are so many environmentally-sensitive areas. It's not the right location. You can't get vehicles out on the golf course."

Could Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Coast host a major tournament? The club held the Diners Club Matches in 1999 and 2000.

"Pelican Hill has the distance, but is not walkable," said Mike Sweeney, director of rules and competitions for the Southern California Golf Assn.

There is a reason why the U.S. Open is held at venerable clubs with flat terrain: Oakmont in Pennsylvania, Congressional in Washington, D.C. Pebble Beach is no easy stroll, but it's Pebble Beach. One glimpse at the Pacific Ocean on a sunny day needs little persuasion.

Torrey Pines in La Jolla hosted its first U.S. Open in 2008 and has credibility with the yearly PGA Tour stop (now called the Farmers Insurance Open). It also has ocean views. Remember, millions of people will be watching. Waterfront property propels courses to the top of the list; think Whistling Straits, Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines.

Let's move inland to Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa. The course appears friendly to both spectators and TV crews. The terrain is relatively flat and the course has experience staging some pretty big events. The club held the LPGA's Kemper Open for three years, the 1993 U.S. Girls Junior Championship and the 1995 Toshiba Classic.

Sweeney said Mesa Verde could be considered for a U.S. Open, but added that besides the U.S. Open there are 12 national championships that could be a better match.

"The USGA looks for a course that will test the best players," said Sweeney, "and is typically over 7,000 yards. Newport Beach has good quality but is not long enough (for a U.S. Open)."

The course plays 6,600 yards for the Toshiba.

"There are also other factors, such as can the club hold 40,000 spectators," Sweeney said.

Sweeney said courses develop relationships with the USGA through the years, making a return trip easier. Pebble and the Olympic Club in San Francisco have hosted a combined nine U.S. Opens. Olympic will host its fifth U.S. Open in June.

The PGA of America has similar factors when choosing a course for a tournament, said Tom Addis, executive director of the Southern California section of the PGA (SCPGA).

"We like to bring a major championship to an area we haven't been before," Addis said.

He gave the example of the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club in Redmond, Wash.

"Up to that point, no major championship had been held in the Pacific Northwest," he said.

Addis listed other elements to consider: transportation, infrastructure, security and police forces, and room for buses to turn around.

The No. 1 requirement, though, is: Does the course provide a quality test of golf?

"Look at Merion Golf Club (site of the 2013 U.S. Open)," Addis said. "There was always a question of whether the USGA would go back to Merion due to logistics."

Questions such as: "Can the venue serve galleries, committees and setting up tents for hospitality and the media?" need to be addressed, Addis said.

These are factors a selection committee must consider when choosing a site. Not an easy task.

BRYCE ALDERTON is the golf writer for the Daily Pilot. He can be reached at

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