Introduction

The United States Open Championship, referred to as the US Open, is one of the four major golf tournaments held in the United States. It is played every year in mid-June, usually so that the last day falls on the Sunday of Father’s Day. It is hosted by the United States Golf Association, and is included on both the PGA and European Tour. There are various courses across the US on which the championship is held. Each course has to comply with the dictated features of an Open Championship course, and many have to be rebuilt to include these.

History

The inaugural US Golf Open was held on 4th October 1895 on a nine-hole course at Newport. Ten professional and one amateur golfers first played the Open, which was initially run by the United States Golf Association (USGA). They did four laps of the course, making it a 36-hole competition. In 1898, the USGA extended this to 72-holes, so that the Open became a two-day event, with 35-holes being played on both days.

Initially British players and amateurs dominated the U.S. Open, but as the competition grew, American golfers began to take part, with the first American win courtesy of Young John J. McDermott in 1911. After this breakthrough, the leaderboard was dominated by mainly American players.

The popularity of the competition grew as more Americans entered, with its success really taking off in 1913 when American-born amateur Francis Ouimet defeated two defending British champions. The US Open was not held in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I, but its popularity took a turn for the better in 1922 when spectator tickets were sold for the first time. This was followed two years later with the USGA’s decision to change the amount of holes to 18 on the first two days, and added an extra day on which 36-holes were played. With such developments and the natural flow of competition stemming from its popularity, the U.S. Open gradually moved from being an amateur event to a professional event, the last ever amateur win being John Goodman in 1933.

The US Open was not held during the years of 1942 to 1945 due to World War II, but 1954 was a pivotal year, when the Open was moved from tee to green and the competition was broadcast on television for the first time. In 1965 the present layout of 18-holes a day for four days was implemented by the USGA, and the rest of the competition remained the same until 2002, which marked the year for the first Open to be held on a public course. The same year also saw a two-tee start, on holes 1 and 10, being introduced for the first and second rounds.

Open Schedule

For the first three days of the week leading up to the Open the course is open to players for practice rounds at the first and tenth tee. If players wish to play a full round then they need to elect to do so between 7 am and 2 pm so as not to disrupt other players.

Gates are open to the public to come and watch these practice days, from 6 am to 7 pm. On the Thursday and Friday of the week, the championship rounds 1 and 2 are followed, with play beginning at 7 am from the first or tenth tee and the last pairing of the days beginning play at 2 pm. The championship rounds 3 and 4 are played on the Saturday and Sunday respectively. The time play begins is determined by how many players make the “cut”, but this is generally around 8/8:30 a.m. The last pairings of the days will start play at around 2:50 p.m. If there is a tie at the end of the fourth day, a playoff is held on the Monday following the weekend. This is an 18-hole playoff that starts at around noon with an end time of approximately 4 pm.

Information for Spectators

Spectators are allowed into the grounds of the course on every day of the championship. During the three practice days and on the first two days gates are open between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., whereas on the days of the third and fourth rounds, the gates open at 7 am and close at 7 pm. If there is a playoff then the gates will open at 9:30 am.

Grandstands are located around the course at strategic points, offering good views of the course. There is no reserved grandstand seating available, but rather it is offered at a first come, first served basis. Photographic equipment is allowed into the grounds on the practice days, but it is strictly prohibited during the days on which the championship is held.

Tickets

Spectators ages 12 and under are admitted free of charge if accompanied by a paying adult, and spectators aged between 13 and 17 are admitted at a discounted rate if they are also accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket.

Entry to practice rounds costs $30 for a grounds pass, whereas entry with a Trophy Clubs Pass costs $50. Entry to the first two championship days costs between $110 and $150 depending on how much of the course you have access to. The price for the third and fourth round days increases slightly, so that tickets are available from between $160 to $216. These can be bought through a variety of different sellers.

Tickets are also available through random drawing at a lottery held by the USGA; there are two dates on which this takes place, the first is for active USGA members and the other is for the general public and, to apply, fans need to fill out an application and send it to the USGA within the allotted deadline. Non-USGA members are not guaranteed tickets to the US Open by entering this way, but the chances of getting them are much more likely than the similar lottery held for the Masters. USGA members have a much higher chance of getting tickets through this method. For details on when these dates are for future US Opens and how to apply see the USGA website. Some companies also offer hospitality and group packages, which offer a discount if you bulk buy tickets or buy tickets for the whole week. Details of such packages are available for practice days and competition days.

Players

The US Open is open to all professional golfers in the world, and any amateurs who have an up-to-date USGA Handicap Index which is not exceeding 1.4. Entry is gained by players (only male) either being fully exempt from, or taking part in, the qualifiers. There is currently no youngest age limit for those taking part, and the youngest ever competitor was 15 year old Tadd Fijikawa, from Hawaii.

There are 17 full exemption categories, so over half of the players who take part in the championship enter via exemption. The exemption categories include winners from the last ten years of US Opens, all winners from the other majors for the last five years, the top thirty players on the PGA Tour money list for the previous year, the top fifteen players on the European Tour money list for the previous year, and the top 50 golf players as listed two weeks before the championship by the Official World Golf Rankings.

For all those who wish to compete yet do not fall under the exemption category, local and sectional qualifying events take place at 110 places around the USA to filter out the final entries into the competition. After the local qualifiers, around 750 players remain, who then go forward to the sectional qualifying rounds. These take place at 14 sites around the USA, England and Japan, and consist of 36-hole competitions. 156 players are left after these, and they go through to compete in the actual tournament.

In the history of the championship, there has been a total of 78 American wins, 13 Scottish victors and 7 Englishmen, with South Africa just behind with 5. Australia has had 2 wins, and Argentina and New Zealand have both had 1. In recent years the American stranglehold has been challenged, and South Africa has been appearing regularly on the leader board since 1994. For a list of past champions see The US Open website.

  • Oldest winner – Hale Irwin in 1990, age 45 years
  • Youngest winner – John J. McDermott, age 19 years
  • 4 times winners – Willie Anderson (1901, 1903, 1904, 1905), Robert T. Jones Jr. (1923, 1926, 1929, 1930), Ben Hogan (1948, 1950, 1951, 1953), Jack Nicklaus (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980)

The Prize

When the championship first began, the total purse was $335, of which $150 went to the winner, Horace Rawlins. He also received a gold champion’s medal and was given ownership of the silver championship cup for a year. The cup was displayed in Rawlins’ home club for that year, and this started a tradition which lasted until 1986. However, the cup was destroyed in a fire in Lloyd Mangrum’s home club in 1946, but a replica was produced in 1947 which was then displayed in the winner’s home club until 1986 when the cup was permanently moved to the USGA museum, where it still resides today.

Currently the total prize fund for the Open Championship is $7 million, with $1.26 million awarded to the winner, along with a full-scale replica of the champion’s cup. As well as the prize money and cup the winner also receives other privileges, including automatic entry into the other three majors for the next five years; the Masters, The Open Championship or The British Open, and the PGA Championship. If a non-PGA golfer wins the championship then they are entitled to entry to the PGA either within sixty days, or before the start of any of the next five tour seasons. The top 8 on the leaderboard for the Open are also given automatic entry to the following Masters, and the top 15 are exempt from qualifying for the next year’s US Open.

Courses

Throughout the history of the championship, a plethora of different courses have been used. These courses are usually longer than normal, have a high cut of rough, hilly greens and pinched fairways. Listed below are the courses that have been used most frequently or are most famous:

  • Torneypines Golf Course, South Course, La Jullo, California
  • Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club
  • Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamoroneck, New York
  • Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, New York
  • Olympia Fields (III) Country Club, North Course
  • Bethpage State Park, Clack Course, Farmingdale, New York
  • Southern Hills country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Pebble Beach (California) Golf Links
  • Pinehurst Resort Country Club, Number 2 Course, Village of Dinehurst, NC
  • The Olympic Club, San Francisco
  • Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Ma.
  • Baltrusrol Golf Club, Lower Course, Springfield, New Jersey
  • Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaskro, Minnesota
  • Medinah (III) Country Club
  • Oak Hill Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts
  • Merion Golf Club, East Course, Ardmore, Pa.
  • Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
  • Cherry Hills Country Club, Englewood, Colorado
  • Atlanta Athletic Club, Duluth
  • Champions Golf Club, Cypress Creek Course, Houston
  • Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis
  • The Country Club, Brookline Massachusetts
  • Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills Michigan
  • Northwood Club, Dallas
  • Riviera Country Club, Los Angeles
  • Chicago Golf Club
  • Fresh Meadow Country Club, Flushing, New York
  • Canterbury Golf Club, Cleveland, Ohio

The courses are allocated years in advance of the championship being played; for details of future courses see The US Open website.

US Women’s Open Championship

The US Open Championship, like the British Open, has a women’s equivalent. This competition has been in existence since 1946, and is the only women’s championship that has been recognised as a major by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) since it was founded in 1950.

However, it is still not recognised as a major around the world; the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA of Japan have set their own women’s championships. This has not stopped the US Women’s Open from becoming the reigning women’s golf championship though. Players from the United States have dominated the leaderboard, although in recent years there have been wins from Sweden, Australia and South Korea showing the spread of the tournament’s popularity worldwide.

The inaugural championship was a 36-hole competition that was won by Patty Berg. The LPGA asked the USGA to conduct the championship in 1953, and it has been run by them ever since. In 1965 the final round of championship was broadcast on television for the first time, which really placed it on the map as a respected and revered golfing competition. Today, all rounds are broadcast each year. The championship is open to all women who have a USGA Handicap not exceeding 4.4. It is held at the beginning of July every year, lasting for four days, with 18 holes held on each day. Tickets are much cheaper than those for the men’s Open; practice day tickets cost between $12 and $15, and championship days cost between $20 and $25. For information regarding tickets, see the US Women’s Open Website.