Though the golf world got a classic at last month’s U.S. Open, host Chambers Bay and the USGA, which puts on the championship, came under fire for myriad issues for players and fans alike.
USGA executive director Mike Davis opened up on Friday, offering some candor about a pair of regrets about how his organization handled the unique venue.
Speaking at the U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster, Pa., Davis said he wished fans could have enjoyed a better viewing experience and admitted he should have been more open with the players about poor conditions on the putting surfaces.
Most fans at Chambers Bay, which was the first site to host a U.S. Open in the Pacific Northwest, were confined to grandstand seating throughout the championship. The hilly course was difficult to traverse for the average fan and a lack of flat viewing areas made it almost impossible to follow groups around the course. Going into the championship, the USGA knew that would be a problem, but Davis said they underestimated the issue.
“We knew it was going to be hard, but, honestly, we didn’t know it was going to be that hard,” Davis said, according to Golf Channel. “We were so focused on spectator safety.”
As for the course, the primary complaint from players wasn’t the tee-to-green setup, but rather putting surfaces that were bumpy and inconsistent. The USGA made a bad calculation about when to reduce watering the greens and, combined with issues in the winter and an invasive poa annua strain, the conditions forced a tepid defense of the surfaces. Davis wishes he had been more clear about what the players should expect relative to what they had hoped to offer that week.
“My own sense is if we probably had talked a little more openly with players beforehand, maybe the chatter wouldn’t have been too bad,” Davis said. “That’s one I thought about: Could we have done a better job in that respect? I think we did all we could with what we were dealt with. Maybe just communication with players, I could have handled a little differently.”
Overall, Davis thought Chambers did its job well. Even though it was jarring architecturally, Chambers Bay, in Davis’ view, could have been viewed as an excellent venue.
“It was so radically different architecturally. It was a great test of golf. I do think if we hadn’t had the bumpy green situation, my sense is you would have had more of the players say ‘It’s a different test, but it’s a good test,'” he said.
“I didn’t hear many comments negatively about the setup. It was more the bumpy greens we got.”