PINEHURST, N.C. — One question still has not been answered:
“How many canvas buildings did the United States Golf Association have built for this U.S. Open?”
We know that 397,138 square feet of canvas was used. But what does that equate to in the number of buildings in this newly created city at Pinehurst No. 2, which consists of several little villages?
We’ll get back to you on that, USGA officials said.
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Still waiting. But it is easily more than 100 buildings.
As for your questions about the U.S. Open at Pinehurst after two rounds and how it might translate to the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place? Fear not. We’ve got you covered.
Question: How is transportation to the course and how have the crowds affected traffic in Pinehurst?
Answer: The transportation is remarkable, and we haven’t found anyone who spent more than about 15 minutes getting to or from the course. The key is that there are more than enough shuttles, and there is always one waiting. Just as one shuttle leaves, another arrives.
Local traffic seems unaffected and that is likely because the shuttles are coming from several different sites.
Danny Sink, the 2015 championship director for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, said the transportation logistics at Pinehurst are perhaps the best for any of the U.S. Open venues. He said Chambers Bay will present a bigger challenge, but he expects even the longest waits for those who drive to shuttle sites in 2015 will be no longer than 20 to 30 minutes.
“We’ll have eight shuttles going at one time,” Sink said. “We want it to be almost one continual motion from the time you park to the time you are on the course.”
Q: What’s the volunteer experience like?
A: Very good, according to the many we talked to, from hole marshals to ticket scanners to workers on the hand-operated scoreboards.
Nary a one had a negative thing to say. Not even the volunteers whose job it is to hold ropes or perform other tedious tasks.
Kim Paschal, a ticket scanner, was enjoying watching golf before going back to her post. Her enthusiasm was not unusual.
“I am having a great time, and last night I looked into volunteering at Chambers Bay, but they’re already full,” said Paschal, from South Carolina.
Q: What is it like in the corporate suites and tents?
A: Couldn’t tell you, because the media isn’t allowed in, not even for a quick peek. But they are air-conditioned, making it a great place to eat and drink when taking a break from watching golf. However, when it comes to watching golf, there is no advantage to having corporate suite access. The best viewing is along the fairways, where fans with all types of tickets gather, and from the bleacher seats, which are on a first-come basis.
“We want the championship to be open and accessible to everyone,” said Sarah Hirshland, the USGA’s senior managing director of business affairs.
Q: What about food, beer?
A: The prices are a bit less than at most pro sporting events. A Carolina smoked red-hot sausage runs $5, as do hot dogs. The barbecued pork sandwich is $6, and the beef brisket sandwich $7, while the one-third-pound cheeseburger is $7.50.
Beer is $6 or $6.50 depending on size, and soft drinks are $3.50. At most of the 12 public concession areas, the lines have been minimal. At lunchtime Friday, lines were about 15 minutes, but during many parts of the day there is little to no waiting. At the peak of the heat Thursday, lines for beer at the concession stand close to the 16th hole were about 10 minutes. But at a beer stand nearby, there was no wait at all.
Q: What is the merchandise tent like?
A: The main merchandise pavilion (there also is a smaller auxiliary merchandise pavilion) is 39,000 square feet and has every souvenir imaginable. Prices aren’t cheap. Many of the shirts were $86 and many of the hats $27, but that hasn’t stopped the store from getting packed in the afternoons. It’s been a bit slower in the mornings. The store is well staffed. Waiting lines of up to 15 minutes in the afternoons are not because of a lack of organization.
Q: What can I do if I am not watching the golf?
A: The USGA has partnered with American Express to create the Championship Experience pavilion where fans can go to a fitness studio and get instruction from fitness gurus who work with PGA Tour players, have their swings analyzed with the Trackman Swing Zonx, and have their photos taken (cameras are not allowed on the course, so this is the place to go if you want a selfie).
Chevron has teamed with the USGA to create a hands-on museum with exhibits on science, engineering and math. “People don’t realize we have 40 scientists on staff,” Hirshland said. “We’re all about science, from agronomy to the engineering of our equipment.”
At the Lexus pavilion, there is a hole-in-one challenge and free autograph sessions with players who endorse the company (Johnny Miller, Mark O’Meara and Hideki Matsuyama were on the Thursday docket).
Similar activities can be expected at Chambers Bay.
Q: What are your overall impressions?
A: The organization and the smoothness with which this event is being run are amazing. This is the USGA’s biggest event of the year, and the preparation is obvious. Chambers Bay will provide bigger challenges, because it hasn’t hosted an Open before. But after seeing things operate this week, it is clear that the USGA knows what it’s doing when it puts on a big event, and the Open next year at Chambers Bay might go a lot smoother than many have predicted.
Kevin Phelps, Pierce County’s deputy executive, is attending his fifth U.S. Open in preparation for the 2015 event, and he has been impressed each time.
“The USGA is very focused on trying to enhance the fans’ experience,” he said. “They are very fan-centric in everything they do.”
Matt Allen, general manager at Chambers Bay, might have said it the best.
“You can see why the U.S. Open has been here three times in 15 years, and it’s amazing how this is going,” he said. “But the USGA knows how to adapt their program to different sites.”