Pinehurst No. 2 has become the first anchor site for future U.S. Open championships, the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced earlier this week. The magnificent golf course, designed by Donald Ross, has been selected to host the organization's preeminent men's championships events in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.
There are major plans to have “Golf House Pinehurst” in North Carolina completed by 2023. It will include an innovation centre, museum and offices for the USGA personnel. The USGA’s decision to commit five U.S Open championships here between now and 2047 marks the first overt indication that the organization is now considering fewer venue rotations for its premier championship.
During the announcement, the phrase “anchor site” was consistently used when referring to Pinehurst. According to USGA chief brand officer, Craig Annis, consultations about bringing more U.S. Opens to Pinehurst started five years ago and grew as the USGA learned more about what direction it believed players and fans preferred for the U.S.
Open. “This is really linked to our U.S. Open strategy, which is to go to fewer places more frequently,” Annis said. “This gives us more definition in terms of where and when we go, and to increase the level of connectivity that players have, that fans have with the courses that we go to, both those that come on site and those that watch on TV”.
USGA exploring anchor-site concept
Mike Davis, USGA CEO said the association is also exploring the anchor-site concept. He hinted at this a year ago too. “It’s pretty clear that we love Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Oakmont and Shinnecock [Hills].
Those four meet all our criteria: They’re great tests of golf, they set up logistically either very well or well enough, and—being honest—we’re going to make money when we go there”. In discussing the idea after the more recent Pinehurst announcement Davis was more certain but less focused about whether they have other anchor sites in mind “I would say yes, with no specificity right now on what those sites might be”.
The U.S. Open has been to 14 different sites in the last 20 years. Fewer sites with more return visits mean more efficiency, Annis said. “I know there’s been a lot of commentary lately from the players going to Winged Foot and playing the course for the first time,” he said.
“Obviously, there’s a sense of excitement there, but also, we want to take some of that ambiguity out for players, as well, so the more frequently we go to some of these places, the stronger the connection they will have.
“It also will help from a planning perspective, understanding the dynamics of each host course and each host club brings to our operation, as well”. What the Pinehurst agreement seems to make clear, though, is that the USGA gets more interested the more local and state governments and agencies are completely invested in the idea of being home to the U.S. Open, figuratively and literally.