U.S. Open Opens Hamptons Fore! Business

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ask me how I’m getting home to Southampton for the weekend, and my brain goes into Matrix mode. The variables? The Jitney. The LIRR. The day. The time. My luggage. My patience. What mode of transportation will get me there in the least inconvenient way possible? It’s not just the high real estate price tag that makes the Hamptons an exclusive enclave.  

Throw in the U.S. Open, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Or, so I thought. Is the traffic terrible this week? Of course. This is summer in the Hamptons, after all. The trade parade must solider on! But superceding how backed up things get on 39, is how logistically amazing the entire production is.

For the fifth time in its 127-year history, the U.S. Open is at Shinnecock Hills, and the USGA has managed to make a miracle. Until this week, any reasonable observer would have concluded tht adding tens of thousands more people to an area that long ago maxed out its capacity for tourists was not only a nightmare, but truly impossible.

And yet, they’ve pulled it off, with a positive attitude to boot. My experience at the Open was limited to Wednesday’s practice round, but the whole production was so seamless, that it made the day enjoyable for even the most fair-weather of golf fans. Food tents, restrooms and concessions are strategically placed along the course in such a way that you’re never far from creature comforts. And yet, the mini-city doesn’t obstruct any views. Volunteers flew in from across the country, paying for the chance to work at an Open. All were more than happy to explain the nuances of the game to newbies. The fog that rolled in that day only added to the experience—with its rolling hills, kept greens and perfectly tousled rough, Shinnecock looked as majestic as you’d expect. Hard to believe that this kind of peace and beauty exists just beyond the most congested road in the area.

Then, there’s the genius partnership with the Long Island Rail Road, which has a special schedule for the week that allows the Montauk Line to stop directly across County Road 39 from the Open. The much-maligned system not only installed a temporary platform that can accommodate a 10-car train, but also made it wheelchair accessible. The American flag bunting across the railings sets the tone as you cross the newly installed pedestrian footbridge (another solid USGA innovation) over the highway.

The Open not only highlights the game, but also the community. There’s coffee from Hampton Coffee and the Golden Pear—although, as far as I could tell, that was only offered to the players—and local artisans displayed in the merchandise tent. And, of course, there’s the chance to set foot on Shinnecock, with its Stanford White designed clubhouse, the oldest formal club in the U.S., and a significant pillar of New York society.

When Shinnecock last hosted the Open in 2004, the USGA came under fire for making the greens too dry and too fast. News coverage of yesterday’s first round indicates disastrous starts for some of the game’s biggest stars. But the difficulty is being attributed to the natural layout of the course, not the production of the event. Or maybe it’s a reflection of the Hamptons as a whole—it’s just not that easy to make it here.


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