ERIN, Wisconsin (Reuters) - The U.S. Open is always billed as the ultimate test in golf due to course conditions but this week could also be one of the toughest logistical challenges as the major comes to Erin Hills for the first time.
A sprawling links-style layout nestled in the bucolic Wisconsin countryside about 35 miles outside Milwaukee, Erin Hills offers a new challenge for the world’s best golfers and an equalling daunting test for everyone from volunteers to police.
With no blueprint to follow, getting more than 35,000 spectators, 5,000-plus volunteers, hundreds of media and 156 golfers in and out and around the golf course will be a monumental logistical feat.
”It’s tough,“ United States Golf Association executive director Mike Davis told Reuters on Wednesday. ”Not having an event at the same place every year is a challenge because you have different volunteers, different vendors, different police.
”It’s not like the Players Championship or the Masters or the John Deere or whatever where it is the same place, so it has its challenges.
“Once you’ve done an event at the same place over and over you get pretty good at it.”
As with most big sporting or entertainment events weather is the wildcard, and with blazing temperatures and a threat of violent thunderstorms spectator safety will be a prime concern.
As menacing clouds gathered on Wednesday several spectators who asked red-shirted volunteers where to go if the evacuation siren sounds were told to seek cover, which may prove difficult at a venue with only a handful of permanent buildings on site.
With just one two-lane road leading in and out of Erin Hills and only 300 parking spaces on site the U.S. Open will be a major traffic headache for both fans and police.
”Most of what we are worried about right now is weather-related issues,“ said Davis. ”We are very likely to get some pretty significant rains later today.
”They’re predicting more rain Thursday night into Friday morning, likely some on Saturday.
“The normal things you are worried about.”
After U.S. Opens at Oakmont and Chambers Bay the last two years came under criticism - the former for a rules controversy and the latter for the condition of putting greens - the USGA is desperate for the 117th edition run smoothly.
While the USGA and organisers believe they have prepared for almost every contingency Davis admitted you never know what can happen.
”We know we’ve had some issues the last two years,“ said Davis. ”Moving forward we want a nice, smooth U.S. Open.
”But, listen, we’re prepared -- you never know what’s going to happen with Mother Nature.
”You’re never going to know what happens with certain rule situations or how the players play the course.
“So you just deal with them and you remain nimble and flexible.”
Editing by Frank Pingue