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Chambers Bay not only tough on golfers, but on spectators, as well

Eric Collins of University Place said he has “cat-like reflexes.”

Jon Tornquist of Steilacoom said he moves “like a ninja.”

Still, they were no match for the grassy dunes at Chambers Bay.

Like many of the fans attending the U.S. Amateur, both men slipped and fell while walking off the dunes.

“If you have golf spikes on, it’s no problem,” said Collins, who has played the course. “But if not …”

According to several course marshals, a woman broke her elbow falling on the dunes Saturday morning. Two other fans sustained leg injuries earlier in the week.

If Chambers Bay officials have learned anything from this week’s event, it’s that fan movement on the dunes will have to be addressed before the 2015 U.S. Open, course superintendent David Wienecke said.

“It is a real concern,” Wienecke said.

There are about 90 acres of dunes at Chambers Bay and they are one of the reasons the course was so appealing to the United States Golf Association. The dunes and the course’s wide-open design will give the USGA the potential to draw record crowds in 2015.

However, the wispy fescue growing on the dunes has proven to be slippery in dry weather. Wienecke called the slopes of the dunes “ice-like.”

The problem is not a new one. When Chambers Bay first opened, recreational golfers were also slipping on the dry fescue.

“It’s tragic that some people have hurt themselves,” Wienecke said.

Some golfers have found the footing less than stable when trying to hit shots from uneven ground. Jarred Bossio of Olympia said he felt like the ground was breaking away under his feet when he almost slipped into a bunker while hitting a shot Wednesday.

“This is a dress rehearsal,” Wienecke said. “This is going to be a great discussion to have after the U.S. Amateur.”

Wienecke points out that Chambers Bay will look different during the U.S. Open. There will be many more fans, there will be roped off areas funneling fans into designated viewing areas and there will be large bleachers erected around the course.

As for today, the final day of the U.S. Amateur, Wienecke offers this advice to spectators: “Stay off the dunes, period.”

He said they don’t have enough marshals working the event to keep spectators off the dunes, so he hopes fans will choose different viewing areas on their own.

Fans are allowed to walk the fairways with the players during the U.S. Amateur.

There are paths covered with bark between the holes as well as some paved and dirt paths (The dirt paths will be paved before the 2015 Open). Wienecke said those paths are the safest ways to get around the course.

He also reminds fans that the back of their tickets state that they “are entering the event at their own risk.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 craig.hill@thenewstribune.com

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