Chambers Bay: A course made for sitters

The U.S. Open at Chambers Bay might be remembered, by spectators anyway, as the “grandstand Open.”

The distinctive topography of the course, with its rolling dunes and broad fairways, makes following a particular golfer or group around difficult.

USGA championship director Danny Sink acknowledged as much Friday.

“The great thing about a links-style golf course is that you get that linksy feel, that dunesy feel, that up and down,” Sink said. “With that said, you can’t walk right beside the ropes on every hole and watch every shot of a player.”

So many golf fans have been staking out one of the more than 18,000 grandstand seats sprinkled around the course. Grandstands at Nos. 9, 14 and 18 have been particularly popular.


The grandstand on No. 9 is a sweet spot, maybe the best vantage point on the course.

The hole is a par-3, and the bleachers have a clear start-to-finish view from tee to green, plus a sweeping view of most of the rest of the course.

Off to the left, there’s Puget Sound and even a peek-a-boo view of the famous lone fir.

The grandstand sits just above the green, which gives close-up access to players, many of whom acknowledge the crowd.

“We came here because it’s where some people are finishing their day, so it has the promise of drama,” spectator Jim Moore of Portland said Thursday. “Not only that, but you can see the entire process of the hole. The whole thing unfolds in front of you.”

The thrill at No. 9 is watching for birdies, which require players to compensate for steep undulations on the green.

Downside? It’s been packed most of the time, with a waiting line.


The grandstand flanking the 14th green also has drawn an enthusiastic crowd each day.

“We’ve been full all day,” Mark Yamashita, a hole volunteer, said Thursday. “You’ve got a good vantage of the players’ approach shots.”

Fans often stand in line there for 10 to 15 minutes to score a seat.

Joe Grow of Los Angeles was among them Thursday. Grow, who was attending his seventh U.S. Open, said he wasn’t happy about it.

“I can’t stand sitting, but here you have no choice,” he said.

Grow gave the fan experience at Chambers Bay a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10.

He said he much preferred the layouts he’s walked at Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines, two California courses that have hosted previous U.S. Opens.

“But those are regular golf courses,” Grow said. “This is an irregular golf course.”

Still, he said, he’s glad the U.S. Open came to University Place.

“I think it’s fantastic for the Northwest,” Grow said.


The grandstand at the 18th green — at more than 6,000 seats the biggest the USGA has ever had on a finishing hole —fills up fast, said hole volunteer Terri Sagmoen.

Convenience plays a part in that because the bleacher complex is close to concessions and other services, Sagmoen said.

Bill and Marie Leaf, who split time between Idaho and the Key Peninsula, had staked out a seat there Thursday afternoon.

“You can watch the tees at No. 18 and No. 1 at the same time,” Bill Leaf said.

Marie Leaf said she also enjoyed the vantage point, which includes sweeping views of Puget Sound.

“I like this because you can see a lot,” Marie Leaf said.

Bruce Parker of Auburn also had a seat there Thursday after abandoning his plan to walk the course.

“It’s extremely difficult to see play,” Parker said. “I’ve never experienced this on a golf course before.”