Logistical issues studied for 2026 U.S. Open return to Shinnecock

SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 14: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the tenth tee during the first round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 14, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Rob Carr/Getty Images

Logistical issues studied for 2026 U.S. Open return to Shinnecock

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Logistical issues studied for 2026 U.S. Open return to Shinnecock

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Any New Yorker will tell you that on a summer Friday, getting from Manhattan to the Hamptons can be an agonizing experience. The Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway bottleneck and congest with beachgoers, party lovers and people looking to flee the sweltering city.

Traffic early last week was equally terrible heading to Shinnecock Hills, prompting Tiger Woods to issue a warning.

“There’s a good chance that someone might miss their (tee) time,” he said during his Tuesday press conference. “You get a little traffic, you get maybe a little fender bender, it’s not inconceivable someone could miss their time.”

Thankfully, that did not happen, but with the 2026 U.S. Open already slated to return to Shinnecock Hills, logistical concerns and questions of whether Southampton and the surrounding area are capable of hosting a week-long event of this magnitude are being raised.

On Twitter, PGA Tour player Brendan Steele wrote, “It’s more than legitimate. If the infrastructure doesn’t exist you can’t have an event like this. Period.”

Speaking to a small group of media members in the clubhouse on Thursday, U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis said, “Every site that we look at has pluses and minuses. We always start with the golf course first and say, ‘How good a golf course is it?’ Assuming you get past that, then you have to look at how it works on-site and does operations have enough space. Then, you get to where do people stay and where do people fly in and what’s the traffic and where do people park.”

Jun 15, 2018; Southampton, NY, USA; View of the clubhouse before the start of the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills GC - Shinnecock Hills Golf C. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Time has stood still at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club clubhouse since the late 19th century. (Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY Sports)

That’s where Shinnecock Hills becomes less than ideal. According to the USGA, there were approximately 30,000 tickets made available for each of the seven sessions at this year’s U.S. Open. Also needed were 4,500 volunteers to make the event work and hundreds of media members and support staffers on site every day.

“In 1986 and 1995, we parked where the Shinnecock Nation is, but you were too far into town and it caused all kinds of problems,” Davis said. “So now we’re parking at (Francis S.) Gabreski Airport, but you still have the normal west-to-east traffic in the morning that has nothing to do with the U.S. Open.”

Reg Jones, the USGA’s senior director of U.S. Open Championships, noted that no significant sporting event allows fans to drive to and from the venue casually. Delays are inevitable, and public transportation is crucial.

“As crowds increased later in the week and the railroad’s schedule increased, it has been a much better travel experience for many of fans,” Jones said. “We had over 11,000 fans take the railroad on Saturday.”

That’s good, because there is not a lot the USGA can do to improve the logistical situation before the 2026 U.S. Open. There are more hotels in the area than there were during previous U.S. Opens, but there also is more traffic and there is no chance a four-lane highway is getting built through the posh towns of Eastport, Westhampton or Quogue any time soon. The few chain stores in the area, such as Starbucks, have to design their buildings to match the architectural style of the beach communities.

In the coming days Jones and his team will review what worked logistically and what needs to be improved, and they will reconvene in August to take a deeper dive into transportation, housing and other issues.

From a logistical standpoint, don’t look for smooth sailing next year as the U.S. Open heads back to Pebble Beach Golf Links.

“It doesn’t have a lot of room, it’s expensive in Monterey, and Monterey can only hold so many people,” Davis said. “So we get people holing up all the way up in San Jose.”

Plus, there is no rail system in place in the Monterey area to handle the influx of fans who will descend on Pebble Beach, as there are for U.S. Opens in New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

Hopefully, the stunning views of the Monterey Peninsula will make the long waits we can expect a little more pleasant. Gwk

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