Eight Months Out: U.S. Open Prep Ongoing at The Country Club

By Reg Jones and Eric Mills

| Oct 20, 2021 | LIBERTY CORNER, N.J.

Eight Months Out: U.S. Open Prep Ongoing at The Country Club

The 122nd U.S. Open Championship will be played from June 16-19, 2022, at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. It’s safe to say that the field of 156 professionals and amateurs who will compete for the game’s ultimate prize that week have yet to begin their preparation. The same cannot be said for the USGA’s championship staff, who have had these dates circled on their calendars for years.

Reg Jones, the USGA’s managing director of Open championships, and Eric Mills, the USGA’s manager of the 2022 U.S. Open Championship, share some behind-the-scenes insights into what it takes to plan and execute a U.S. Open. They discuss what’s been happening in Brookline and what’s on tap between now and next June.

Reg Jones: We typically have USGA staff members who move to a U.S. Open market at least two years in advance to help facilitate all the moving parts. They live there, and develop working relationships with the host course, local authorities and vendors. It’s an especially important part of this championship, because what is required for a modern U.S. Open at The Country Club is very different from what we had the last time a U.S. Open was held there, in 1988. A lot of our time has been spent on the property footprint and trying to find places for all the elements that need to be in place in order for us to put on the big show.

Eric Mills: Two years out from the championship we launch our corporate hospitality program, but we start surveying the land several years prior to that, to spot our facility locations and determine a lot of the driving forces around capacity, inventory, fan flow, etc. Volunteer recruitment begins about 18 months out from the championship, and we’re fortunate that we’ve had incredible response from the surrounding community, The Country Club members and USGA members and quickly filled all 3,100-plus volunteer slots. We also start diving deep into the public safety and transportation plans at the 18-month mark, meeting with law enforcement and medical agencies to ensure that we can comfortably serve everyone who will be on property. One year out, we host our broadcast partners for site surveys so they can plan how they will bring the championship action to fans worldwide.

Jones: The Country Club’s location in a densely populated area requires a lot of support from other agencies and parties in the region. We meet regularly with the town of Brookline on what the impact will be and also celebrating what it means to host a U.S. Open there, because Brookline has its own distinct history.

Mills: At this stage, eight months out from the championship, our big focus is working with all the necessary agencies to produce a safe and efficient parking and transportation plan. We have multi-agency transportation meetings and multi-agency public safety meetings each month. It’s not just planning how to get thousands of fans, volunteers, vendors and players to and from the championship site each day; it’s also planning detour routes for area residents and other people who have no involvement in the championship. We want to make sure to minimize the impact as much as possible for those folks.

Jones: One advantage to The Country Club is its collection of various buildings and other facilities. It’s almost like a school campus, with places like the indoor tennis center, curling pavilion and large clubhouse that will all be utilized in one way or another for the championship. That is very helpful because parts of the course are inaccessible in terms of construction, due to the topography and large rock outcroppings. Vegetation and trees are also plentiful, so even the plans for how we move equipment and people around the site take a lot of planning.

Mills: Each year, and each U.S. Open site, has its own challenges and its own advantages. Here, we’re fortunate to have the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), one of the largest mass transit systems in the country, also known as the “T.” We’ve been meeting with them regularly on how championship attendees can best utilize the T to access the U.S. Open. With complimentary shuttles running from nearby stations, that will be the best way to get to and from The Country Club.

Once we get through the winter, we’ll be in the Execution Phase from March through June. We’ll schedule orientation and training sessions for each of our volunteer groups. We’ll be out there on the golf course – weather permitting – and start construction on or about March 15. It takes a solid three months to get everything ready, and then 4-6 weeks on the back end post-championship to take things out. That’s one aspect that people sometimes forget about. We want to make sure we leave everything at least the same, or better, than we found it.

Jones: Contrary to popular belief, The Country Club actually has a decent-sized footprint. Being that we’ve been working on the plan for a long time, we are able to optimize the locations and function of grandstands, concessions, restrooms, hospitality and all other championship infrastructure. Our goal is not to have as many people on-site as humanly possible. Rather, we want to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience for everyone involved so they come away feeling great about the U.S. Open and want to come back.