Is the USGA screwing host courses with high costs of tournament operation?

Here’s something most golf fans don’t think about: the financial costs of hosting a U.S. Open for the host course.

The Open, a massive, years-long project that assuredly brings with it great prestige, is also an enormous and expensive undertaking. Adam Schupak, writing for Links Magazine, filed an excellent look at the pros and cons of USGA championship hosting.

Now, it’s important to remember in all of this the USGA’s $1.2 billion windfall from the organization’s 2015 T.V. deal with Fox. It’s also important to remember the path to U.S. Open hosting: Courses traditionally make a play for lesser USGA events (U.S. Mid-Amateur, Four-ball, Amateur), shouldering much of the financial loads themselves, in hopes of eventually landing a U.S. Open.

Source: erinhills.com

How much does it cost for these lower-tier events? $150K for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Am, $750K for the Walker Cup, $1 million for the U.S. Amateur. Fundraising for these tournaments can be difficult, and often clubs ask members to dig into their own pockets.

Here’s an example of just how great the cost is to clubs hosting lesser championships. Per Schupak, the club that hosted the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur shelled out more than $650K. The USGA only contributed $59K to help. Thus, the club was on the hook for 90 percent of the cost of the tournament.

Prospective members at Riviera, 2017 U.S. Amateur host, were told they had no chance of advancing up the several-year-long wait list without making a donation to the U.S. Amateur’s operating fund. $100K into the fund could bump a member up substantially, moving them from a couple of years out to a couple of months away from membership.

Some might call this crazy for an organization with hundreds of millions of dollars sitting in its war chest. But assuredly the USGA would argue that the returns for the courses in question in terms of exposure and prestige far outweigh the cost.

Collectively, we need to ask ourselves if this is something we’re comfortable with. The present system is a “prestigious clubs keep getting more prestigious” model, as top-tier facilities will always have the bankroll to pay to play. The other side of the coin is that great courses without the funds are either left in the cold, or they have to make questionable decisions to come up with the cash.