The 2007 U.S. Open will be played this weekend at the Oakmont Country Club, just outside of Pittsburgh. You're not Tiger Woods, and it's a private club, anyway. The best chance to play a round? You'd have had to beat out the 8,544 qualifiers for a spot in this year's tournament.
Clearly that's not an option. But don't put those clubs down just yet. You can get your chance at one of several other U.S. Open-caliber public and semiprivate courses available for play throughout the world.
"Traditionally most [U.S. Opens] have been on private courses," says Marty Parkes, a spokesman for the United States Golf Association (USGA). "But in the last 10 years it's been half and half. As long as it can challenge the world's best players, it doesn't matter to us whether [the course is] public or private."
Among them: the in North Carolina (the resort has eight total), which hosted the 1999 and 2005 Opens, and , whose winds played tricks on golfers in the 2000 Open and will challenge them again in 2010. A plane ticket to Scotland and a lucky lottery number will get you on the courses at , and a tee time at in Jacksonville, Fla., is as simple as a reservation at the adjoining Marriot hotel.
"But we take tee times 12 months in advance, so you probably don't want to wait until the last minute," says David Kraus, director of golf at TPC Sawgrass. "Most of the people who stay here, they're here for the golf."
Going for the pin on the legendary 17th hole of Sawgrass' Stadium course will cost you, however. Greens fees are $350 for a round.
And that's not even the most expensive on our list of public courses and semiprivate courses (the latter being a private course that allows the public to play for a daily fee).
The Pebble Beach Links run $475 for a round. Eighteen holes on in Cork Country, Ireland, costs $400, and to play in Las Vegas it's $500.
Don’t think you can just walk on. Hardly. Because demand far outpaces the supply of tee times available, clubs often require players to buy bundle packages that include hotel stays or dinners. The premier package at Pinehurst, which includes rounds on the No. 2 course, a two-night hotel stay and a golfer's massage, starts at $1,499.
Day of play walk-ups are available, but Pinehurst spokeswoman Janeen Driscoll says, "There's a slim chance if you come during spring or fall."
Greens fees and package rates at other courses are also seasonal, meaning the best rates are often during the late fall and early spring. At Scotland's , the location of the 2007 British Open, nonpeak "society days" cost $250 for three rounds of golf, one on each of the club's three courses. Not a bad way to get on the championship course, which usually costs $210 just to tee off.
The best courses also require caddies who know the lay of the land. Most clubs, public and private, retain the services of a caddy management company. When guests are paying $200 to $500 for a round, it's best to have your bags carried to insure as few double and triple bogeys as possible.
"If [a caddy] is trained properly, it can make a tremendous impact on the golf experience and overall experience," says Dan Costello vice president of sales at CaddieMaster, a caddy management company. "At Pinehurst we have a few that have caddied for 50 years and several at Pebble Beach who have done it for 20-plus years. You've got a lot of old, gray caddies who quickly pick up a person's game and do it successfully."
But before you clear space in your closet for that elusive green jacket, remember that mastering a championship course doesn't mean you're ready to go for a tour card.
"Depending on the course, a lot of changes are made compared to everyday play," says Parkes. "Tees will be located back so that the course plays longer, rough grown out, fairways narrowed and greens made to play faster."