The eyes of the golf world are on the Bay Area this week, with the U.S. Open teeing off Thursday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, and because the eyes of the golf world can be more critical than an angry mother-in-law, we need to share some spectator tips.
First, and most important -- we cannot emphasize this enough -- absolute silence is required whenever a golfer is even thinking about hitting his ball. Sure, baseball players hit 95 mph fastballs in front of screaming mobs, but golfers unravel if they hear crickets when standing over a 2-foot putt.
Second, Tiger Woods is not the only golfer in the tournament, even though you might think so from watching the telecast. He'll be the easiest to find because fans surround him like ants at a picnic and he curses like a drill sergeant when he misses a shot, but you are allowed to watch other players, some of whom might break a smile.
If you have secured a grounds pass, that's the first hurdle. (If you haven't, they're going for about $200 on the secondary market.) Next, you need to memorize the do's and don'ts -- mostly don'ts -- enforced by the United States Golf Association, the starched-collared organization that runs this event.
All spectators, for example, must pass through metal detectors "similar to what you experience at airport security," according to a USGA news release. That's a happy thought.
Leave your cellphones at home. Ditto for your electronic tablets,
You cannot bring food, beverages, containers or coolers through the gates. You can buy refreshments from vendors accustomed to giving change for $100 bills, although not very much.
No signs, posters or banners are permitted; those are for low-rent sports like baseball. This is golf.
No bags larger than 8 inches by 8 inches by 8 inches. Attendants with 8-inch rulers will be stationed at every gate.
No lawn and/or folding armchairs. No ladders, step stools or similar items. No chair or umbrella covers. No portable radios or TVs.
The easiest way to comply with the rules is this: If you own something, don't bring it.
The USGA's 17-point checklist is strikingly specific, yet it leaves some questions unanswered. For instance, bicycles and metal-spiked golf shoes are prohibited, but there's not a word about Rollerblades or football cleats.
Weapons are also prohibited, which will upset Second Amendment advocates who like to pack when they're on the course. This policy is not limited to firearms and knives, so that means hand grenades, too.
The USGA also has a section on its website dedicated to safety and etiquette, with suggestions designed to "make your experience at the U.S. Open a more enjoyable one." Here are a few:
Stay behind the gallery ropes and follow the direction of marshals; do not cross fairways except at designated crosswalks; wear comfortable footwear; drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration; and be considerate of others in the gallery.
No rude or vulgar comments will be tolerated. Nor will player harassment, unruly behavior or interruption of play. Don't touch golf balls, ask for autographs or move during a golfer's backswing.
But by all means have fun.
That's why the U.S. Open is played.
Contact Tom Barnidge at email@example.com.