AP's Doug Ferguson does a nice job pointing out the atmospheric differences between Erin Hills and TPC River Highlands, something fans noticed. He agrees with our assessment that getting fans closer to the action makes a difference and should be a vital element to course setup.
A big atmosphere comes from energized, enthusiastic fans. And those fans get their energy from being close to the action, feeding off the noise around them. That starts with being able to see golf without having to squint their eyes.
The lack of major atmosphere was evident at Erin Hills.
It was even worse at Chambers Bay, the public course built out of a sand and gravel pit next to the Puget Sound. On one hole, fans were perched high on a ridge and looked like a row of figurines from down below. The par-5 eighth hole at Chambers Bay didn't have any fans at all.
That's the biggest risk the USGA is taking by going to big, new courses.
The U.S. Open returns to traditional courses with a smaller blueprint over the next decade. Even after a soft, calm year, it should not lose its reputation as the toughest test in golf.