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U.S. Open app makes phones welcome at Shinnecock

The U.S. Open Trophy on display in the

The U.S. Open Trophy on display in the Lexus tent at the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Golf initially resisted the invasion of cellphones on its tournament courses, regularly collecting them from fans upon entry and returning them at the end of the day.

But that was in the 2000s, when people still could give up their phones without feeling as if they were giving up an arm.

So fans who last attended a U.S. Open on Long Island at Bethpage Black in 2009 or Shinnecock Hills in 2004 might be surprised to learn this week that mobile phones not only are allowed but encouraged — with limitations.

Since 2015, the USGA has permitted phones on the course and increasingly taken steps to address one of the biggest challenges of watching a tournament in person rather than on television: knowing what the heck is going on across the vast expanse of 18 holes.

Its free U.S. Open app has features that allow fans not only to keep track of players’ scores, but to follow exactly where they are on the course — or on the driving range or putting green, or even where they are practicing on the course early in the week.

So, for example, one could go to the leaderboard, discover someone has gotten hot, then find out exactly where he is on the course and head there.

The app also features video, maps of on-course amenities, and a way to upgrade one’s ticket.

Amanda Weiner, the USGA’s director of digital media and user experience, on Monday described the app as an “onsite digital caddy.” The idea, she said, is for fans to “curate their own experience.”

Fans cannot make phone calls — other than in designated areas — and cannot take pictures or video during the four days of competition. Phones are to be set to silent or vibrate. But texting, emailing, use of the app . . . go for it! (There is complimentary WiFi available in grandstands.)

Weiner said there have been few reported problems in the three years since the policy was instituted.

“We’ve been very fortunate that there’s been that level of respect,” she said, adding there are people on the course tasked with enforcing the phone policy.

By the way, there still is one major American tournament where cellphones are unwelcome. Not surprisingly, it’s The Masters.

New York Sports