The Masters may be the most coveted ticket in the game, but there is no purer competition in American golf than the U.S. Amateur. This year's edition, the 106th, will be played in late August at Hazeltine National Golf Club, the brawny Robert Trent Jones Sr. course in suburban Minneapolis that's hosted a bevy of major championships over the years. Tickets are cheap and readily available, all the more reason to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to see whether last year's surprise winner at Merion, Italian Edoardo Molinari, can defend his title. You can leave your periscope and binoculars at home—unlike at PGA Tour events, spectators walk the fairways with the players, as galleries are relatively thin and only the tees and greens are roped off.
Tickets and Viewing Tips
TICKETS Weekly grounds pass: $60. St. Andrews ticket (weekly pass plus access to main level of Hazeltine National clubhouse): $120. 952-556-5441, usamateur.org.
FORMAT Thirty-six-hole stroke-play qualifier, followed by six rounds of match play.
HOT SPOTS The elevated peninsula green at Hazeltine's sixteenth hole offers a great view looking back at this signature par four, which curls around the course's eponymous lake. From just left of the green, you can watch players coming down the tenth hole, too. Also head over to the tee at sixteen and walk across the stone bridge honoring Payne Stewart, who captured the second of his three major championships here, the 1991 U.S. Open.
WHEN August 2127, 2006
WHERE Chaska, Minnesota
PLAYING Historic and private Interlachen Country Club is worth working any connection you can to get on. A Donald Ross jewel twenty minutes from Hazeltine, it's where Bobby Jones inadvertently skipped his second shot across the lake at the par-five ninth en route to winning the 1930 U.S. Open, the third leg of his Grand Slam. The best daily-fee option is Chaska Town Course (952-443-3748, chaskamn.com/tc), a sporty and scenic Arthur Hills layout that is cohosting the Amateur's qualifying rounds; it reopens to the public on Thursday of tournament week.
STAYING If you're looking for a convenient place to bed down, try the Oak Ridge Conference Center (952-368-3100, oakridge.dolce.com), a 147-room hotel on Chaska's Lake McKnight, just across State Highway 41 from Hazeltine. Another option is to soak up the urban flavor of downtown Minneapolis at the sleekly minimalist Graves 601 Hotel (866-523-1100, graves601hotel.com).
DINING Part of a small, Minnesota-based chain of restaurants designed to attract an upscale bar and dinner crowd, the Redstone American Grill (952-903-9500, redstonegrill.com) in nearby Eden Prairie specializes in spit-roasted chicken and ribs, and steaks and fish seared on a wood-fired grill.