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Pinehurst prepares for high traffic ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open

2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on Monday, June 10, 2024.
Mitchell Northam
Flags fly from one of the grandstands at the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on Monday, June 10, 2024.

The biggest names in golf are gathering in Pinehurst this week for the 2024 U.S. Open. More than 200,000 fans, sponsors, and journalists are also coming. That means lots of planes, trains and automobiles are converging on the historic Moore County village.

Moore County Airport will serve over 2,000 flights during the tournament, with some players coming from as far away as South Africa and New Zealand. Executive Director Rick Cloutier wants to leave guests with a great first impression.

“Last year, we did some construction on this building to do a facelift update. To make it a little nicer and more reflective of the region,” he said.

Funding from the General Assembly helped pay for renovations to the passenger terminal and a resurfaced runway. The airport brought in a portable air traffic control tower to handle the increase in arrivals. More than three dozen local volunteers will be standing by with food and drink for travel-weary golf enthusiasts.

Pinehurst is hosting the U.S. Open for the first time in a decade, but Cloutier said this year’s event will be a dress rehearsal for what’s to come.

“Pinehurst Resort has a contract to host the Open every five years for the next 20 years, and they alternate the U.S. Women's Open also during that period,” Cloutier said.

The airport will also likely see more traffic from the new World Golf Hall of Fame and U.S. Golf Association Golf House. Cloutier said the airport will begin a long-term expansion project once the Open wraps up.

While the golf elite are jetting into Pinehurst, local fans can take the train. The Open Express will run from Raleigh and Cary to the Pinehurst clubhouse, starting Thursday. Jason Orthner, director of passenger rail for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said it’s the first time his agency has offered the service. Its debut comes as more North Carolinians are riding trains.

“Just on our regular services between Raleigh and Charlotte, and Charlotte and New York every day, we've seen a 38% increase in growth since 2019,” Orthner said.

As of Wednesday, the rail tickets for the Open Express are sold out for June 13-15 and a limited number are available for June 16.

For those driving to the tournament, there’s no parking at Pinehurst Resort during Championship play. Fan lots in Aberdeen and West End offer shuttle service to the golf course.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.