THP welcomes a guest columnist this week as we bring in THP Forum Member Claire, to share some thoughts and expertise on how to attend a golf tournament.
Television golf is all well and good, but it can be choppy and limited. We’d rather watch someone—anyone—play a par five from start to finish. Or maybe we’d rather focus on someone who isn’t at the top of the leaderboard for awhile. Maybe we want to watch something other than putt after putt after putt. If that sounds like you, it’s time to attend a tournament in person.
Unlike most sports, live golf requires some athleticism on the spectators’ part—the playing field isn’t 100 or 300 yards—it’s four miles long. It’s all too easy to get lost in the crowd of fans, not sure where you’re going or even who you’re trying to watch over everyone else’s shoulder as you tromp through the rough. To get the most out of a live golf tournament, take a little time before the first drive to prepare yourself.
What Do You Want to Get Out of It?
Decide why you’re going and what you want to see. Do you want photos and autographs? Go to one of the practice rounds. Do you want to follow your favorite golfer for 18 holes, watching every minute of how he plays the course? You’ll get the best views and jostle the smaller crowds on Thursday and Friday. Do you want to see everyone at the toughest hole? Pick your spot carefully. Then again, there’s nothing like the 18th green on Sunday afternoon—just be prepared to get there early and spend the day.
If you want a taste of everything, consider spending some time at a strategic location, waiting for your favorite player to come along. Then follow him for several holes and wait at the end for the rest of the players. That way you’ll see most of the field, plus watch your favorite strategize his way around the course.
Learn the Course
Spend some time both on the golf tournament’s web site. You’ll get the tournament layout there. If you plan to do any walking (and I recommend you do), pay attention to how the course flows from one hole to the next. You don’t want to be trapped on the wrong side of the fairway, unable to get to the next hole without walking back to a crossover point and up the other side.
The ninth and eighteenth greens are all too obvious as places to watch the players come through. Consider too a shorter (but not drivable) par 4. Wait by the landing area, and you can see the entire hole. Check out the course’s web site here—you can often determine the signature hole, which is always worth watching. Just be aware that the tournament setup may rearrange the normal order of the holes.
When You Go
Rule number one: leave the cell phone in the car. It saves standing in line to retrieve it on your way out. Cameras are only allowed during practice rounds, so leave that behind as well once the tournament begins.
Dress to play golf; everyone else does. That means a polo shirt, shorts or pants, a golf hat, and really comfortable shoes. It’s truly best to go hands free—if you can’t put it in your pockets or around your neck, don’t bother. That pretty much means cash and a credit card, extra sunblock, maybe a sharpie, and a pack of tissues or wipes. Don’t underestimate that last one. The only time I ever approached a pro during a round was as she approached the paperless port-a-john I was exiting. I stopped her and handed her the remainder of my tissue packet. Back on the green, she looked around for me, made eye contact, and mouthed, “thank you.”
Tourneys ban outside food and water. Be prepared to pay up, and hydrate often.
When You Get There
Once inside the gate, take a few minutes to orient yourself. Even if you’ve memorized that course map, things are farther apart than you imagined. Start at the practice areas. It’s fun to watch the pros loosen up, joke with their caddies, and nail shot after shot.
Then find your spot, or your player, and enjoy the day. If you want an autograph, be prepared to get to autograph alley, off the 18th green, long before your player does. During a practice round, you may have more luck at the 9th green, which is often less crowded.
Finally, consider volunteering. The best way to watch a golf tournament is from inside the ropes, and that’s where the volunteers are. Marshalls remain in one spot, watching all the players come through. Walking scorers and standards bearers stay with one group for 18 holes. Other volunteers are in charge of the practice areas and have a chance to interact with the pros.
However you choose to watch a tournament in person, you’ll have a wonderful time and some great stories to tell afterwards.