How To Watch A Pro Golf Tournament
With the Rocket Mortgage Classic back in town this week, I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media asking about the best way to watch a professional golf tournament.
I’ve been to quite a few — both as a spectator and as a journalist. Here’s my take on the matter of watching a pro golf tournament.
My first advice is to arrive early, before the parking lots fill up and the lines at the entryway become long. If you’re going to get your dollar’s worth from the ticket, you’ll want to maximize your time.
Don’t lose the pamphlet they’ll give you on the way through the gates. It’ll have tee times, and a map of the locations of food venues and restrooms.
I usually stay all day long — or until the heat gets to me. If you’ve got access to one of the posh corporate tents, you’re set: head out for a couple of hours, and then return to air conditioned luxury when it gets to be too much.
For the less well-heeled among us, there’s usually air conditioning in the merchandise tent, and occasionally in larger food tents or in the pop-up businesses and displays in the fan zone.
My favorite way to take in a tournament is to start with a group on the first hole, and follow it through to the end. If I’m there for just one day, I’ll do that first thing in the morning. If I’m there multiple days I’ll do that the morning of the first day I’m there. Tee sheets you get at the gate will let you know who is teeing off when.
On Saturdays, I look at the tee times and resolve to follow one of the final three groups. On Sunday, the instinct is to follow the lead group. One of the earlier ones may very well have the eventual winner, however, and will have smaller crowds.
Following a group offers a good look at the course, and a sense of how a round develops. You’ll see how the players proceed down the fairways, reading how the body language changes from shot to shot, watching how they compose themselves between between holes.
The experience can real eye-opener for a golf fan who has not seen a live tournament before. In-person golf is nothing like television coverage. There’s an ebb and flow which doesn’t emerge on the screen, as the cameras jump back and forth between holes and players.
In the afternoon, I like to find a good shady spot — preferably on a par three where I can see both the tee shot and the putt. I’ll stay there for several hours, letting the players come to me. It’s a good way to see a large portion of the field.
If I’m at the tournament for several days, I’ll spend some time just wandering. Between the app and the scoreboards, you can easily figure out where players are, especially if you have spent a morning following a group over the entire course. If the scoreboard shows someone making a move, you can use the app to figure out what hole they’re on and — with your course knowledge — quickly move to their position.
There also are usually some ancillary activities; a golf simulator, demonstrations and exhibits from various sponsors, maybe a pop-up museum, and even a free massage (yes, I’ve seen several of those). I’m the curious sort, so I enjoy learning new things and think these are fun.
As with any sporting event, there will be plenty of food and beverages, but be prepared to wait in line and pay the same sort of prices you will in a pro sports stadium.