The best fan experiences in golf

Phoenix Open
Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Bubba Watson tosses gifts into the crowd on the 16th hole during the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on January 30, 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona. ()
By John Kim

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Friday, January 31, 2014 | 8:12 a.m.

As the Waste Management Phoenix Open enjoys another raucous and enthusiastic crowd, I posed a question as to whether the fan experience at the annual party at TPC Scottsdale was actually a better "fan experience" than the uber-hyped Super Bowl.

It got me thinking. What are the best fan experiences in golf?

This seemed easy - or so I thought.

A fan experience can take many forms. Is it seeing top players (Hello Augusta!)? Is it being able to be loud and rowdy (Goodbye Augusta!). Is it seeing a beautiful course (Hello Augusta again!). Let's just define it as: something you'll enjoy, remember and treasure.

Here are five of my most notable, listed by date. But we want to know yours, as well. Join the conversation on our Facebook page.





The Waste Management Phoenix Open. Jan. 30-Feb. 2. It's a combination of Mardi Gras, a college pep rally, a Friday night bar crawl - oh, and some of the world's best players. All the attention (rightfully) is on the 16th hole where the crowd is always the star of the show, but the entire tournament, course and city is pretty much one carnival for the largest crowds in golf. If you believe that beer, sundresses and sunshine make for a good time - this is your event.

The Masters. April 10-13. What's the complete opposite of the Waste Management Phoenix Open? This. Meticulous grooming of the course, sweet tea and lemonade is often the drink of choice. Lots of blazers (look for the green ones!) walking the fairways. Great prices on food. You know virtually every hole on the course. And every golfer in the world wants to be there. There are more rules in place here (no running ... ever. No laying down, no cameras/cell phones on tournament days, etc.) but virtually every golf fan in the world is happy to abide. It's that awesome.

The Players Championship. May 8-11. Here it all boils down to one hole - the famous 17th. The island green has become more than a favored viewing spot, it has become a Shakespearean tragedy - being played 145 times (for two days at least), and again 140+ times on the weekend. The crowd sits on the bank and "ooohs" and "ahhhhhs" at every shot. The shot is so simple, and yet, no lead is safe. For sheer lump in the throat and kick in the gut intensity, watch a few groups come through this hole on Sunday. You'll remember it the rest of your life.

PGA Championship. Aug. 7-10. Albeit a bit biased (this is, after all), how can you argue with the major championship that was the first to allow fans to bring phones to the course and set up wifi for them? Already billed as the strongest field in golf, it has a host of Your Game golf-related activities on site and even allowed fans to pick a hole location for the Sunday round of a major!? The emphasis on the fan experience, from the merchandise shops to the walkway layouts are the hallmark of the final major of each season and the fans have responded in kind.
The Ryder Cup. Sept. 23-28. As someone who has been to Ryder Cups both here in the U.S. and overseas - I can state for certain that this is the most unique and probably passionate event in golf, maybe all of sports. It's hard to describe the emotion involved, from the fans to the media to the players themselves. Think SEC football meets WWE - and we all go silent over a four foot putt and half the crowd goes nuts depending on what happens. Now multiply that by 10. That's how I feel at every Ryder Cup.