Good for you! You scored tickets to a major golf tournament. What’s that you say? You don’t play golf. But, your friend does, so the two of you are going and you don’t want to look like a complete—well, you know . . .
Do you need a few quick tips on how to make it through the day? Never fear, I’ve been there. As a non-golfer mom in a golfing family, I’ve had to learn a lot about a sport that, growing up, I only saw on TV.
Back then, a golf tournament consisted of players playing the game and fans trooping after them, quietly applauding when the ball dropped into the hole. Talking was taboo, and if you didn’t play golf yourself, you might have had the urge to just head to the 19th Hole and drink a beer instead. But today, at any major golf tournament, there’s so much happening both on and off the course that there’s sure to be something to keep golf-lovers (and golf tagalongs) entertained and happy.
Your first time at a major golf tournament can be pretty confusing. At first glance, it seems that everyone is wandering around rather aimlessly, going in all directions. Fairways seem to merge onto other fairways, and it’s hard to tell how to get from one to the other because you can only cross fairways at designated crossings, and then only when players aren’t coming from the tee. Most of all, people are talking (I thought they were supposed to be quiet). The atmosphere is more like a festival, and maybe that’s really what it is—a festival of golf.
But before you start looking for the craft booths, it might be a good idea to know some golf etiquette for spectators (known as the gallery). You may also want to know what else is going on, especially if you have children with you, and how to get the most out of your time there.
Golf courses can be confusing, especially if you’re “outside the ropes” (players stay inside the ropes). What hole is this? What direction is it going? If they don’t give you one at the gate, pick up a course map, usually available in boxes throughout the course. It will show you the hole numbers and layout as well as the locations of food and drink concessions, restrooms (usually portables), first aid, and other places of interest.
Are you a huge fan of a certain player, or have no idea who’s playing? No matter, just jump in. The course map will probably have the day’s tee times listed, so look for the hole you’re standing at now and start following that group. You can always change your mind. Stop along the fairway and wait for the next group to come up, or cross over to another hole and follow that group. You’ll soon get to know some of the player’s names and may even find a favorite.
Tee shots are how players start their rounds and that’s a good start for you too. Find the grandstand at the first tee and watch several groups tee off. Grandstands may also be located at other significant holes and offer a chance to sit for a while if you didn’t bring your own folding chair. Learn what is the “signature hole” or which holes are considered difficult and station yourself there for a while. You can finish at the 9th or 18th greens where players finish their rounds, depending on which hole they started. Look for the Leaderboard for the final scores or to see who is still playing.
You are allowed to talk but know when and where. If you’re near a player who is about to strike the ball, keep quiet and stand still. Also, don’t snap a photo at that moment. The shutter sound could disturb the player. Don’t talk to players while they are on the course, but after they’ve finished their round and signed their scorecard, you can ask for autographs. And remember, keep cell phones on quiet at all times.
Most major golf tournaments have additional activities located around the course. Don’t miss the Merchandise tent for t-shirts, clothing, and golf accessories with the tournament name emblazoned on them. Tournament sponsors offer things to do to entice you into their tents such as putting, photography backdrops, and the chance to try-out or learn about their products. Bringing youngsters into golf is the best way to increase the game, so do bring the kids and look for junior experiences like clinics and fun activities. Then, after all that, it might be time to head to one of the concessions and have that beer.