The first golf tournament I ever attended was The Masters.
Ridiculous, I know. I got lucky.
After I took my very first step on to Augusta National Golf Club’s stop-in-your-tracks-and-wonder-if-it’s-even-real-grass, I was hooked. Even though that was 19 years ago, I’ve been attending professional golf events ever since. I’ve lost count of how many Tournaments I’ve attended sometime after 30 events of the PGA Tour. I’ve far exceeded that number in LPGA Tournaments.
While each and every Tournament has its own unique venue, with a one-of-a-kind design and layout, there is quite a bit these events actually share in common. For those of you looking to venture out to watch your very first professional golf event, this guide will help you no matter which Tour event you choose to attend.
I recently spent a few days at THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship event in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. One of the first things you’ll need to figure out before you even step on the grounds is the parking situation. Passes are often available for purchase at the same time you buy your tickets and are often a hotter commodity than the ticket themselves. Get yourself a good parking pass, you’ll avoid a lot of additional walking or a bus ride from off-site.
No matter how great your parking pass, you’re still going to do plenty of walking. Comfortable shoes are a must. This isn’t a time to show off those wedges you just found at Nordstrom Rack or your strappy Jimmy Choo stilettos. I’m sure they’re adorable, but you’ll only get your heels stuck in the mud. Think practical. You can still be cute, but functional. I often opt for a pair of tried and true sandals that I’ve already broken in that I know aren’t going to rub or give me blisters. They’ll pair great with a lightweight, flowy dress or shorts and a tank. I would avoid any type of jeans. It’s likely going to get pretty warm being outside at the course all day and jeans would be too hot, anyway. I usually opt for one of these options when I’m attending a Tournament for fun.
Or, feel free to get into the spirit of the event and bust out your golf gear! Throw on a pair of sneakers with your favorite polo and skort and you’ll fit right in. Any of those options would be appropriate. I rock my LPGA branded apparel and wear a pair of sneakers when I’m covering an event for work.
Be smart with your handbag, too. Don’t bring anything too large. You’ll be reminded of this on the back of your ticket that most oversized bags aren’t allowed. I usually bring a small, crossbody that I can just throw on and have my hands free throughout the day. You’ll be glad you did when you have all those bags from going crazy at the merchandise tent. But, I’ll get to that later.
Sunscreen and a hat are also a must. Be sure to load up on sunscreen before you even arrive and bring a small tube that you can throw in your handbag. If you’re at the tournament all day, you’re going to need to reapply to keep from burning. Hats are also a great way to shield yourself from the sun and keep your hair from blowing on those windy days outdoors.
As soon as you arrive, you’ll see little boxes mounted on poles just inside the entrance. These boxes hold a new, pairings guide each day. It lists all the players and their tee times for the round you’re attending. These pamphlets usually include a map of the course, as well as concessions, restrooms and other important sites. Be sure to grab one of these.
In addition to the pairings guide, there are often large TV monitors throughout the course that will rotate with different information. In addition to scores, the boards can tell you the group that is on that current hole. This is another great reference to find out where your favorite players are on the course. These boards are also essential in the event of severe weather. They’ll let you know when there’s a weather warning, delay or if you need to seek shelter.
There seem to be two strategies to watching a golf tournament. The first includes picking out a nice picturesque spot on one hole and watching all the groups play through. You’re also welcome to bring your own foldable, golf chairs. Golf fans are pretty polite, so you can leave your chair at your favorite spot and come back later to find it undisturbed. The upside to staying in one spot is that you’ll get to see a huge number of golfers during the day. The downside is you’re really only getting to see one hole on the course. But if you decide to spend your whole day sitting at the par 3, 12th hole at Augusta National, then disregard my last sentence.
Another way to watch would be to select one group, or a few, that you’d like to follow. The upside is that you’re going to get in a lot more steps this way and you’ll get to see more of the course. The downside is that you’re only getting to see a select number of golfers. It all depends on your priority that day.
Half the fun of going to a sporting event is checking out the food, right? THE PLAYERS Championship had different themed food areas around the property. We stopped to check out one are that featured local restaurants popular in the local Jacksonville area. Another, featured your traditional concession foods like burgers and hot dogs. But more Tournaments are becoming adventurous with their food selections and offering a variety of different food trucks, wine and dine events and more. At many events, there’s as much for the foodies as there is for the golf fan!
If you want to take a break away from the golf, check out the fan zone that is available at many Tournaments. There are often games to play, local sponsors, businesses to check out and food. The Stadium Village at THE PLAYERS offered fans an opportunity to try and hit a miniature version of the famous par 3, 17th hole’s island green. This version was just over 30 yards and made for a lot of laughs!
If you’re lucky enough to attend one of the premier events in professional golf, it’s fun to be able to bring back a memento from your trip. It’s also a great opportunity to buy gifts. Just think of all those friends and family members that always wanted to attend but didn’t get a ticket. Well, at least you can bring them home a little trinket.
There is typically one large merchandise tent on property with other smaller satellite locations. For the best selection, visit the main one. But keep in mind, a visit to the merchandise tent can get quite costly depending on what you’re in the market to buy. There are often higher end items like cashmere sweaters and outerwear that can run you well over $100. But, there are also plenty of moderately priced items like hats that typically go for around $30.
There is usually at least one, if not several holes, that are famous at the course you’re visiting. At THE PLAYERS, the par 3, 17th hole is the signature hole at TPC Sawgrass. Most events allow you to bring your cell phone, so feel free to snap a selfie or get a fellow fan to take a picture for you at some of these iconic holes.
Most Tournaments have a designated autograph zone. Don’t try to approach players during their round on the course, especially during tournament days, because they’re not likely to sign anything. Some tournaments have added a separate autograph area just for children. Look for these areas behind the 18th hole or near the clubhouse.
Have you been to a Tour event? Let us know your best, insider tips in the comments below!