By Tyler Olson
You and thousands of others push towards the gates of a football stadium. After a couple of hours of tailgating, the crowd smells of bratwurst and spilt beer. The group lurches forward as, one by one, the bored employees scan everybody’s $80 tickets. Upon entering the stadium, you search the signs to find your section- 328- and realize that you’ll have to climb a circular ramp for what seems like an eternity to reach your uncomfortable plastic seat that’s so far from the action the players on the field, despite being giant freaks of nature, appear no larger than a group of Lego-men.
This isn’t a knock on watching football by any means. In person or on TV, football is a blast to spectate. However, this scene holds true for nearly every NFL game and exists in similar forms in the MLB, NHL, and just about any other professional or college sport. The games are fun to go to, but unless you’re shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the best seat in the house, you’re missing something in the experience.
For those who missed it, last Friday I took over the Golf Swagger snapchat (golf_swagger) from the Quicken Loans National played at Congressional Country Club. I posted on our story pictures and videos of some of the best groups, players, shots, and views that Congressional had to offer during that second round. Before Friday, I had not been so fortunate as to attend many golf tournaments in person. In fact, the only other one I’ve attended was the last year’s edition of the QL National. For those who haven’t ever been to a pro tournament, I’m here to report that you absolutely have to because they’re so much better than any other sporting event in existence.
First off, a grounds ticket to a regular PGA Tour stop is no more than $40 or $50 (with a $15 discount if you happen to have a college ID on you). But a grounds ticket is no nosebleed, as one might think based on the price. On the contrary, a grounds ticket gets you as close to the action as physically possible. The ropes that line the fairways put you mere feet from the best players in the world, and, when the best players in the world make mistakes, you get to be part of the action (ouch), or at least get even a little bit closer to it. Case in point: At the QL National last week, Justin Thomas snap hooked his drive on the fifteenth eighty yards off-line. Several other members of the gallery and I sprinted over to get a look at his lie. As Thomas was walking up, we were able to examine the lie and stand behind his ball as if we were hitting the shot ourselves. Because his errant drive was outside the ropes, there was nothing preventing us from getting as close a view as possible (except a couple volunteers who made sure he had enough room to swing) as he lined up an impressive rescue shot over some trees and ended up saving par. No other sport allows that kind of proximity to the athletes. Last year at the same tournament, Ernie Els needed to duck under the ropes to get from one green to the next tee box. He walked straight at me and, being courteous, I held the rope up for he and his gigantic frame to walk under. He smiled at me and in his South African accent said, “Thank you brother.” Try to get experiences like those at Yankee Stadium for $40.
Another element that makes golf so much better is the time you are in the event. A baseball or football game may last three hours while a basketball game may be over in just two. For one low price, attendees at golf tournaments can spend sun-up to sun-down watching their heroes play the greatest game on earth.
The final cool element of these golf tournaments is the promos, games, and free stuff that tournament sponsors have for the fans. A yearly fixture at the QL National is the “Shot for Heroes”. Fans had a chance to take two swings at a pin 60 yards away. Quicken Loans donated certain amounts to the Tiger Woods Foundation and Operation Homefront for each participant, each shot that landed in a sixteen-foot circle, and $10,000 for any shot holed out. Golfers who landed in the 16-foot circle received a sleeve of balls and anybody to hole out the shot would have gotten a matching $10,000 check from QL in addition to the charity donation. Geico staged a putting competition for a fuzzy gecko headcover. AT&T handed out sunglasses. Top Golf and Golf Smith gave out coupons to their respective establishments like candy. All total, I took home about double what I paid for admission in free stuff.
If you attend PGA Tour events regularly, you’re probably laughing at my recent discovery. If you don’t, I highly recommend you head to a tournament in the very near future, because, not only is golf the greatest game on earth top play, it’s the best to watch too.