At first glance, it seems odd for grown-ups to go to a large park by the thousands to watch other adults play. Imagine if you showed up somewhere to watch adults go down slides and swing on poles. (Wait, I just described a strip club. Bad example.)
Regardless, it doesn’t seem natural to watch someone else play golf unless you’re the caddy and someone’s tipping you a few bucks. But millions of people watch golf every year, and it’s actually more fun than you’d expect. People go for different reasons – they might admire greatness, they might network with other fans, they might be hoping for golf tips, or they might be looking for autographs. Heck, I knew someone who wanted an invitation to a Tiger Woods party (back in his married days, of course, when he was more carefree).
If you’ve never been to a tournament, here are a few observations that might help you enjoy the experience a little more.
Expect hills. You know the old saying that TV adds 10 pounds to people on camera? Well, TV smoothes over hills on a golf course. What looks flat in HD actually requires a Sherpa guide and a mountain goat. Wear comfortable shoes that are stylish yet able to hike a mountain ravine, and you’ll be OK. Ladies, that means your heels need to come from L.L. Bean.
Wearing comfortable shoes doesn’t mean middle-aged men can wear bright orange sneakers. Don’t argue. Just don’t do it.
It’s OK to feel sorry for caddies. They’re lugging around golf bags the size of a Smart Car for hours on end. They also rake bunkers, get drinks and snacks for their players, shush people in the crowd, and deal with players’ fits when they do something stupid and need someone else to blame. Heck, the best caddy might just be a preschool teacher. With local knowledge, of course.
You’ll be in the sun. A lot. You need a lot of sunscreen. Sure, there are trees, and you can strategize your way around the course so that you always have a place in the shade, except, of course, for the hundreds of other people planning the exact same thing. A single tree becomes ground zero for a group of hot, sweaty, sunburned fans all struggling to see a grown man hit a ball with a stick. (Not just any stick, of course – one that required more research and development than the supercollider, and one that’s priced slightly higher than your annual electric bill. Nike might be Greek for, “Please mail us your next paycheck.”)
Be careful to use sunscreen on every exposed part of your body. Think you’ve got it covered with face, neck, arms, hands, and legs? What about your ears? Forget those, and you’ll look hopping mad until they peel. And when they peel, you’ll look like a snake with ears shedding its skin. (Why don’t snakes have ears? I’m guessing it’s because they know how they look when they peel. ) I saw one balding fellow at the Memorial Tournament who forgot his baseball cap had a small opening above the adjustable strap in the back. That patch of skin glowed like a setting sun. I could’ve cooked a burger by holding it near his head.
Golfers have goofy nicknames. There’s a Bubba, a Tiger, a Walrus, a Golden Bear, and a Boom Boom, and fans just yell out these names whenever the player hits a shot. This happens when Matt Kuchar is playing, too, but it shouldn’t. No grown man should ever be called “Kooch.”
Some fans yell out nonsense phrases like, “Boo Shaka Laka.” Don’t encourage these people. In fact, don’t even stand near them so nobody thinks you know them. And if you do know them, don’t bring them the next time; your ears (and the players) will thank you.
How about “Booyah?” No. Just no.
Be kind to the volunteers. Sure, some of them have control issues (especially the ones who volunteer to take fans’ phones away), but they’re generally nice people who want to help. I remember talking to a weary marshall during last year’s President’s Cup. “I just wish people would quit calling me, ‘Phone Nazi,’” he said.
If you have to call someone a name, don’t be so lazy that you call them a nazi. “Seinfeld” ended in 1998; it’s time to let it go.
Dump your buddies. That sounds awful, but it works. In my group of buddies, we have one person who likes to walk a little and sit a little; one who wants to find Jason Day; one who likes to park near the 18th green in the early morning to make sure he has a good view of the final putt 10 hours later; and me, who likes to constantly follow players around the course. Compromise is good in most things, but if we tried to make everybody happy, we’d all be miserable. So I dump my buddies, and we meet near the 18th green late in the day.
Finally, don’t forget to thank the guy who sat at 18 all day saving your spot. He might actually deserve a “Booyah.”
(C.W. Grody’s latest book of humor, “Since Before You Were Born,” is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Since-Before-You-Were-Born-ebook/dp/B00EHT3B5G. He’s had 12 other books published, and he’s also written hundreds of articles for national magazines.)