The Phoenix Open: A Recipe for Growth

The Phoenix Open is great for the game of golf. There it is, I said it. To anyone who is offended by this statement, or this tournament…keep complaining that golf courses are being closed, that green fees are getting too expensive, and that golf is dying. Because the game will never grow if we can’t embrace even one weekend of change.

I’m the guy who would much rather play golf than attend a golf event. I don’t like being yelled at by volunteers with dumb signs. I lose patience while waiting for the next group to come through. I can’t see the ball in flight. And there’s something about being a millennial surrounded by thousands of collared shirt wearing, high socked retired folks that makes me a little uncomfortable. But being on the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open on Saturday afternoon was different. Sure, everyone was wasted. Sure, there was only a fraction of the people there who actually cared about the golf. But with a breakfast burrito in my pocket, vodka-redbull in hand, and surrounded by a crew of people that I will most likely never see again, it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a golf tournament. Even waiting in line for 4 hours to get in to the stadium was fun. And it’s because the environment was fun.

Sometime, well, a lot of times, I find that people take golf way too seriously. For a game where we whack a ball with a stick, yell some four lettered expletives , and then chase after it only to repeat… no wonder golf gets a bad rap among those who don’t play the game.

So the one tournament of the year in a golf season that literally never ends (see wraparound season), why is it such a big deal that people are loud, don’t always care about golf, and do stupid stuff. If you’re the guy who can’t at least laugh at a naked dude breakdancing his way across the 17th fairway (on a Wednesday, for that matter), you’re probably the guy who calls the marshal when the group ahead of you cheers for their buddy’s first birdie in 4 years. You’re probably the guy who calls in a noise complaint on your neighbours at 9 p.m. on a Friday night.

You’re definitely the guy that golf needs less of.

No one is asking you to go streaking. No one is asking you to condone streaking either. Just have a laugh. It’s like when you duff the ball off the opening tee, or blow a putt by the hole into the water at the front of the green. You can freak out, blame Craig for taking off his glove in your backswing and ask Dave not to move next time you’re lining up. Or you can laugh, acknowledge that golf is hard, you probably don’t practice enough, and there will be many more shots to shank and balls to lose in the future.

This same mentality needs to be applied to the one weekend a year where it’s actually cool to go to a golf event. The one weekend a year where more people are wearing flip flops and less people are wearing foot joys (by the way you don’t need to wear golf shoes to a golf event).

As someone who has taken on a mission of growing the game and changing the public opinion on golf, I strongly urge all of us to stop complaining when people are having fun a golf event. Especially people who don’t play golf. Any non-golfer at the event was exposed to the game in a relaxed and fun setting. Just based on the sheer number of people who attended the event, there would have to be (even a small) percentage of them who developed a new interest in the game. Couple that with the fact that the event definitely does not cause anyone to stop playing golf, and we have a recipe for growth.

And on top of all of it, the boys still went deep. They were all exposed to the same noise and drunk stupidity, but the leaders finished at -18 (Woodland shot a 64, for f*cks sake). So next time that person gets exceptionally angry with you for having a laugh on the golf course, ask them how they feel about the Phoenix Open. There’s a good chance they will tell you that it’s blasphemous, while they threaten to call the marshal on you, while they probably slice it way right and then curse new golf ball technology and throw clubs. Ask them if golf needs a change, they will probably say no. But who cares, they’re dead wrong.

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