The year is 1987. The course is TPC Scottsdale.
Imagine now you are a golfer, and you made it to the Phoenix Open. You are doing pretty good for yourself, and are a couple shots under par going into the last few holes. You just salvaged a par on the 15th hole, and feeling pretty confident.
You’re next task… The 162 yard par three, 16th hole.
You talk to your caddie and settle on the perfect club. You know it’s an easy shot, but even the slightest mistake can mean devastation to your round. You swing nice and easy, and put the ball within eight feet! The crowd gathered on the 16th goes wild! All fifty of them… That’s right, I said fifty. The now famed, loudest hole in golf sported crowds of fifty or so people!
Now, fast forward 30 years, and the same tournament is being played this weekend.
The same course, the same location, different sponsor (Waste Management Open), and in regards to the 16th hole, the same exact layout. Only difference between then and now? Approximately 19,950 fans that gather. What they have built is nothing more then a spectacle. It is not just the loudest hole in golf, but the most interesting, most entertaining, and the most imaginative. With such notoriety, it isn’t a surprise that it’s met with mixed emotions. Some love the attraction, and some hate the distraction.
The reason I decided to make my second installment of “Take a Bow,” about the 16th hole at Scottsdale is for two reasons. First, obviously because its topical based on the fact I am watching second day coverage as I write this very article, but second because of an article I read regarding the 16th hole.
Link to the article is below.
Here’s why the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale degrades the game
Golf is a game of discipline — including the discipline of silence. The 16th hole at Scottsdale is ruled by the game-show/reality-show mentality that dominates our culture today, and Michael Bamberger says the entire spectacle is awful.
If you don’t want to take the time to read the whole article I’ll sum it up in a couple sentences. The author of the golf.com article is Michael Bamberger. In his article, he spells out why he thinks the 16th hole is yet another attempt to degrade the name of golf. He even goes on to say that the spectacle is down right awful, compared to other tournaments like the Masters in famed Augusta, Georgia.
“The Masters is the Masters because it has had an absolute grip on the cultural expectations of what it means to be a golfer.”
He continues to talk about how he would take a silent par three at Augusta over the rambunctious par three hole at Scottsdale any day. This is where I have problems with the article. Bamberger is thinking with a one dimensional mindset, in a world where golf has to be played and viewed only one way. It has to be the pure game that we see at Augusta, or its not real golf. Now, before you get up in arms, I am not saying anything negative about Augusta.
If it was up to me, I would live in the iconic Augusta National clubhouse, and vacation on Amen Corner, but lets not kid ourselves and think these two courses are the same.
Comparing the Masters to the Waste Management Open is lazy and unfair, because they are completely different beasts. Would you wear a football jersey to church? Or maybe you might wear a nice dress shirt and tie to the upcoming Super Bowl this weekend. You would be a fool, and stick out like a sore thumb if you did either, just like you would look like a fool dressed up as Big Bird at Augusta.
Waste Management Phoenix Open – Round Three
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The point that Bamberger is missing is that TPC Scottsdale is not trying to be on the same level as Augusta National, or honestly any other course/event on Tour. It is its own entity, and that is why it is so beloved by the fans far and wide. They realize that at its crux, golf is entertainment, weather you are playing or watching. People respond to that, and they are coming out in droves to prove that.
Don’t believe me? Lets just take a look at the numbers. Last year alone, 655,434 people attended the event, making it the equivalent of the fourth largest city in Arizona.
This year, they are expecting over 250,000 on Saturday ALONE, and projected to beat the record for largest attendance, which they broke last year. Not to mention with the upgrades in technology, people all across the world can experience Scottsdale like never before. Wish you could be one of the screaming lunatics in the grandstand, well now is your chance!
Virtual reality is now being implemented into the 16th hole! Now I can pretend to be part of the action all the way over on the East Coast! I will however miss out on the Oakley goodie bags Bubba Watson has been throwing to fans in the stands.
Down at its roots, its fun for both the players and fans, and they show it with goodie bags, or dance moves after a long putt. Just brace yourself if anyone aces the hole, because pandemonium will break out! These are the types of things people get excited about, and helps put golf on the map, something it needs right now.
Mr. Bamberger continues in regard to the noise on the 16th.
“What does it do to improve the competition? Nothing. You could say it is a one-off, and it is. But does this one one-off improve the game? No, it doesn’t.”
Improve the game how Mr. Bamberger? Improve the chances of a 12 foot putt going in? Maybe not. Improve the average distance of drives tour wide? Not likely. But improve the viewership and overall popularity of the sport, making it more likely for our youth to join and possibly become the next Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas? Absolutely.
In an age where parents are vowing never to let their kids play contact sports, golf sits waiting with open arms. One thing you did say that I liked is the idea that golf teaches discipline, decorum, and sportsmanship, all qualities parents look for when finding a sport for their kids to play. If Scottsdale means more attention to the game, and more kids playing in the future, I think even you would be OK with that trade off.
Now, your opinion will not change because of this article, and to be honest, you probably will never see this, but in the slim chance you do, I want to just bring this article full circle. I started this article with a visual of where Scottsdale was 30 years ago, and how they have since grown exponentially. This was done with brilliant marketing techniques, and creating something fans will come out in record crowds to come witness. If that progression is an analogy for where the PGA, and for that matter, the sport of golf can do in the next 30 years, I think we will be just fine. Let us appreciate that golf has evolved so much, and we can have Green Jackets at Augusta, and Tucan Sam outfits at Scottsdale, and be proud of both. So, saying all that, please rise, and let all 20,000 fans at the 16th hole, take their bow!
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