Don’t know a birdie from a bogey? Who cares! This penultimate event in the PGA Tour playoffs (September 6–11) promises excitement and drama on the greens of Crooked Stick Golf Club, even for newbies. After all, the event was named Tournament of the Year the last time it swung by, in 2012. Here are tips and tricks for making your approach.
Don’t bother arriving at the crack of dawn.
Crooked Stick can get crowded—all told, 150,000 will show up over the course of the week—but it’s not like the Masters.
Still, parking will be a hassle.
Yes, there are free lots with a shuttle and Uber, but why not upgrade? Rent a BMW for the week so you can park in a special owner’s pavilion.
Now grab a map and get your bearings.
You’ll enter near the 18th tee.
Who Ya Got?
Watching is always more fun when you have someone to pull for. Among the top 70 PGA players coming, you might follow defending champ Jason Day or 2012 winner Rory McIlroy. But remember, it could be anyone. In a now-legendary tale from 1991, John Daly, a ninth alternate, drove through the night from Memphis, eschewed a practice round, and won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick.
Pick a Way to Watch!
Option 1: Stick With A Group
Low-maintenance, solid cardio.
If you’re following Jordan Spieth or Jason Day (neither of whom have ever played Crooked Stick), you’ll have significant company. “But even with huge crowds following, it’s not like 40 deep along the fairways,” says Ann-Marie Deets, who has volunteered since the early ’90s and is this year’s co-chair of corporate hospitality.
Option 2: Camp at a Hole
If you pick one close to a concession area, it’s like day-camping with a wine bar. “No place really gets filled up except maybe the bleachers on hole 1 and 18 at the end of the day,” Deets says. “You can be on a green five feet from a championship, depending on where you sit.”
Potential restlessness. That’s a lot of sitting.
Option 3: Play Leapfrog
Watch a group, then jump ahead two or three holes. You’ll get super close to the action—and you’ll avoid traveling with the herd if you’re following a big shot.
A lot more downtime than usual.
Option 4: Watch From the Biergarten
It’s a beer garden. The place also shows college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday. It recently moved to the 18th Tee box near the Merchandise pavilion.
It’s a little removed from the action.
Or, If You’re Fancy
The 1899 Club along the 14th green offers stadium seating and reserved tables. And if you have a BMW key, you can unlock the BMW Owners Pavilion between holes 16 and 17. Thirty luxury skyboxes have been added to the 17th green, and more were tacked on to the 14th as well.
» After all these years, Caddyshack references are still welcome.
» Shouting “Get in the hole!” works only about 10 percent of the time.
» You can either have a pink shirt or a popped collar. Both would be a bit much.
» A tournament event is about the only acceptable place to break out your Skittles-colored pants. Even so, you might think twice.
» HOLE IN ONE! Proceeds from the tournament go to the Evans Scholars, a fund that awards full college tuition to caddies who need assistance—to the tune of $21 million in the past nine years.
» If you need something, ask a volunteer. There are 2,200 and they’re mostly locals. Looking for directions, a water fountain, or Bubba Watson? They’re your oracles.
» Do Bring: Sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and a water bottle.
» Don’t Bring: Golf shoes (unless you’re a dork), giant old cameras, or your dog.
» Hazard! No cameras, except on practice days (Tuesday and Wednesday). Cell phones (on silent) are allowed, but picture-taking isn’t from Thursday through Sunday.
» Hurry Up and Wait: TV does a masterful job of cutting together golf tournaments so they look speedy and efficient. That is fiction! Two guys show up about every 20 minutes over the span of many hours, so get comfortable.
Hole 6: Crooked Stick’s signature fairway—it’s the one with the red bridge from the pictures—is a zippy par 3.
Holes 8 and 9: Near the clubhouse, so you can keep an eye on the practice range.
Hole 17: A redesigned par 3, and if you reach the peninsula, you can see the 18th fairway and the greens on 16 and 17. It’s also close to the clubhouse. “The scoreboard’s right there, the concessions are very close, and there’ll be competition down the stretch,” says Vince Pellegrino, senior vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association. (This event is one of his favorites.)