At which end of the spectrum are major championships when it comes to growing the game?
If a golfer decided to extend an invitation to a non-golfer in the hope that a certain activity might entice the uninitiated to take-up’ the game, would a major championship be the ideal place? In fact, inviting a non-golfer to attend any professional golf event is probably not a good idea.
First comes the acquisition of tickets, which become available up to one year in advance. In the case of the Masters, tickets are distributed to a long list of patrons renewed annually. Even though gaining possession of a pair is akin to a papal audience and as rare as maple sap running in July, the Masters is the best major tournament at which to introduce a non-golfer to the game.
The whole city of Augusta believes it is responsible for every patron’s enjoyment and comfort for the entire week. Hotels, restaurants, golf course management, gas station attendants, security – everyone makes a contribution to the well-being of tournament guests.
When I last attended, the parking area was grass, covered but located right beside the entrance. Passes were checked, people were processed through high-profile security gates and all the while made to feel welcome.
Once on the grounds, there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t drop their jaw at the splendor of the floral displays. The grass is shaved to an immaculate height, gardens are edged by hand, shrubbery is perfectly shaped and every building is coated in sparkling white wash and crisp black trim.
As you walk along the pathway, you begin to see the driving range/practice fairway, the practice pitching green and the pro shop. There are viewing stands behind the tee area, waiting to offer a comfortable seat to anyone wishing to see the best players in the world.
Strangely, everyone seems to float along at an easy pace because there is no running at Augusta National. Describing the dress code is simple: comfortable, casual to upscale casual.
Also, the timing of the date in early April tells you a hat, a sweater and an umbrella are probably good ideas. Once a person reviews the property via the Internet prior to their visit, their selection of footwear is answered by the obvious need for support and comfort because of the hilly terrain.
The best part is that a non-golfer has so much to enjoy about the natural beauty, the elegance, the easy of food service, the simplicity of the organization and the magnificent shopping that the golf portion is either important or not. The Masters is by far the best choice for a non-golfer to be introduced to golf.
The other majors – the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship – are each different in their own ways, but only to a golfer. To a non-golfer, the experience of attending these would probably not be much different from one to the other.
Beginning with ticket acquisition, the process is basically the same for each by placing an order over the Internet. On the chosen day, the drive to the course that begins the day varies in time, depending on proximity, which of course includes an increase in traffic as you near the event site.
The time it takes to get a parking spot is directly proportionate to the amount of pent-up excitement you both feel in anticipation of entering the grounds.
Next, is the distance you have to walk, either to the patrons’ entrance or to the transportation depot, plus time on the bus. The pleasure derived from this is once again directly proportionate to the amount of rain received in the previous few days upon the grass-covered farmer’s field used for parking.
At this point, it becomes extremely evident how beneficial to the non-golfer your instructions regarding dress code were in respect to weather protection (sweater, jacket, hat), footwear for comfort (running shoes vs. heels) and sunscreen. It also sets the tone for the relationship between a golfer and a non-golfer for the balance of the day
There is a secret to exposing the game to non-golfers through attendance at a major championship – you must view the entire outing through their eyes. You have to think in terms of what would a neophyte think about the whole situation?
They have no clue what the term No. 1 in the world means other than it must be good. They don’t know why someone would sit for hours on a hillside watching competitors hit shots from a downhill lie to pin cut on the right side with a stream 20 feet away on a short par five.
They don’t understand why someone would pay three times the retail price for a soggy hot dog and a warm beer because the concession stand is beside an outhouse that Tiger Woods has used each of the first three rounds.
They don’t understand why they/you had to walk through a muddy parking lot over a mile to catch a bus that dropped you off outside the tournament grounds when you bought your ticket a year ago and paid more than people make in a week and they don’t understand why they have to sit on the ground instead of a comfortable bleacher like it is in baseball.
There is also the issue of price. When you compare the cost of being present at each of the major championships, it makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would do so when they can watch at home on TV for the cost of a few potato chips and a couple of beers. Plus, you get “intelligent” commentary, no sunburn, no sore feet and no traffic jams.
Two tickets to the Masters and the experience is by far the most economic and most enjoyable major championship to attend. Unfortunately, taking a non-golfer would not result in the expected enjoyment level for the neophyte, who would have no idea how many favours were called-in and how much actual money was paid out, even if it is a low price when compared to other sports.
If you are trying to introduce a non-golfer to the game, doing it through a major championship isn’t the best route to follow. It isn’t consistent with taking someone who has never sailed to a boat show, which costs about $150 to $200 when all is said and done.
Golf is an involvement sport. Golfers play and from time to time, they watch. Taking a non-golfer to a tournament does not do justice to the playing component and the organizers of each of the major championships have done little or nothing to make an introduction affordable. They have not approached the presentation of a championship as a vehicle into participation. Their motivation is purely financial.
So, if you have an interest in extending a hand to someone who might enjoy playing golf and becoming part of a wonderful pastime, take them to a lovely course, show them around, arrange for an introduction to the game via a professional teacher, let them develop and then play golf with them.
If the person wishes to attend a professional tournament, buy a couple of steaks and a bottle of wine and watch it on TV. You’ll see more, save a few bucks and miss out on aching feet.