Fans watching the PGA Pro Am at Spyglass

How to watch a golf game

By Matt Payne

Fans watching the PGA Pro Am at Spyglass
Fans watching the PGA Pro Am at Spyglass

The majority of sporting events are relatively easy to watch. You read a little bit about each team, get to know the players, buy your ticket, go to your seat and then the only challenging part is determined by how hard you have to squint to see the action.

This however is not the case for golf. Much of what you watch is a tiny white ball going extremely high in the air at an unfathomably absurd speed (oftentimes into blinding sunlight). It’s a sport that makes a challenge of trying to locate a score, a feat that’s virtually impossible unless you have a smart phone (and if you do, the odds are that a marshall will demand you not use it within fifty feet of any player or hole).

Different players start at different times and different holes. They don’t wear jerseys nor any type of indentifying numbers and, with the exception of the first tee, there is no announcer informing the audience what is happening. While golf enthusiasts may recognize a golfer’s face from the television, under the bill of a hat and twenty-five yards away without the aid of a Jumbotron, even the most literate fan may not have any idea who they are watching.

In the spirit of the Pro Am at Pebble Beach just outside Carmel, here are ten ways to make watching golf a more enjoyable experience:

1.  Park it. Find a pretty spot and take a seat. It could be a tee box or a green but you will know where you are, what all is around you, and you will be able to see each and every player pass by. The downside is that while you may see a lot of putting, you won’t get to watch some of those epic drives and you don’t get the chance to check out what is most-likely a beautiful course.

2.  Find someone that you like and follow them. Check the tee times in advance, figure out when they are teeing off and then get there a bit early. Many people do this, so if you show up a few minutes before their tee time, you can work your way to the front ropes and get a great look at an impressive drive.

3.   A little bit of both. This is easier said than done. The ultimate goal is to see as much of the course and as many players as possible without wandering about aimlessly. By having a list of tee times and a map of the course, you can always be aware not only of what is happening on the hole that you are watching, but also what is happening on the holes in your immediate area. Holes frequently intersect and if your timing is right, you can tack back and forth, see a lot of players and a lot of holes and all without breaking out in too tough of a sweat running from one end of the course to the other.

4.  Stay slightly ahead of the crowd. Most holes don’t have grandstands. If you’re not the tallest kid in class and wind up even two people back from the ropes, the only way you’ll know something good or bad has happened is by the collective groan and cheer. When your player has hit his ball and watches for it to land, start moving. Being just a few seconds ahead of the crowd will ensure you a great spot close to the action.

5.  Don’t fear binoculars. They are clunky and not particularly cool but if you are a long way away from the scoreboard, you can scope it out. You can also see those micro-expressions that you are accustomed to seeing on television. Also, people are less likely to stand in front of a guy with binoculars. (It is kind of like hitting a guy with glasses; it just doesn’t happen that often.)

6.  Plan your snacks. Often it takes twenty minutes for players to work through a hole. You might set out on a series of holes not hungry but if you didn’t grab a hot dog or a pretzel, after you’ve been walking and standing in the sun for an hour or two, you are probably going to be pretty hungry.

7.  Restroom usage. See number six. Even more important if you are enjoying the copious amounts of booze available at most tournaments.

8. Plan your wardrobe. Temperatures rise and fall. Often some holes are in the woods while others run along the water changing the temperature dramatically. Tournaments are longer than most sporting events and a sunny day can unexpectedly turn to a rainy one. As for shoes, you will be walking roughly four miles. Choose accordingly.

9. Anticipate the end. By paying attention to the scores (which is easier with binoculars if you can’t use your cell phone), you will know when the really tense moments are building and that way when it is time to get to an important moment in the tournament, you will be ahead of it and won’t only hear about it as a massive eruption of cheer emerges from five holes away.

10. Go with the flow. Odds are you are going to miss some things. So what? You’re also going to see a lot of things everyone not where you are going to miss.