How to Enjoy The PLAYERS Without Annoying Real Golf Fans
Not for professional golf fans -- these tips are for the clueless newbies like me attending TPC Sawgrass for the first time.
So you've been dragged into going to The PLAYERS Championship even though you don't know a single thing about golf and you've never been to a golf event in your entire life. Being on a stadium course can be a mind-boggling maze of ropes and hand signals and people in polos either yelling at you or pouring you a drink.
For someone who's never found themselves at a PGA Tour event, it's very different from other sports. There are no cheerleaders, no chants, no large posters and painted faces (although, actually, why not?). In fact, it makes spectating at other sports seem incredibly simple, considering that most times you just go sit your butt down, stay there, and everything comes to you (including foul balls).
That's why I'm here. I don't know anything about golf even though I've grown up in a land of greenways. I've gone to experience The PLAYERS Championship as a beginner and lived to tell the tale--everything is going to be okay, and the PLAYERS is actually a very fun event. So fun in fact that you could easily spend an enjoyable day on the grounds chilling at the various dining areas and walking through the pro shop, and leave still not understanding anything that's happening.
The PLAYERS is happy to welcome people who are new to golf, but there are some important rules around the sport to follow. These rules help to respect the golfers who are competing, the volunteers who are trying to facilitate the crowds, and the other attendees.
So grab a pen and paper and take notes for this important golf etiquette lesson — there will be a quiz.
Shut Up and Stop Moving
One of the first things I noticed as I was loudly chatting away and walking around the course, is that suddenly mine was the only voice I could hear. That's because this was happening:
When the volunteers stand like this with their hands up, it means "Shut up and stop moving," or more accurately "Stop and be quiet." It's just for a few seconds, and it helps allow the competitors to concentrate on their swing. Sounds crazy, but hitting a tiny white ball with a slim rod requires a great deal of focus (I'm being sarcastic, it's not crazy at all that this is difficult, and it's why I barely make par at the putt putt range let alone the actual TPC Stadium course.)
The "Be quiet and stand still" doesn't just mean to stop talking. It means "don't make sounds," including the very loud click sound that a camera makes when the shutter slams down (or the pretend shutter sound your phone makes when it's not on silent mode). The PLAYERS is happy to let you take photos and snap your time at the TPC, but make sure you wait for the all clear or turn your phone on silent.
Remember, photos must be for your own personal use. If you're using it for business or giving a play-by-play of everything that's happening, you must apply for a media credential and follow the rules for capturing tournament content.
Don't Drink and Drink...and Drink
Enjoy your drinks, and don't let your drinks enjoy you.
There are an incredible number of bars and drinking spots at Sawgrass. The selection of drinks you can find is exceptional. Doesn't matter if you're a wine connoisseur, a whiskey snob, or a beer kinda dude or dudette. Whatever your poison, don't get so drunk that you disturb the people around you or end up needing medical attention. Also, remember to have a ride if you decide to drink.
A special area of the tournament allows Uber drivers to come pick you up while another area serves for carpooling should you need a ride home after downing all those Arnie Palmers (JK, there's no alcohol in those, but they are very delicious).
Listen to the Volunteers
In general, listen to the directions the volunteers give you -- especially when it comes to navigating the course. A series of ropes are set up, and in order to allow the competitors and their caddies to move from one hole to another, the volunteers will temporarily move the ropes to open up a new path. When this happens, wait behind the line until they've said it's okay to pass again.
If you have a question, before you go to the course volunteers, consider hitting up one of the information kiosks. They've got maps and tee times along with answers to any questions you may have. The main job of the rope people is to move the ropes so they might not always be in a position to help you.
No Autographs Means No Autographs
I don't care if Rickie Fowler is right in front of you being amazing and oh my goodness, he's literally feet away from you and it'd be so easy to just yell for him. NO AUTOGRAPHS ON THE COURSE.
If you do want autographs, these areas will be clearly marked with signs that basically say "It's okay to get an autograph here." So if the sign says "No Autographs," be respectful and let the golfers get on with it.
PGA Owns Everything
In case you aren't aware, most sports organizations work hard to protect their product. The PGA Tour works very hard and there are many guidelines and rules about how to record and report on the TPC if you are media personnel.
First off, in order to do anything of this nature, whether you're a social media influencer or a tourism industry professional like me or a freelance photographer, you must apply for proper media credentials. Even with media credentials, it's important to know that at the end of the day, the PGA Tour owns the rights to the media taken on their property. "What about the photos in this article?" Yes! Everything.
While most stadiums don't allow smoking, Sawgrass is a huge open space which means smoking a cigar with your buddies isn't (terribly) annoying at all. Just make sure you're not blowing huge smoke clouds in the face of strangers. If you have some nice smokes, this is the place to bring them.
With a green light like that, consider stopping by some of St. Augustine's tobacco shops. They're stocked with all the accessories and variety of cigar brands for a celebratory smoke.
Don't Walk the "Carts Only" Tracks
There are these signs, and they say "Carts Only." What it essentially means is that if you aren't battery operated and equipped to carry multiple passengers, then don't take this path. There's a completely separate path for vehicles like yourself.
Throw Away Your Crud
Food glorious food is available from a variety of stands. Options include Mexican, barbecue, and deli sandwiches. The best part is that a lot of these restaurants are local which further adds to the tournament atmosphere at Sawgrass.
So grab a plate and chow down, but please please please place your disposable food byproducts into the appropriate garbage receptacles, and recycle that which is recyclable.
You Must Have a Parking Pass Before You Come
This can't be said enough. You must have a paid parking pass on the dashboard of your car before you come rolling up to the PLAYERS on Thursday through Sunday. Parking is plentiful, but PGA Tour loves providing alternate options including coming by Uber, golf cart, bicycle, or carpooling. In fact, you can get a free parking voucher if you bring four or more passengers in one car. But again, YOU MUST HAVE THE PRINTED PARKING PASS VOUCHER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS, and you're going to have to print one out for each day.
PGA? More like TSA
Okay, that's a drastic comparison, but The PLAYERS does have a very clear bag policy and list of prohibited items. Make sure you don't show up at the gate with things that shouldn't be on your person or you'll be sent back to your car to leave it behind (trust me, after a day at the TPC, you won't need those extra steps).
Some items are obvious no-nos such as fireworks, laser pointers, and guns. Others are more obscure items such as point-and-shoot, film, or DSLR cameras during competition rounds, lawn chairs, and seat cushions in a carrying case. Bags 6" x 6" x 6" or smaller are allowed, but any larger than that isn't permitted.
Remember that a lot of items are allowed as long as you don't have them in a bag, so if it's an umbrella or collapsible chair, just remember that you're going to have to lug it in by itself.
Okay, Quiz Time!
Did you think I was kidding?