The PGA Championship begins this morning at Whistling Straits golf course in Sheboygan County. For many fans this will be their first opportunity to see professional golf in person--and many of them will likely be going home disappointed. That is because golf is probably one of the most spectator-unfriendly sports there is.
First off, the size of the playing field is massive. We are talking about acres of ground over which the game is played--and fans are limited to narrow strips of that property upon which to walk and follow the action. Add to that, the fact that all of the players are playing on all parts of that property--and at any one time there can be 78-balls in play all at the same time.
I often hear people going to such tournaments saying "I'm going to follow Tiger around for his round"--to which I reply "Good luck with that". My friends and I had the same plan the first time we went to the US Open at Olympia Fields outside of Chicago in 2001. We were right along the rope at the first tee box. Then we were behind a few people along the fairway. And then we were about five people deep around the first green. You couldn't get close to the second tee box or the second green. And then he was able to walk directly through a crossover point while we were trapped by the mass of humanity trying to go different directions along a narrow path. After that it was fleeting glances at Tiger as we jumped six or seven holes ahead of where he was in an effort to beat the crowd.
One option is to sit in any of the bleachers on the grounds--but then you are going to see just one hole--and your favorite players just that one time. That's why the most popular bleacher sections on the course are the ones set up near jumbotrons showing action from everywhere else around the course.
One thing the PGA is doing better this year is that they have moved some of the "fan experience" elements closer to the course itself. It's not a half mile trek to the merchandise tent for some keepsakes this year--and the shuttle buses don't drop you off in Sheboygan and expect you to walk the rest of the way to Haven.
So if you are heading out to Whistling Straits today or over the weekend, keep in mind that you are going to see a lot less golf than you think. My suggestion would be to find a spot on top of one of the highest mounds and to just enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the cooling breezes off of the water. Just be sure to set your VCR to record the TV coverage so you can see everything you missed when you get home.