Of course, every golf fan in the world wants to attend The Masters.
And the U.S. Open, The Open and the PGA Championship. Pro golf's four majors offer the best fields, the biggest stakes and the most excitement. Attending as a spectator affords anyone the chance to witness history.
Attending a regular old PGA Tour event can be just as compelling ... as long as you pick the right one. We've come up with the 10 best PGA Tour tournaments worth attending as a spectator. It's not always about the golf tournament, either. Sometimes, it's just as important, if not more, when and where the tournament is held.
Would you rather be in Detroit in July or La Quinta, Calif., in January. Yeah, I thought so (no disrespect to my old stomping grounds in the 313, either). The best Tour stops allow fans to play golf before, after or even during the tournament. One day, you can watch Rory play and the next mimic his swing on a great course nearby. Sound fun? Start planning. We've added a golf package to every selection to help.
What PGA Tour events have you attended as a fan in the past? Tell us what you liked or didn't in the comments below.
Waste Management Phoenix Open, Scottsdale, Ariz.
When I last visited the Waste Management in 2012, Will.i.am was the headline concert at the Birds Nest and the "Stadium" on hole 16 looked about half the size of what it is now. The pandemic turned out the lights on the golf party known as the 'Greatest Show on Grass'. In 2021, fewer than 20,000 fans were allowed on the grounds of the TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course, a paltry number compared to the record of nearly 720,000 in 2018. Masks are still required indoors for 2022, but let's hope the crowds and the energy return. Phoenix/Scottsdale is America's No. 1 winter golf destination thanks to an overwhelming collection of golf resorts and premier desert courses. If you can only attend one out-of-town PGA Tour event in your lifetime, why not go big?March 21, 2019A dream golf destination in America's southwest, there are many ways to experience spectacular golf here. The Phoenix-Scottsdale mecca boasts 200-plus courses and an array of world-class resorts and spas. Or, experience scenery and seclusion in smaller Tucson. Summer golf can be comfortable too in high-altitude climes like Sedona and Flagstaff. Name your game and Arizona's got a package for you.
Sentry Tournament of Champions, Kapalua, Maui
The TOC boasts so many selling points: Maui, Maui and Maui. In January. The event also allows spectators on Kapalua Resort's stunning Plantation Course to get much closer to the players than traditional Tour stops. Who cares that it's a limited field or a few big names skip the chance to play in paradise? You don't even have to bring the clubs, although there are three courses in Wailea and two in Ka'anapali if you do. You'll still have a great time dining, shopping in Lahaina, tanning on the beach, snorkeling, whale watching, driving the road to Hana, whatever.
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Like the SoCal version, the Pebble Beach pro-am has lost a little luster attracting excellent fields in recent years - for the pros and celebrities alike. Still, you'd be crazy not to spend a February week experiencing the "Crosby Clambake" in full seaside splendor. Fans can sample a different course each day: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course. My son and I have hit the jackpot during the pro-ams we've attended, getting autographs from Dustin Johnson, Mickelson and several San Francisco Giants. Attending the charity event on Wednesday is a great way to land them. You can stay and play at any of the three local golf resorts - Carmel Valley Ranch, Quail Lodge and Hyatt Regency Monterey.
The Players Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The PGA Tour's flagship event rolls out the red carpet for fans and the players. It annually attracts one of the deepest fields in golf. The mounding created by Pete Dye that makes the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course so tough also makes it so easy for fans to watch the action unfold. There isn't a ton of great public golf in greater Jacksonville, but maybe after a couple days at the tournament, it's worth a detour to play on Amelia Island (home to Omni and Ritz-Carlton golf resorts) or the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, a charming and historic town definitely worth your time.
Fortinet Championship, Napa, Calif.
A fall series event, notorious for weak fields, as a top-five selection? You bet. This tournament has been recognized no. 1 among "Fan-First" PGA Tour events in the past. Fortinet, a new sponsor in 2021, has continued the emphasis on beer, wine, spirits, food and live music that previous sponsor Safeway brought to Napa Valley in 2014. Live concerts are held on the mansion front lawn once the final putt drops Thursday through Saturday nights, attracting acts like Weezer, Bush and Billy Idol. There's no need to go wine tasting or dining out (although you will anyway). Local wines and food by Thomas Keller, the celebrity chef at The French Laundry, are served from pop-up restaurants and lounges set up on the North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa. Fall is the best time of the year in California wine country. Teeing up a pair of wine-themed golf courses, Chardonnay and Eagle Vines, will complete a memorable stay.
The American Express, La Quinta, Calif.
It's true that the American Express (the old Bob Hope) isn't the golf-fest that it used to be. Even so, a few big names still show up (like Phil Mickelson) and anybody who's complaining while visiting California's Coachella Valley in January deserves a head check. There's an endless supply of sunshine to go along with an endless itinerary of golf courses and resorts to experience. I wouldn't blame anyone who bought single-day tickets and then moved on to other things. This year, a $125 Friday ticket included a concert with Maroon Five on the driving range at PGA West (Country stars Brad Paisley and Luke Bryan and Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks have also performed since 2020). Nature lovers might want to explore Joshua Tree National Park or ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway into the mountains.
Farmers Insurance Open, La Jolla, Calif.
San Diego in January? Um, yeah. The draw of the Farmers is to see La Jolla's ocean cliffs for yourself and walk a Torrey Pines South Course that has hosted two incredible U.S. Opens (2008 and 2021). The weather should be ideal. The field is usually pretty solid. And there's endless things to do away from the tournament. Go hiking. Tour the sea caves by ocean kayak. Play golf at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Maderas, Coronado or Omni La Costa Resort. Visit the San Diego Zoo. Dine in Old Town.
Tour Championship, Atlanta, Ga.
It's hard to gauge where the season finale to the FedEx Cup chase should rank on our list. East Lake is an iconic venue and Atlanta a great city. Problem is, its best golf rings the city and the traffic jams to find these courses (Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, Stone Mountain, Lanier Islands, Bear's Best Atlanta) are legendary. A limited field of only 30 players seems like a deterrent until you realize that these the hottest golfers on the planet battling for the biggest cash prize in the sport. August isn't the ideal time to be walking a golf course in 'Hotlanta', though.
RBC Heritage, Hilton Head, S.C.
The tournament the week after The Masters is a great place to unwind. The field competing at Harbour Town Golf Links can be hit or miss, but you might see the pros who do show up around the island enjoying its laid-back vibe. If you can't get on the other two courses at Sea Pines, there are 54 holes at Palmetto Dunes and 36 more at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa. Tee times off-island in Bluffton will be slightly cheaper.
WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin, Texas
Austin's Tour stop sneaks in just ahead of Las Vegas (Shriners), L.A. (Genesis), Orlando (Bay Hill), Connecticut (Travelers) and others. It's got all the BBQ and live music/a lively bar scene that any golf traveler could want. You'll have to drive to the outskirts to find its best golf at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines or Omni Barton Creek (farther out is Horseshoe Bay Resort), but there are some nice local munis. The private Austin Country Club setting on Lake Austin is spectacular. Plus, the match play format makes for more compelling golf. The downside is, as the field dwindles as guys are knocked out, that means less golf to watch.