Stadium Golf was something I wasn’t aware existed until the start of this month.
But my evening hitting balls on to the pitch at Twickenham Stadium was soon cemented as a unique golfing experience I won’t forget.
It isn’t often you’d attend an event at one of the UK’s most famous rugby union grounds to play golf, but this just points to the exciting nature of Stadium Golf.
It was an idea born during the Covid pandemic that came to fruition in 2021 – the brainchild of President Michael Wiggins who has vast experience in working in American sports.
Having been the Senior Director of Stadium Operations at the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and a consultant at the MLB’s San Diego Padres, Wiggins wanted to create special one-off events in stadiums to allow fans to discover sports grounds as they’d never seen them before.
“When we were at Louisiana State University, we had a couple who were 81 and 83 years old and the wife had been going to games at that stadium since she was three years old,” Wiggins told NCG.
“She enjoyed it so much because she’d seen parts of the stadium she’d never seen before. Fans often go from where they park their car to their seat in the United States. They’ll have a beer in the parking lot, tailgate a little bit, go to the game then drive home.
“She’d been doing that for 80 years and she thanked us for holding the event, which was very heartwarming. And the next question was ‘when are you coming back?'”
This is an aspect some people may not realise before discovering Stadium Golf.
It is designed to highlight unique stadium experiences as you are taken on a journey behind the walls, seeing parts of the ground you wouldn’t see unless you were a player, coach, or executive.
When the Stadium Golf Company held its event at the home of England Rugby, participants were taken through the royal box and the player changing rooms – enhancing the experience beyond just hitting golf balls from a position in the stands.
I arrived at Twickenham on June 7 with England rugby figures Ugo Monye and Danny Care following me in through a pair of double doors that revealed golf simulators and a putting and chipping challenge.
But these amenities are just to entertain you and your friends before you head out to the terraces and hit shots at a number of different targets at an iconic sports ground.
While speaking to different people from the Stadium Golf Tour, and President Wiggins himself, the lasting sentiment I took away was – you need to see it to believe it. It is a concept on paper that could be hard to warm to before you step out into the stands and play.
“It was one of those ‘drinking beer’ ideas that comes up that you usually regret the next morning because you know it’ll never work!” Wiggins added.
“We concentrate on college football stadiums in the US and because of the fervency of the fans – you go to college there, you meet your first love and you meet the friends you’ve had for the last 30 years and you started going to games there when you were 18 and you’re still going now.
“I see the same fervency in the UK with the football clubs here. The first thing you do is support your parent’s club – it’s the first onesie you put on when you’re a baby!
“They’ll go to the stadium for years and years and they’ll only go to their seats. This gives them an opportunity to do things like have a pint in the royal box.
“You get to see different parts of the stadium – it’s almost Ted Lasso-ish! It gives people the opportunity to see what other people see from different viewpoints in the stadium and I just love the reactions you get from people.”
Wiggins revealed the company could branch out to Asia and Europe in 2024, but while still in its infancy, he “doesn’t want to go too far over his skis” just yet.
There are uniquely-designed 9-hole golf courses built from the stands of the stadium and the UK tour is underway with an American schedule coming too.
The Stadium Golf Tour is heading to Stadium MK, the home of MK Dons football club, from July 6-9 and it has already visited Selhurst Park, the King Power Stadium, and Hillsborough in Sheffield.
The tour heads to the London Stadium in October, and there are more events in Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin to come.
Each player is allowed two shots per hole from the nine tee boxes and the scoring system is determined by how close you hit each shot to each pin.
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