Steve Carroll’s a veteran watcher of golf’s big four tournaments, so let him guide you through the minefield of getting the best out of a major occasion
You pay your money, you watch your golf. It’s that simple, right? But this isn’t your usual day watching the finest ply their trade. At a major championship, there are all sorts of little traps waiting to be sprung and ruin those special few hours you’ve got to try and train your vision on Tiger Woods.
Never fear, though. With Royal Portrush now very much on the horizon, let me take you through this minefield with four quick tips to help you get the most for your money…
This is a major championship – get there early
If you’ve paid $145, around £115, for a ticket – which was the going rate this week at Pebble Beach – why on earth would you roll up just before midday, having spent the last hour crawling the mile to public parking?
No one’s saying you need to be beating the starter to the 1st tee but if you’d taken on 17-Mile Drive early there was a perfect opportunity to watch some cracking golf before the hordes descended.
This is especially true on the opening couple of days at a major championship, where you are as likely to see Rory McIlroy teeing off at 8am as you are at 2pm.
It’s one day in your life. Get the alarm clock on and get over it.
Sitting in the grandstands all day is a waste
We’ve had this ludicrous situation this week where once you got into a grandstand you could get a ticket from a marshal as you left, which effectively meant you could come and go as you pleased.
This had two effects. The first was a pointless line that stretched back up to 100 yards at some of the more attractive holes as people waited – or hoped more likely – to get a berth in the bleachers.
But there was no chance of that coming off as those that did leave would return with their priceless passes and flash straight past those queuing. They were all wasting their time.
The second was that those who hadn’t quite grasped the in/out concept simply didn’t leave their perch.
I’ve never understood this phenomenon. Why come to a golf course as beautiful as this and then sit in one spot all day?
As much as I want to see birdies on the fantastic short 7th, I also want to see the players clear the big chasm on the 8th. I want to see the beach backdrop from the green at 9 and I want to see the waves crashing into the side of the 18th.
I want to walk the unheralded holes – the ones that aren’t splattered on every poster in the shop. If I’ve got one day in a place like this, I’m going to explore every yard. So should you. And that leads us to…
You’ve got two legs, use them…
You’ve come to see Tiger but all you’re getting is the back of the head of the six-footer whose cannibalised the prime spot on the 1st tee.
In fact, looking down that tee, and the 2nd and 3rd, it all looks a bit busy doesn’t it?
That’s because 30,000 other people have all had the same idea and are just as determined to get their glimpse of DJ and company as they stride away from the clubhouse.
Nearly every major venue I’ve ever been to, though, has had a spot – a couple of holes where the mass of humanity dare not tread.
At Royal Troon it was by the 10th tee, at Royal Birkdale it was the stretch around the 12th and 13th, and at Pebble Beach it has been from the 11th to the 13th greens.
All of these had one thing in common. They were a bloody great trek from the sanctuary of the fan zone.
It takes about half an hour to get from the first tee to the fairway on 11 at Pebble but the eight deep rows you’ve been practising your Phil Mickelson calf pull-ups at have disappeared.
Following McIlroy on Friday, it was impossible to catch a glimpse of the diminutive Northern Irishman as he went through the showpiece holes on the front nine.
But fast forward to his spot in the rough on the 14th and we could have had a conversation. If you’re determined to see the big names, put in the graft and get away from the madding crowd. I promise it will be worth it.
You want to spend some money? Hold your horses…
I know, I know. I’m just like you. You’ve barely got through security, the merchandise tent (it’s actually more of a supermarket these days) is pulling you into its orbit and you’re about to willingly empty your wallet on all sorts of tat.
Still trying to find the most pointless piece of US Open merchandise and reckon it’s got to be part of this collection. I don’t even know what the thing on the top left is… pic.twitter.com/NfNNappvW7
— Steve Carroll (@SteveCarrollNCG) June 15, 2019
But patience can definitely be a virtue here. Yes, there’s a risk that the Pebble Beach branded polo shirt you’ve got your eye on may soon disappear off the shelves.
And that’s a likely scenario if, as in my case, your size is small. There’s not much call for that in the US.
There’s nothing worse, on the other side of the coin, than being the person still wearing their ‘2015 Chambers Bay’ top when everyone else has long forgotten the time the greens were that bad, or when Jordan Spieth had some game.
These things have a shelf life that might not warrant their $115, plus sales tax, price tag.
The official store, though, is not the only game in town. Away from the beaten track at Pebble are a row of stores with all kinds of interesting and luxury items.
You’ll get a bit more bang for your buck with nary a US Open logo in sight.