Let’s be real- your first time at a Major golf tournament can be a bit overwhelming. Come prepared with advice from a spectator with experience. 

April is on the horizon and with it comes the biggest events of the golf season. After snagging tickets to the Tour Championship last August (the epic conclusion to the PGA season, held at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta during the peak of summer’s glory), I’ve been longing to see the Majors, newcomers, and drama of 2022. 

That time, my friends, is now. Are you ready to see the action up close? Are you envisioning the shouts of “Get in the hole!” behind every tee box? Well, before you go, here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your tickets. 

Come Prepared

A full day on the course  is no joke. Bring a small backpack stocked with sunscreen, a water bottle (insulated is a plus) and snacks for replenishment. Plan for the weather. If the weather is spotty, pack some rain gear or a light jacket. 

Wear comfy shoes; your feet will thank you for it. At the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, I underestimated how hilly the course was and felt the fallout for days. Even if you don’t plan on navigating the entire 18 holes, there’s still a lot of ground to cover between the practice areas, merchandise tents and signature holes. It also wouldn’t hurt to challenge a few friends on some fitness apps– you’ll easily clear 10,000 steps in a day.

Consider fueling up when you first get there. Drink some water and eat something with substance to prepare for the beer later on. The food pavilions are generally clearer in the early parts of the day, so it’s best to do that before the action really starts. I highly recommend the fresh-squeezed lemonade stand.

Learn from the Warmups

Keen for some tips from the best? While you might not get a one-on-one lesson with Bryson or Phil, you can learn a lot by observing the routines of these guys as they get into the swing of things. 

How long are players spending on each part of their games? In what order do they warm up? At the PGA Championship, my husband pointed out that most of the players were starting with putting. They would head over to the range, do their long game, then finish up on the green one last time. Why? So that right before they went to the first tee, they had the speed of the greens ingrained in their hands. You know the saying- drive for show and putt for the moolah

The short game area is fun to scope out because you really get to see the imagination of these pros. Like all the Tiger compilation videos will show you, lies around the green are an opportunity to get creative and pull off some mind-blowing shots. Take note of players’ setup positions – are they playing a chip more forward in their stance? Are they landing a high pitch close to the hole or running the ball up to the pin? Every player has his own style so it’s a great source of knowledge to observe how the cream of the crop tackle shots that you’ll likely have too.

Location, Location, Location

It’s important to determine how much walking you’re up for. If you want to lay low, you can never go wrong with the grandstands. Grandstands behind par threes are a good choice because you can still see the players hit and there’s the excitement of a possible ace. 

Signature holes lend wonderful views. The 18th will always have a grandstand so you can watch players come in, especially on Sunday. Or maybe there’s an infamous green that players struggle on every year? The 13th at East Lake had a notoriously slippery green and it was fun to watch players tap their putts only to watch in frustration as the ball slid 10 feet past the hole. 

If you want to be a bit more mobile, invest in a cheap folding chair that you can prop anywhere on the course. And if you want a more luxurious experience, you may opt for an upgraded ticket that offers VIP access to air-conditioned pavilions across the course. For the RBC Heritage in a few weeks, I’m considering splurging on upgraded tickets to Doc’s BBQ at 15, which includes a buffet lunch and full bar service overlooking the 15th green.

Lights, Camera, ‘FORE’?

If you want to get up close and personal to your favorite players, try standing about 290-310 yards out from the tee box as the group is teeing off. This may sound funny, but with a little bit of luck (not so lucky for the players), an errant drive might hook or slice off the fairway and land right where you’re standing. You’ll get a magnifying look at how the pro gets out of the trouble and you might even make it into the camera frame. Bonus points if you get hit; it doesn’t hurt that badly, and you’ll get some signed gear out of it.

Practice Rounds

Not only are tickets for Wednesday practice rounds cheaper, but you’ll get to see the players more relaxed. Thursday through Sunday when they are dialed in, you sometimes won’t get that fist bump, head nod or autograph. Wednesday, before the competition has officially begun, is a different story. You’ll hear the banter and laughs between pros as they nonchalantly hit a few putts to test the speed. Players also tend to hang around for autographs afterwards or sign hats and balls mid-round, not distracted by their performance. Staying at the range is another good method if you want to collect some autographs and tell your favorite guy you’re rooting for him this week. 

Have Fun!

Most importantly, enjoy yourself! Eat that pimento cheese sandwich, order that transfusion, and immerse yourself in the excitement of Tour events and this great sport that connects fellow sticks, hacks and pros alike.

Victoria Igoe

Victoria Igoe is a lefty who somehow took up the game righty and has questioned life ever since. Having played at the Division I level, she brings her own putter to miniature golf and loves some good old-fashioned competition. When she’s not playing or writing about golf, she loves to spend time with her husband, John, paint putters, and hit the gym (to gain distance of course).