it’s all fun– until it isn’t.

If you didn’t see Sam Ryder’s marvelous hole-in-one shot on the 16th hole at the WM Phoenix Open last weekend, don’t worry.

That shot will be replayed as long as there is a game called golf and as long as there is a transmission apparatus to share it. Every year when the tour rolls into Phoenix, there will be constant reminders of the shot heard ’round the desert.

It was fun.

Well, most of it.

What followed – the raucous celebration by fans in the stadium that wraps around the 16th – crossed a line. The spraying of various liquids throughout the grandstands and the throwing of beer cans onto the green and surrounding areas was far removed from the standards of acceptable behavior at a professional golf event.

Sam Ryder Celebrates a hole-in-one on the 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. VIDEO: PGA Tour

The atmosphere at the 16th has been embraced – even celebrated – over the years for being the virtual opposite of practically every other hole in golf. And that has been mostly a good thing. For most of its history, golf has been wrapped in a shield of country-club staidness, sometimes with a polite “golf clap” the expected reaction.

The 16th, with its stadium landscape, changed all that, creating a party atmosphere that fans and most players seem to enjoy. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for every professional tour course to have a similar par 3 setup in which thousands of fans are close to the action in a stadium setting and where they can salute – or criticize – every shot with noise. (Well, maybe not the Masters. Such would be a bridge too far for Augusta National).

But the concept can be stretched beyond common sense, and that’s what happened at Phoenix. The cleanup was relatively speedy (thanks, volunteers), so the beer can barrage didn’t slow play to a significant degree, but the impact on the green had at least a slight effect on the players who followed.

More significantly, the tossing of cans across the grandstands and onto the playing area can be a dangerous activity. If such displays continue, even with relatively light aluminum cans, it’s only a matter of time before someone is injured. Would you want to take a hit in the head from an almost full tallboy?

This is not to downplay the fun that can be had at the Phoenix 16th. It’s a popular concept and, as mentioned earlier, it’s one that other courses might consider copying. 

As with most things, the answer is a happy medium. Encourage fan enthusiasm beyond the traditional standards (although, please, let’s limit the goofy “In the hole” yells), but let’s stop short of aerial can displays. The only thing you should throw on a green is your overweight brother-in-law when he’s the only one in the foursome who won’t pick up the flag.

And, don’t those beers cost about 10 bucks? Not particularly smart to part company with them so quickly.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.