Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Waste Management Open: A Party or a Golf Tournament

Waste Management Open
A Party or a Golf Tournament
Getting Wasted at the Waste Management Open
It used to be the Phoenix Open, then FBR and now the Waste Management Open
but is it a party with a golf tournament  or is it a golf tournament with a party. It has been known as “The greatest show on Grass”  and now Waste Management is trying to call it “The greenest show on grass.
Read this and you decide!!!
First of all this tournament has, by far, a larger attendance than any golf tournament in the World.  This year, 2012, the attendance was over 518,000-- that is over 10 % of the population of the greater Phoenix area.  Saturday alone the crowd estimate was 175,000.  Some golf tournaments don’t get that for the entire tournament. I don’t know what is second largest, but it does not even come close. It could even be twice as large as the next largest tour stop.
It  probably has the largest attendance of any sporting event ever in the US  and World Cup Soccer, and the Olympics may be the only ones  in the world that are larger.
 When the sun goes down, the party continues in the birds nest with somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people partying each night. And with all this partyin’ and beautiful women  its probably no surprise that this stop on the tour has the highest attendance of tour player wives..!!  I’m guessin’ they are there to protect their interests.

The  core of the party is at #16-- where they have built stands around the entire hole, to pack in  20,000 plus.  That is more than a sell out at an NBA game and nearly half of the attendance at NFL games.  One writer called the 16th hole Thunderdome. The fans have been drinking  (and that puts it politely)  and with the cheering good shots and the booing bad shots, you would think they were at a hockey game  or even a English soccer match.  Maybe the days of hushed pious tones at a golf tournament are changing.
 I thought it was limited to Mardi Gras where they encouraged women to chug their beers and drop their tops.   But it happens at 16 as well. ( I never saw anyone drop their top but I certainly heard  my share of encouraging chants. There are probably more decked out women here than on the best Saturday night on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.  One young girl was overheard to say  “If you didn’t wear your stilettos, don’t bother showing up”.  And  yes its true, thousand of the fans spend the day here and never see even one golf shot.
They sold nearly 10,000 hamburgers, over 20,000 hot dogs and over 100,000 beers.
Now these people know how to party!!

They have raised over $70 million for charities  $43 million in the past 10 years, thats an average of over $6 million a year.
There was not a trash container on the course--just compost and recycle bins and 500  recycle ambassadors to help you put your waste in the correct bin.  The goal is to have  zero waste and they report that they accomplished over90% of that goal.  They even had recycle kiosks: put something in, and get a discount coupon for something- now thats not just leadership, that may be the most involved and successful title sponsorship  going.  And if recycleables is not enough the tournament used 125,000 KW of green energy credits to power everything at the tournament.  “By powering the Waste Management Phoenix Open with green renewable energy we move even closer to becoming the greenest show on grass” Alex Baker, this years tournament chairman said’ They strive to become the greenest sporting event in the world.
Did I mention sky boxes? Mr. Baker, told me that “This year they sold 210.  That’s 44 more than last year” and probably substantially more than the next largest tournament
 Is this the largest annual event in AZ?  If its not I don’t know what is.
 By the way Kyle Stanley won, after Spencer Levin lost a 6 shot lead on Sunday, which is almost what happened to Kyle the prior week at Torrey Pines when he lost a seven shot lead only to get beat in a playoff---- did you know that? Do you even care?  Or did you just come here to party?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Criteria for the Top 100

Ratings of golf clubs have reached an almost insane level.  It seems like every golf publication  is getting in the game  with ratings based on all sorts of criteria.  
The grandparents in the rating game are  Golf Digest with its  Top 100 Golf courses in the U.S.  and Golf Magazine with its Top 100 in the world.
But of course there is now  Top 100 modern courses, Top 100 classic courses, top 100 clubhouses Top 100 locker rooms. The list goes on.
As a guy who has played the Golf Digest Top 100 in the U.S. I am often asked  “what are your favorite courses? and why?
The why part is the tough question.  For me the number one criteria  is the aesthetics or physical beauty of the course.  That is why places like Pebble Beach  and Cypress Point are so special with the Pacific Ocean pounding  on their shores.  But  many courses in the mountains are breathtaking as well.
Courses with lots of history  capture my attention as well.  Merion is one of my favorites where Bobby Jones closed out his grand slam and Ben Hogan  came back on bandaged and badly injured legs, caused by a near fatal car accident, to win the 1950 US Open.
A great locker room is hard to beat.  There are certainly the shiny new expensive ones with marble counters and showers and exotic woods in the lockers,  but locker rooms like the very old one with metal lockers at Winged Foot, carry you in the door and share with you the history of the major tournaments  of the club, almost like walking into a museum  or the old grand showers  with old ceramic tiles and huge rain like shower heads.
Don’t forget the food.  Things like the signature beef jerky at Mirabell in Scottsdale  is hard to forget.
But in the end, especially if you are joining, its the service and the membership.  Courses and club houses certainly catch your attention but there are plenty of those to choose from, but its the relationships that bring a club alive.
In Utah I learned that there are less than 20 private golf clubs in the entire state, 1/3 of them are real estate developments in Park City.  Yet there are many wonderful golf courses in the state and  plenty of golfers.  Several head pros told me  “people join golf courses for many reasons, the greatest being the social fabric of the club. The bulk of their social fabric revolves around the club”  In Utah, the Mormon church fills that function, leaving a lower demand for golf clubs”