How the Golf World Got Its Own Coachella

A desert location, a carnivalesque atmosphere — the comparisons are endless

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Final Round
Rickie Fowler celebrates following his winning par putt on the 18th green during the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 03, 2019.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
By Tobias Carroll / January 25, 2020 3:02 pm

Golf is not a sport that’s known for its outlaw spirit. Most of its resonant images are of a player precisely knocking a ball into a hole in silence, followed by rounds of applause. It’s polite, essentially — so much so that there have been comedies made in which much of the humor stems from placing an irreverent character in the oh-so-reverential world of golf. Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore both come to mind, though they’re far from the only ones.

But in a case of life imitating art, there’s one PGA Tour event that’s developed a reputation for being a little rowdier than the rest. At VinePair, Tim McKirdy explores the history of the Phoenix Open, which he describes as “an event like no other on the PGA Tour.” And if you’re looking for specifics, McKirdy has you covered:

The event eschews the sport’s rigid etiquette, with raucous crowds, a festival-like atmosphere, and extra-curricular activities that extend well into the night. Its annual attendance figures closer resemble music festivals than sporting events.

Did we mention that attendees tend to drink a lot while there? Or that McKirdy’s story opens with a 2016 incident in which caddy James Edmonson confronted a heckler, who was soon ejected by security?

There’s also a memorable quote from Edmonson about the event itself: “The way I try to explain the Phoenix Open to people that have never gone is, ‘Imagine a humongous bar or outdoor party, and in the middle of it, there’s a golf tournament going on.’”

“Humongous” doesn’t necessarily do the event justice: according to the article, the 2018 Phoenix Open drew 720,000 attendees over the course of 7 days.

And it’ll be kicking off again before long: the 2020 edition of the Waste Management Phoenix Open begins on January 27. In addition to the main event, the Annexus Pro-Am will host such notables as Emmitt Smith, Michael Phelps and Dierks Bentley. Sounds like it could be one heck of a party.

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