Stadium Concept Turned into Reality

By local contributor
Brandel Chamblee

I was in college when I heard about the “stadium concept” that the PGA Tour was bringing to professional golf…or more accurately, “spectator golf.” The TPC at Sawgrass, was a Deane Beman idea (the then-PGA Tour commissioner) and Pete Dye design that was meant to be a fire-fangled-Hell’s-stew for professional golfers and the perfect patron perch to watch those millionaires melt. In truth, the idea of the stadium concept was borrowed from one of the most successful and the most popular event, (by TV ratings) in all of golf.

For years, the man who reigned supreme at Augusta National, Chairman Clifford Roberts, had thought about how to make the experience of attending the Masters, well, perfect. He kept food and beverage prices low. He hired polite but firm Pinkerton guards to establish a level of decorum. And with viewing in mind, he quietly added mounding around a few greens, such that, more than the front row of patrons could see.

Of course at Augusta National, none of these changes to the golf course is talked of much. But whether they were conscious of it or not, amidst all the natural beauty of that sacred space, many of the changes made were just for those walking and watching the best in the world play.

By way of Augusta to the TPC at Sawgrass, the stadium concept grew from city to city and by 1987, it came to Scottsdale. It was the perfect combination of sunshine, green grass, hotels, restaurants, tourism and professional golf. No tour player had ever seen anything like it, and neither had those that came to watch.

A few decades later and The Waste Management Phoenix Open is annually the largest attended tournament in golf, or put another way, in terms of onsite viewership, the most popular professional golf event in the world. Over a half a million people traipse the amphitheatrical mounding at the TPC Scottsdale that week and many of those end up on the 16th hole, where the stadium concept turned into a reality, and where they've experienced many great moments.