A party. A par-3. The loudest scene in golf. A chance to cut loose and show a very different side of golf, where pros can interact with fans in ways not seen anywhere else. A chance to elicit wild cheers, or maybe lose a tournament to the sound of boos late in the final round.
Called the Coliseum, No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course is many things to different people. What the atmosphere is most of all, especially to those who attend, is unforgettable – assuming they haven’t been overserved.
Dubbed the People’s Open, the WM Phoenix Open – rebranded this year to condense Waste Management to WM – has been played at the Stadium Course since 1987. And it has become for many the can’t-miss event on the PGA Tour calendar.
And the 16th is the star of a show that can host more than 200,000 fans in a day. The event no longer offers up statistics on fan attendance since the 2019 event, but on Saturday in 2018, more than 216,000 fans attended the event.
Not to be lost in all the noise and revelry is that the Thunderbirds, the charitable organization that operates the event, has raised more than $160 million and counting for Arizona charities – No. 16 is great and all, but the numbers 1 and 6 look even better when followed by all those zeroes, in this case.
Also worth noting: The Stadium Course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish and opened in 1986, ranks No. 5 in Arizona on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for public-access layouts. It will play at 7,261 yards with a par of 71. And with those details taken care of, check out several of the more-interesting themes of No. 16 – and what comes after.
No. 16, the golf hole
No. 16 at the Stadium Course is listed as 163 yards on the tournament media guide’s scorecard, but it can be stretched past 170 depending on hole location and tee position.
In 2021 it played to a perfect 3.00 scoring average, giving up 68 birdies, 267 pars, 54 bogeys and seven double bogeys. It ranked as the seventh-hardest hole on the course.
Thanks to the yardage book provided by StrackaLine – the maker of detailed yardage books for thousands of courses around the world – we can see exactly the challenges the pros face this week, at least as far as the actual golf swings go. Check out the map of No. 16’s as a whole and another for the green below, and take a peek at the rest of the holes on the Stadium Course here.
No. 16, the scene
No. 16 is, of course, much more than a golf hole during tournament week. Think of it as a medium-length par 3, a corporate outing, the loudest spectacle in golf and a raging kegger all in one.
The party atmosphere is legendary. Booze, cheers, long lines for the plastic outhouses, players goading on fans and vice-versa: There’s nothing else like it in golf, more concert than staid golf event. As a matter of fact, there was an actual concert on the fairway last week.
Some fans have made it an annual reunion, gathering to cheer and taunt. If a player hits the green, he is applauded. If he misses the green, expect the boos. Stick one close or, even better, in the hole, and the crowd goes nuts. Really nuts.
The golfers also play it up for the fans, often throwing out souvenirs or donning sports jerseys – especially those of Arizona teams. Players with local ties are frequently cheered the loudest. But with all that energy, so rare in golf, comes a price: Players have to be ready to swing when their turn comes.
Tournament organizers cap the crowd around No. 16 to 17,000 fans, and that’s plenty. Many are in corporate skyboxes built into the three-tier arena that surrounds the hole, and there are 3,750 general-admission bleacher seats. Fans rush to No. 16 as soon as the gates open each morning, and the general admission lines to enter No. 16 can stretch to four hours later in the day, as one fan must leave the arena for another to enter.
The corporate skyboxes offer a different experience with guaranteed entry for those with the right badges, but admission isn’t exactly cheap. The Skybox 16 Package, for example, costs $55,000 and includes 34 credentials per day, breakfast and lunch each day plus an open bar, 20 general admission tickets per day and an assortment of valet parking passes. All of those skyboxes were sold out for 2022.
No. 16, the aces
The 16th has been the site of nine holes-in-one over the decades. As a stock broker might tell you, past performance is not a great predictor of future success, but you might want to pay extra attention in Saturday’s third round, as five of those nine aces have come in third rounds.
Worth noting, of course, is Tiger Woods’ ace in 1997. It definitely led to one of the most raucous scenes in PGA Tour history, as detailed by Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio in a story commemorating the 25th anniversary of that shot heard round the world.
Here are all nine of the aces on 16:
- 1988: Hal Sutton, third round
- 1990: David Edwards, third round
- 1990: Brad Bryant, first round
- 1991: Jay Delsing, third round
- 1997: Tiger Woods, third round
- 1997: Steve Stricker, fourth round
- 2002: Mike Sposa, second round
- 2011: Jarrod Lyle, second round
- 2015: Francisco Molinari, third round
No. 16, worth remembering
No. 16 is also home to one of our favorite stories in recent years. Amy Bockerstette, who has Down syndrome, played the 16th hole with professional Gary Woodland in a 2019 practice round leading up to the tournament.
After Bockerstette, 20, hit her tee shot into a bunker, she confidently said “I got this” and proceeded to blast out to about 10 feet. She drained the putt for a par and went on to become a sensation.
Later that year, she told Woodland “You got this” before he went on to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Hollywood screenwriters couldn’t make this stuff up. Hearts melted for the inspirational golfer, who played college golf at Paradise Valley Community College and became the first athlete with Down syndrome to compete in a national collegiate athletic championship.
It’s a few moments worth remembering, and Golfweek even named Amy’s dad, Joe, as Father of the Year in 2019.
Following No. 16
As cool as No. 16 is, the 17th might be even better for those as interested in the golf as in the party. The 332-yard par 4 is within reach off the tee for Tour pros, but a lake just left of the green presents all kinds of headaches.
While the par-3 16th is fairly straightforward – a short or mid-iron onto the green, or not – despite the crowds and all the noise, the 17th presents options. After the commotion on No. 16, players better have a game plan in place before tackling 17, especially on Sunday with the tournament title on the line.
Many players will hit driver, which can bound over the green and into a bunker or even the lake. Other players will try to run up a 3-wood onto the front, avoiding a centerline bunker and the water short left. Others might lay well back and take their chances with a wedge approach shot, but the fans aren’t gathered to watch layups.
The scores are all over the place on 17, which is great fun to watch. The hole played to a 3.737 scoring average in 2021 with eight eagles, 157 birdies, 174 pars, 47 bogeys, eight double bogeys and two triple bogeys. It ranked as the fourth easiest hole on the course.
No. 17 was also the site of the only hole-in-one on a par 4 in PGA Tour history. Andrew Magee did it in the first round in 2001, using driver to knock his ball into the jar and himself into the history book.
Again thanks to StrackaLine, check out the details for No. 17 below.
This article originally appeared on Golfweek.