The Waste Management Phoenix Open is known for its raucous atmosphere and is the best attended golf event in the world. The tournament routinely sees crowds over 150,000-200,000 on any given day. The tournament is played at the TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, a Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish designed track that features numerous grandstands and stadium bleachers surrounding the holes. In many ways, it is the most fan-friendly course and event on the PGA Tour. However, the focal point of much of the madness is at hole 16, widely accepted as the loudest hole in golf.
Earning the nickname “the Coliseum”, the 16th hole is a straightforward 162-yard par-3. By any objective standard, it is one of the easiest holes on the PGA Tour. However, the hole is surrounded on 3 sides by grandstands that hold 20,000 fans. Fans line up for hours before the gates open at 7am for a chance at the 4,000 open seats available for fans with a grounds pass. In fact, fans literally sprint to the stands from the gate in order to get one of these seats.
The Coliseum gallery has earned a reputation for being a drunken frat party, and in many ways this description is pretty accurate. Many of the fans are Arizona State students who spend the entire day drinking. Complaints about vomiting or surreptitious “relations” occurring in the portapotties are common, as is loud chanting that is unseen elsewhere in golf. In many ways, the atmosphere feels more like a music festival, complete with costumed fans. The experience is very polarizing among professionals, but regardless the PGA Tour shows no signs of changing the atmoshpere. Many have spoken out against the heckling that occurs on this and other holes, notably Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler. Famously, Justin Leonard flipped off the fans at the Coliseum after being heckled for a poor shot. However, in the case of a great shot such as Tiger Woods’ 1997 ace or Jarrod Lyle’s 2011 ace, the gallery erupts in the kind of cheer that a golfer can’t experience anywhere else in the world. Lyle, who unfortunately passed away in August 2018 from leukemia, is now honored at the 16th hole with a plaque. His golf bag and trademark yellow bucket hat will also be displayed on the hole, showing the magic that the Colisuem can generate.
There’s also some very weird traditions that occur at the hole, such as the now banned caddie races. While officially banned, it is still relatively common to still see caddies sprinting from the tee box to the green for the crowd’s amusement. Likewise, many golfers will hand out gifts into the crowd. Such gifts can range from frisbees and autographed memorabilia to foam curly fries, cans of Guinness or even golf balls wrapped in $10 bills. It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience, not only in golf but in all sport.