Time to Remove Mashed Potatoes from Golf

I’m a huge proponent of the Waste Management Phoenix Open and it’s rowdy 16th hole. Love it, and until recently thought it was great for the game; the Yang to Augusta National’s Ying. But it seems, as is the case in many aspects of life, we can’t have nice things. The facts are, the collective ‘we’ don’t seem to be able to handle the responsibility of golf gallery etiquette and decorum.

The Mashed Potato movement is not new by any means. And maybe I am an old cynic now, but it seems to be getting worse. And to put a finer point on it, it seems daily there are ‘fans’ (code for people who are half-drunk attending a golf tournament) who want to be on TV by attempting to yell something clever at the moment of impact.

My first thought…why aren’t they simply removed from the premises at the first hint of inappropriate behavior? Failure to do so really sanctions the behavior and allows people the freedom and flexibility to push that line until they’re 8 beers deep and they can’t walk that line anymore and act like an ass. Facts are, we know for certainty that Augusta National or The Open Championship would not condone behavior like that. But pick any week on the PGA Tour and, well, as they say it only takes one.

The fact that events like the first tee at the Ryder Cup (likely all 18 holes) and the annual tour stop in Phoenix are loud and boisterous is fine. These are events which, like Augusta really, are unique unto themselves. But on a routine tour stop can we not have some clear level of appropriate behavior adhered to? Here are some ideas to eliminate inappropriate behavior from golf:

The PGA Tour needs to take a lead on a code of conduct policy which needs to be marketed, promoted and ingrained for every patron of every event. And central to these are the following:

· A strict limit on alcohol consumption. Find a way. It’s not rocket science. Address all issues of excessive intoxication quickly and professionally.

· Immediate removal from any patron who yells at any point in the swing. This does not preclude people from celebrating great shots whatsoever.

· Ban those who can’t abide by the rules from any future tour event.

I need to emphasize that these ideas would still allow Phoenix to be Phoenix and Augusta to be Augusta. What it does is not allow the people who want to be famous from impeding players’ shots and my viewing experience at home.

Because, in my opinion, if we do nothing about this, we’re essentially sanctioning this kind of behavior and I don’t think that is good for the game and it is horrible for professional golf, with potential implications that are enormous.  To be honest, I am at the point where I am glad that fans didn’t have a direct and negative impact on the final round of the Valspar this weekend.  My expectations are that low now.  And that’s not good.


4 thoughts on “Time to Remove Mashed Potatoes from Golf

  1. Mike,

    I think there’s a big fear of pushing away paying customers from the Tour in terms of taking broader proactive measures. It can sometimes be a fine line between “fun and electric atmosphere” and “ignorant behaviour”. Like you say, it only takes one person to spoil the fun with an untimely or inappropriate comment.

    I could drink 6-8 beers (not that I would…maybe 3-4 :)) at an event and would never dream of doing anything ignorant or disruptive to the course of play. I agree with your sentiments for sure, but also think it’s tricky for the Tour from a business perspective to attack it proactively and suspect they’ll continue to stay in the reactionary camp for a while. However, the few and obvious bad apples that show up every week should definitely be ejected and made examples of.


    • I understand your point Josh about possibly alienating the paying customers but perhaps a clear code of conduct which everyone attending Tour events (except for Phoenix’s 17th hole) is aware of may help here. If patrons know the consequences up front that may help manage expectations and align behaviour appropriately But safe to say you likely hit the nail on the head about Tour trepidation around acting too heavy handed.

      Thanks, Mike

  2. Mike, this is a tough one. The big lure at the regular events are the corporate tents and all the free food and alcohol that accompany admission. Of course the tents are right on the playing field at Phoenix and you have the close proximity of alcohol to players. This is the case at most tour events. Augusta is exactly the opposite. There are no corporate tents on the course, they control everything and what they don’t control, the patrons self-police. You never have fan problems at the Masters. There are also probably more people on the waiting list for Masters tickets than attendees at Phoenix so the model works. Maybe it’s about making the regular events more exclusive, but I’m not sure how without driving away paying customers, as Josh says.

    Good topic for discussion!


  3. Thanks for the reply, Brian
    I just responded to Josh too on this and feel that creating expectation around beahviour around the ramifications of disrupting play may help. I understand this is an issue around the .01% but that risk remains high for disrupting play. I respect the fine line the Tour may be feeling but at some point this may become a bigger issue so getting out in front of this can only help.
    Cheers, Mike

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