Phoenix Open Party Review
From the Sweet 16th To The Bird's Nest
The 16th Hole is party central on the course, the there's the Bird's Nest.
This is a professional golf tournament, and for the winners it's a big prize. It gets the season off to a great start and, perhaps, sets a positive tone headed into the spring PGA Tour and the Masters.
But in reality, the real winners of this annual golf tournament – the only sporting event held the same weekend as the Super Bowl (except for 2010), – each and every year is the tournament itself. For the Phoenix Open is, first and foremost a spectacle. A social hotspot better than any Happy Hour in town.
The 2013 event, the Waste Management Phoenix Open – once known as "the FBR" – is Feb. 1-3. It is held at Scottsdale TPC golf course. And with Phil mickelson scorching the course, caddy races and Padraig Harrington kicking a football on the 16th hole into the crowd, even the golfers are into the party scene!
There's a good party scene on the course where there are bars.
It's not Mardi Gras, it's the Bird's Nest!
And it packs in the people. Nearly 170,000 turn out on Saturday (the big day by far) and they come for the atmosphere. It's see, get seen and one heck of a scene.
It's cocktails mixed with conversation, the Sweet 16th and the Bird's Nest. Now that's a winner for the tournament, regardless of who holds the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
Welcome to the Waste Management (formerly FBR) Phoenix Open!
With a PGA golf tournament as the backdrop, the Phoenix Open is an open opportunity for single people in Scottsdale and beyond to step out and take their social swings.
It's on par with the best of any outdoor-oriented street or music festival, a prime party that is the centerpiece of the Phoenix/Scottsdale cocktailing calendar.
This social sensation is a partier's paradise.
The Georgia-Florida football game may be known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" but the Phoenix Open might as well be "The World's Most Social and Scenic Outdoor Experience."
It is held at the TPC Scottsdale and for those who actually desire to watch some golf, it has the perfect setup.
At most tournaments, it's extremely difficult to see much action because the terrain is flat and fans are lined up 3-4 deep against the ropes.
Here, though, hills adjacent to the holes provide elevated vantage points throughout the entire course. There is great viewing everywhere – down the long fairway of the 552-year Par 5 15th, at No. 10 with the 16th hole also in range, from the green on No. 6 that looks back to the 215-yard, Par 3 7th – and on and on.
The tiered layout makes for good viewing, and better partying.
Even the famed 16th – where partying takes priority over putts and pars – offers a full look at the hole and views to the 17th tee box and fairway. The 10th green and 11th tee box are within pitching wedge range.
The TPC Scottsdale has stadium-style views (here, 15th hole).
This "stadium-style" layout is a trademark of the TPC (Tournament Player's Championship) courses, the original of which is in Ponte Vedre. Fla, with its famous "island green."
The course is not particulary difficult for the players. There are no woods, the rough is not PGA tough, water does not come into play and the greens are large. "The hazards here," remarked one PGA official, "are the fans, not the golf course."
The views of the fans are something different entirely. Some come casual and comfortable, a few have golf shirts or sleeveless sweaters and smoke cigars, and others – particularly blondes wearing heels, yes heels to a golf course – are dressed as if looking for "sponsorship." As far as the "beautiful people" factor, as anyone who's been pubclubbing in Scottsdale can verify, let's just say it's reflective of the area.
One of the most amusing sights PubClub encountered was a guy stumbling into a "No Alcohol Beyond This Point" sign.
The Sweet 16(th)
The "hill" at the legendary "sweet" 16th hole, is party central.
If it's possible to walk by a golf clubhouse, past golfers, seeing people dressed in golf clothes, watching golf balls bouncing on fairways and greens and not actually know you are at a golf tournament, then say hello to the 16th hole.
This is like no other hole in golf. Rising high above the Par 3 – offering a vantage point from tee box to green, which presents its own unique challenges to the golfers – the "Sweet 16th" as PubClub has come to call it, is the central nerve center of the Phoenix Open.
It's where people gather by the thousands to cut loose, get crazy and test the mental state of the pros. They roar with every tee shot as if it's going in the cup and boo if a ball fails to land on the green. They do the wave. When Arizona State graduate Mickelson comes into play, they yell "ASU, ASU" as if at a football or basketball game. This unique setting has chased away some golfers who refuse to play here because of its rowdy reputation. Tiger Woods, for instance, was last seen at a tournament in Dubai instead of the Phoenix Open.
In the past, there was "the hill," a slanted area of grass that held the wildest spectators. Now, the grandstands have been built all around the hole, closing it in like a football stadium.
Still, this isn't a golf tournament, it's a tailgate party.
The concession stand at the 16th hole.
Fans cheer golfers who drive the green and boo those who don't drive it.
You won't see Tiger Woods here because it's too wild at the 16th.
The elevated landsape provides fans a view from tee to green at 16.
The way the hole is situated – up a large hill past the 10th green and 11th tee – it's possible to be at the 16th but not actually see the 16th. And this is just fine with many; they hang by the concession stand, get involved in harmless opposite sex wresting matches and instigate other beer-fueled activity. Or simply soak up the scene as well as the suds.
It's crowded but not elbow-to-elbow and there's so much adjacent open space, it's possible to catch one's breath – or readjust the senses – by ducking behind the electronic scoreboard and sitting down at the 17th tee.
Some prefer to hang out slightly away from the action around the 10th green or on the back side of the 16th hill, or even on a hill across from the 11th hole. From there, one can get a clear vantage point of what they might be getting into if they venture up to 16.
The hill surrounding the 11th tee is also swarmed by spectators.
The 10th green looking to the 11th tee; the 16th is just behind here.
The 16th party peaks from 2-3:30 on Friday and Saturday but that's certainly not the end of the day. In fact, it's just a prelude for the party yet to come. For there is the main food court, located by the practice green and behind the 10th tee. For those lacking corporate or VIP hospitality tents, this is the next best thing. Perhaps even better. Standing just outside the entrance or sitting on the hill across the cart path, cold beverage in hand, on Saturday afternoon is people-watching perfection.
The area has three food stations selling burgers, brats and sandwiches ($5-7) as well as beer, margaritas and all manner of mixed drinks ($6). Garcia's Mexican restaurant serves as sort of a cart path cantina with a few tables under a tent and hudreds of people all around it. Partiers start to gather here around noon for lunch and that first round of drinks, head to the 16th hole about 1:30 or 2, and return later in the afternoon.
Then it is on to the legendary Bird's Nest.
Meanwhile, back at the main food court, the scene is no less hectic.
The Greenskeepers tent, for those with access, is a popular patio party.
The Bird's Nest
After the day's play, the Bird's Nest is the place to party.
The 16th is indeed sweet and the food court is fantastic but there's nothing that says "Phoenix Open" like the Bird's Nest.
How it got that name is anybody's guess but the important thing is that it's there. And so are thousands of socially-minded singles, enjoying the beer ($5; cocktails $6), bands, babes and guys. The ratio is pretty much a healthy 50/50 and this is where the phrase "golf pairings" takes on a whole new meaning.
Party group at the Bird's Nest.
Be it Friday night or into Saturday night, it's a party at the Bird's Nest.
There's plenty of beer on ice, and plenty of people to drink it.
These girls are dncing and having fun; hey it's the Bird's Nest!
The Bird's Nest is a fenced-in area in a huge parking lot just outside of the tournament. The outdoor area is the approximate size of two football fields and has a warmup band playing until the main band(s) hit the big stage.
Inside the tent at the Bird's Nest is a rockin' party.
Bands are a big part of the Bird's Nest entertainment.
That stage is inside a tent and features name bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, Sheryl Crowe or Cowboy Mouth on Friday. The 2013 bands are O.A.R. on Friday and on Saturday, DJ Ronnie G giving way to Metalhead.
Three words describe the scene at the Bird's Nest, as well as the Phoenix Open as a whole: It's A Party! The Nest is such a huge and fun party that several people don't even bother with the golf tournament and instead just come to it to nest. It's big enough to easily hold the thousands who flock here as if answering a mating call.
Smiles are as abundant as cocktails at the Bird's Nest.
The Phoenix Open for some is all about the Bird's Nest.
Tickets are $35 at the door but save valuable party time by getting them upon entering the tournament just beyond the bridge. A $150 VIP ticket is available and while it includes dinner and drinks, its private area is separated from the main stage and scene.
It's an extremely organized set-up; drink stations are plentiful inside and out, waitresses walk around with beers on a tray so often there's not even a need to go to a bar, there are plenty of port-o-lets (plus a hand-washing station) and a dozen ATMs ($3.50 service charge). About the only shortcoming is a lack of food stations and choices.
It roars from about 5-9:30, then folds its wings. This leaves plenty of time for those who want – or are able – to go out in nearby Scottsdale. Or just rest up for the next day.