Drink for fun or stay sober to go low? This is the question many amateur golfers face before beginning a round. But even for those watching the sport at the WM Phoenix Open, it is clear that golf and alcohol are frequent companions.
Through the years this tournament, in particular, has produced several viral instances of intoxicated people streaking on the course or jumping into the water. This year, the alcohol undoubtedly has made it harder to keep balance in the slippery and muddy conditions.
The Phoenix Open stands out because of the raucous crowd and the heavy alcohol consumption — officials actually stopping the sale of alcohol early afternoon Saturday in the interest of crowd control — but golf and alcohol are inextricably tied in a way that isn’t limited to this single tournament.
PGA Tour player Joel Dahmen, who one day this week threw t-shirts containing money into the crowd on the 16th hole for fans to buy drinks, said the relationship between alcohol and golf is natural.
“You don’t have to be an athlete,” Dahmen said. “You’re not moving around too much and there’s a lot of downtime. That’s a great time to have a drink.”
During the 2022 Phoenix Open, Dahmen took off his shirt and took a sip of a fan’s discarded beer on the 16th hole (this resulted in a fine). Before his U.S. Open qualifier in 2022, he downed a couple of White Claws and ended up qualifying for the major tournament. Recently, he joined the YouTube scene and filmed “The Long Drink Classic” with St. André Golf.
Golf presents a unique opportunity for amateurs to drink that doesn’t exist in other sports, Dahmen said.
“You can’t go to the bench in basketball and have some beer,” he said. “That’s not going to make you any better. For some people out there, a couple of drinks makes you a better golfer.”
While the general public likely cannot play the top courses like Pebble Beach and TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course due to high prices or an unfamiliarity with the game, establishments such as Topgolf encourage casual golfers to enjoy the sport and have a beverage or two at the same time. And at the Phoenix Open, the relationship between golf and alcohol is on display in the Fan Shop with some of the merchandise combining the two.
PGA Tour professionals are not allowed to drink in the heat of competition. Amateurs, however, often strike at the opportunity to add some “swing juice” to their round.
“(I like) that sweet spot of the confidence being up but not the cognition being down,” said Derek Chapman, a 20-plus handicap golfer watching the Phoenix Open on Saturday.
Chapman said he generally has two drinks on the front nine and two on the back.
Another fan, Rob, who wished to have his last name omitted, is a 2.7 handicap and said he wouldn’t consider golf without alcohol.
“The first three (make me a better golfer), the second three do not,” he said.