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Travel Mailbag: Is traveling to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open worth the hype?

January 14, 2020

Welcome to GOLF’s Travel Mailbag, a weekly, interactive GOLF.com series in which members of our staff field your course and travel-related queries. This week, resident Arizonan Jessica Marksbury tackles a common question: Is the Waste Management Phoenix Open really worth the hype?

Is traveling to Arizona for the Waste Management really worth it? —@xaviprz, via Instagram

In a word: Yes. Any other questions?

In all seriousness, there are numerous reasons to visit Arizona in January and February (pretty much all of which have to do with the perfect weather), but the Waste Management Phoenix Open is an excellent starting point for planning a trip — especially if you’ve never been.

The WMPO’s host course, TPC Scottsdale, is located in North Scottsdale, where plenty of great golf abounds for any days you plan to hit the links yourself. Within close driving proximity, you’ll find lauded tracks like Troon North, Grayhawk, We-Ko-Pa and loads of others. But be warned: it’s high season in the Valley of the Sun, so you’ll find that green fees increase accordingly. (If you’re looking for some tee time bargains in Phoenix and Scottsdale, our Travel Mailbag conveniently covered that topic last week.)

Now, back to the tournament. You’ll want to be strategic about which day you decide to go, depending on the experience you’d like to have. Many first-timers want to get a taste of the full-on, loud and proud party scene. If that’s you, there’s a day that’s best for that. Also, general spectator access to the 16th hole is more in-demand than ever, so if you want to experience the craziness on any day, you’ll either need to arrive early to claim your spot — and potentially wait for hours before players arrive — or you’ll have to wait in line to get in. Not sure which day would be best for your specific desires? Check out the guide below.

I'm here for the party, people!

If experiencing the Waste Management at its most manic is your goal, plan to attend on Saturday. That’s when attendance is usually the highest, making the people-watching scene almost as fun as the golf. You’ll find, too, that there is a certain percentage of the crowd that is oblivious to the fact that there’s a golf tournament going on — they’re just there for the buzz, both literally and figuratively. The heady mix of partiers, golf fans, music and noise makes the “tournament” experience all the more surreal — and fun.

The best day to see celebrities

Wednesday’s pro-am has become an increasingly popular day for fans, who can catch a glimpse of their favorite athletes and celebrities teeing it up alongside the top players in the field without the crush of a weekend crowd. Past attendees have included big names like Jake Owen, Michael Phelps, Emmitt Smith, Justin Verlander, Archie Bradley, Golden Tate and Jason Kidd.

The best days to see golfers up close

If taking in the tournament action isn’t a huge priority but you’d still like to watch the game’s best hit some balls, come on Tuesday. Not only is admission free (yeah!), the crowds are comparatively thin, and you’ll be able to easily follow a selected group through their practice round or claim a good spot on the range to watch them hit balls. Thursday is also a great day (though admission jumps to $45), since the full field is out on the course over the course of the morning and afternoon, and the crowds are significantly thinner than Friday and Saturday.

The secret BEST day to go

Okay, maybe it’s not so secret, but based on my observations over the past several years, Sunday is the best day to go to the WMPO, by far. The crazy Saturday crowds have abated, so you’re left with more golf fans who are generally actually interested in seeing the end of the tournament. Plus, since the WMPO’s finale is traditionally on Super Bowl Sunday, the hard-core partiers have another big-time event competing for their attention.

One last thing ...

While being a daily grounds passholder is super-fun no matter which day you decide to attend, you can also greatly enhance your time on the course by investing in some hospitality. There are a couple of options to choose from, from Clubhouse access packages that cost $450 per day (must purchase a minimum of four) to the Member’s Club ($650, must purchase a minimum of four), which offers access to four different hospitality centers around the course, and a parking pass too. It’s not cheap, but ambling around the grounds as a VIP is a nice way to spend the day.

Regardless of how you decide to enjoy the WMPO, the tournament truly is an experience like no other.

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