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16th Hole at TPC in Scottsdale, AZ

16th Hole at TPC in Scottsdale, AZ

The impetus for this post came while I was watching the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament today.  The tournament takes place at the TPC in Scottsdale, AZ and the 16th hole, a par 3, was designed like a baseball stadium.  The entire length of the hole has stands on one side and the tee box is surrounded on all sides with stands/boxes.  So that got me thinking, in the future would it be possible that we could have an entire golf course within a stadium?  I’ve seen work with certain types of materials that conform to different shapes if you run an electrical current through them or expose them to a certain type of magnetic field.  So don’t you think that it would be possible in the future to have the floor of a stadium filled with a material that could be transformed into virtually any shape or texture?  If this were possible then we should be able to have an entirely contained golf course.  There would have to be set spots that wouldn’t change and those would be where the players would stand initially.  Then the entire hole along with sand traps, water hazards, trees, bushes, etc would form and they would tee off.  The stadium could be large enough to accommodate a very long par 5 and then it could adjust accordingly to the overall design of the “course.”  Then the players would still tee off and walk the hole.  At the end, they would go to another designated spot and everything would change as if it was entirely new hole.  This way the players would still walk all over the stadium and they’d tee off in different sections, allowing people in any spot of the stadium to be close to them.  Could this work?  We’re talking about the future here.

What about the size?

One limitation that I see is the space that you would need.  To accommodate a par 5, you’d need a stadium that was pretty long.  How long is the biggest baseball stadium?   Minute Maid Park in Houston has a center field length of 435 feet.  And the longest hole in U.S. Open History is 670 yards, which comes out to 2010 feet.  So if the golf holes were perfectly straight, you’d need a pretty long stadium.  The good things is that golf holes, especially par 5’s, are rarely straight.  They’ve got dog-legs and hooks and what-not.  And if you think back to how the holes would form, you could have the golfers tee off at alternating ends of the stadium as they go from “hole” to “hole”.  As I said, everybody would be able to have the golfers close to them at some point.

What about the noise?

Golfers seem to hate distractions during their swings and putts.  But this tends to come from isolated people yelling out amongst a crowd of relatively silent people.  The noise “breaks the silence”.  But in a stadium of 30-40,000 people in which they’re all sitting up in stands rather than crowding around a tee-box or putting green?  You don’t think all that crowd noise would become just ambient sound?  Baseball players seem able to hit fastballs going 100+ mph in huge stadiums with thousands of people screaming and flashing pictures.  I think they’d adjust.


I really had no concept of how many people attend a golf tournament prior to this article.  I’ve never been to one personally and on TV all you see is people lined along the holes and they’re always jockeying for position and scrambling from hole to hole.  I did some googling and it seems that the attendance at many of the major tournaments is in the 100,000+ people.  I guess when a tournament goes on for multiple days and you can have people lined along 18 holes-worth of space, you can get your attendance numbers pretty high.  So if we were confined to a stadium space, would this limit the numbers?  Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, TX has a capacity of 80,000 sitting and Jerry Jones squeezed in around 100,00+ with standing room for the NBA All-Star game in 2010.  So it seems that we could get the capacity of a stadium that needs to have around 1500 or so feet worth of straight-line space to accommodate.

Game Play?

So let’s assume we’re confined now to stadium.  How would this change the game-play?  Golf tournaments consist of multiple days and different hold locations/weather on the different days.  The changing surface could easily accommodate different hole locations.  What about the weather?  Is that part of the appeal of golf?  Do we find pleasure in watching the wind whip balls around and interfere with the game play?  Aren’t we hoping to see the athleticism of one golfer win out over that of another?  Doesn’t the weather just remove some of the athleticism?  It seems like we could get over the fact that some of the weather component would be removed in a stadium.  But, we’d still have some of that in play –unless we put roofs or retractable roofs on the stadium.   If we moved this to a stadium, do you think this could develop into a team style in which we had “drivers”, “putters” and other combinations of specialists that alternated shots and worked together to complete a hole.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it certainly seems like it could be an option for a different style of play.

Would you sit and watch this?

I’ll say again:  I’ve never been to a golf tournament.  Is it bearable in person because you’re constantly walking from hole to hole.  I know that watching it on TV can get a tad…boring…at times.  But I’ve watched a decent amount of it on TV, so it can be entertaining.  Would that change if you were sitting in one spot for the whole round?  Since tournaments tend to take place over the course of several days, how would tickets work?  Would you be able to buy a ticket for a seat for the entire length of the tournament?  Or would it be like tennis in that you just buy tickets for different days.  I had a cool thought for the “box seats”.  Since we’re talking about a futuristic stadium here, couldn’t we have the “boxes” and “suites” on some movable track?  They could move around in some fashion around the lower part of the stands (or middle), depending on how the thing was designed, such that they were always in the prime location.

Location and Conservation

If I think back to the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open, what I saw was a golf course in the middle of the desert.  Think of the resources that have to go into keeping up a golf course in a desert.  Just think of the water that you need to maintain that course.  In the future I’m sure that our already limited natural resources will be even more scarce.  So why not eliminate the need to have golf courses in environments shouldn’t have them?  We could extend this beyond stadiums for the large tournaments.  You could have local courses be smaller versions of these stadiums without the stands and amenities.  Why not save some water?  Free up some land.  Maybe?


So if the technology existed to build something like this, couldn’t it be used for other sports too?  Granted using it for a golf course would make it pretty large.  But couldn’t it also be used for football and baseball as well as long as the surface could change into pretty much anything?  Now we’d really have a space saver for cities in that you could have just about all of your sports teams playing the same location and you’d eliminate the need for so many different stadiums.

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