Date: November 28, 2018
Author: Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia

Beef embraces PGA party hole

As Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston walks up to the par-3 16th green during the course of the Australian PGA Championship, expect to hear the DJ blasting a bit of American rapper Action Bronson; if the English extrovert makes an ace at any stage, brace yourself, anything could happen.

Johnston made an inspection of what will be the epicentre for golf fans attending the PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort this week and loved what he saw.

The Soniq Million Dollar Hole not only features the Volkswagen Marquee behind the green but for the first time now also boasts the Oakley Gold Coast Beach Club, a spot where a select group of fans will each day be invited to sit back in a deck chair and watch the action unfold.

Given the sponsor activity and response from fans in recent years, such initiatives are part of the PGA of Australia’s desire to create a fun tournament environment, and it’s something Johnston believes the players must also embrace.

Often criticised for generating a staid and stale tournament experience for fans, golf around the world is experimenting with different formats and new fan experiences which Johnston says must continue to grow golf’s fan base.

“I think it's a brilliant idea, adds something different to the hole, different to the event,” Johnston said as he handed out beers and pies to the assembled media.

“I think crowds and people are going to like it as well. I'm always up for ideas like that. I think it's a good thing.

“It's engaging with the crowds doing different things like that. I hear there's a DJ on this hole as well, which is going to be interesting.

“It gets more people involved and gives them a day out.

“If you want to go somewhere and you say, oh, what are we going to do on a Saturday with your friends, and you say, oh, there's golf and we can sit on 16 and there's a DJ, we'll have some fun, they're going to turn up.

“I think it advertises to a wider audience.”

Aussie young gun Lucas Herbert has played his way onto the rich European Tour for 2019 and like Johnston, is excited by the atmosphere that will be created on the 16th hole over the course of the four days.

“A few people have had different ideas of how to change I guess the image of the game or how to make golf more fun,” said Herbert.

“That looks like what the beach club's going to be like and the party hole as it was last year.

“Sometimes I think as golfers we need to just relax, chill out a little bit and maybe not let that drunk guy in the background yelling out affect us too much.

“Those guys are all here enjoying it and in a lot of ways allowing us to play for the money and on the venues, on the tours that we do.

“I think it's great. I’d love to see more of it.”

Paired with Aussies Cameron Smith and Curtis Luck for the opening two rounds, Johnston will begin his maiden Australian PGA Championship from the 10th tee at 6am on Thursday morning (AEST).

Dreading the alarm that will give him enough time to be on the range by 5am, Johnston is currently undergoing some swing adjustments with new coach Hugh Marr but expects the greatest challenge this week will be adjusting to the Bermuda-grass greens of the Royal Pines layout.

“There's definitely birdies out there. It depends on the wind,” said Johnston, who played in blustery conditions during the morning pro-am groups on Wednesday.

“You can birdie par 5s, there's a few wedges in.

“I think you've got to drive the ball well and the greens are quite grainy as well.

“I was interested in putting on them today. You get some real quick putts and some really slow putts.

“I think you've got to be on the ball with the speed.

“From Hong Kong last week to this week, I've just tweaked a couple adjustments (to my swing) and it has felt better.

“It felt better this morning in the pro-am, and I played a few holes on Monday as well which it felt better.

“If I can do that and I can get a good range session in the morning, get a good feeling and go with it.”