I was really, really looking forward to this return trip to the PGA Championship after last year’s visit on SPG points to Whistling Straights. On Thursday, day one of the tournament, that cost just 10,000 points but this year we had tickets for Friday for 15,000 points (each day will run you 5k more to go).
NOTE: STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST CREDIT CARD FROM AMERICAN EXPRESS NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Still, no matter what day you go the value is impressive as the redemption is for two people to attend and if you are a golf or other sports fan using Starpoints in this way for “Moments” can be a reason alone to hold these cards. But more on that in a bit.
First I had to get to New Jersey and more especially EWR. I used bump vouchers to fly Delta and overnight on Marriott points. After that it was time for a short UBER ride to the tournament. However, my driver both got lost finding me plus we did not take the estimated 19 minute ride you see above but a 47+ to get to the course.
Uber even had an “official” drop off location and was the ride share service for the tournament so naturally they charged an additional “Special Event Fee”. All of this resulted in a total charge that was twice the estimated price in the app. I reached out to UBER support after the fact and was refunded about 50% back to me.
I would have loved to, as some did, take another AVgeek “mode” of transportation as some did. No idea who was in the helicopter but likely one of the players or family.
We followed the crowds to the main entrance that was across the second of the two courses at Baltusrol that was used for parking and much more during the event. I would love to know how long it takes for an event course to come back after this much abuse.
Last year it was a bit of a hike to the Sarazen suite hospitality tent by the lake (that can cost 100k to rent for the 3 days) but this year it was right past the main entrance.
For some reason the suites looked smaller last year but I believe it was the same tent as last time.
The building is divided into a large number of suites with the SPG suite on the opposite end from last year and that worked out well for viewing and it stayed much cooler in the late day sun.
We were presented with a bit of SWAG but again like last year nothing like some of the other suites that had shirts, PGA flags or other high end gifts. SWAG was clearly not a priority for SPG.
But Lisa, reader Jon and I did appreciate the value of being in a very exclusive suite with a great view of the 16th green.
We got to the event rather early but had already had breakfast at the hotel so decided to just sample a bloody mary to get the day started.
For some reason they were barred from serving anything other than vodka mixed drinks till noon. Strange but true (like last year btw).
But the reason we were here was not for the food and drinks but for the PGA event and the view was impressive and even more so from upstairs (hint hint SPG for next year).
After some time in the hospitality tent it was time to venture out on the course and follow some of the featured groups around. Jon, his dad Victor and Lisa & I decided to make our way to the 3rd and 4th to catch up with Jason Day, Phil and Rory.
It is truly amazing to see how much power and just how far the top pros in the game hit the ball. It truly is a game I do not understand at all. But I play for fun and enjoy almost every shot I hit.
To say there was a MASSIVE group of fans following this featured group was an understatement. It took us forever to push though this mass of bodies – Ugg!
I did get a quick view of 1991 PGA winner John Daly who I also saw at the SR. PGA in Benton Harbor Michigan on SPG points as well (yeah he is that old now, as am I).
There was on the way the PGA merchandise pavilion as well as a Chase “PVT-ish” suite that you could only get in if you had the Chase BANK Sapphire Preferred card.
After the heat and the people everywhere it was time to head back to the air conditioned comfort of our SPG suite and some chicken wings that were now up for grabs.
Also, now that breakfast service was gone, lunch was also available including sandwiches and more drink choices.
I went for a simple salad and chicken kabobs and a tiny dessert. Oh and a glass of the red naturally.
Back to the golf including some time on our sun deck to watch the golf and AVgeek out and dream of viewing the course from a blimp (maybe it is time to book a group blimp ride for the next RenésPoints get together?)!
You really cannot beat the view but with the players 200+ yards away it was hard to see them tee off. Still, considering how bad the forecast was, we had a great view all day long. No complaints from me.
We stayed until all the groups had finished. I truly was sad to see the day come to an end and wished I had booked two days in a row. Then again, Saturday was just about a washout so just as well to be back home.
As we departed the greens crews were working hard into the night to prep the greens for the next day’s play. Having worked on a golf course in college the skill level of these folks was beyond impressive.
Overall it was an amazing fun day and an incredible value for just 7,500 SPG points per person for, not just entrance into the event, but unlimited food and drinks all day long. I also had an interesting chat with the event rep who sets up all the golf / PGA events for SPG. He asked a number of questions of what I would like to see next year and I hope he / they will consider what I suggested. Then again, Marriott may just end all the fun things SPG Moments provides for loyal Starwood guests. Time will tell but you had better believe, if available again next year, I will be back again in 2017 to the PGA at Quail Hollow – René
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