Every March on the PGA Tour calendar brings the unique Dell Technologies Match Play. It is one of four World Golf Championships events and the only one that is in the head-to-head match play format.
In 2016, the event moved to the Austin Country Club, and since the move, it has quickly become one of the most loved stops on the Tour. Thanks to the course, the field, and the local atmosphere, the golf world almost universally raves about this event.
To get a better sense of why everybody loves this event so much, we spent two days out at the 2018 Dell Match Play. It was easy to see why it is so popular, one that should be on every sports fan’s bucket list.
When I first arrived, Jason Dufner was on the driving range all by himself, with a small crowd watching. But the beauty of the course was already obvious.
It’s March and we’ve got a bracket!
One of the first things you see is the statue of famed coach Harvey Penick and his student, legendary golfer Tom Kite.
The first tee is cool, elevated above the crowd, and bordered with large rocks.
For those not sitting in the seats or standing along the fairway, a crowd gathers here to look up at the golfers as they start their round.
One thing some people may not realise is that this is Texas Hill Country.
There are a lot of hills and if you are walking the course, it is a workout.
One of the cool things about Austin Country Club is that the front nine and back nine are like two different courses. The front nine (which is actually the back nine for the members) is covered in trees, hills, and rocks.
With some spectacular views of the countryside.
But when you arrive at the 12th hole, the course changes. That’s when the golfers move down towards the water.
The iconic Pennybacker Bridge makes for a gorgeous backdrop on the 12th hole.
Next up is the 13th hole where the bombers can go for the green if the conditions are right, and use the tent behind the green as a backboard.
The view back towards the bridge in incredible.
This is also where the boats will congregate to watch the action.
That’s Bubba Watson walking past the boats on No. 14. There were a lot of cheers from the water folk.
The course is more open on the back nine, with fewer trees and more wind.
But the back nine also has a little more of a party atmosphere, if that’s your thing. The crowds tend to be bigger and there are numerous hospitality tents. There is even a stadium-like feel on the 15th fairway.
There was plenty of socialising going on.
Things are much more chill on the front nine.
Austin also means great food with several great local food options for the spectators.
Austin Life Hack: Everybody knows Franklin’s BBQ, but if you don’t want to wait in line, the food is just as good at Micklethwait, just a few blocks away.
It was still early, so I went with a breakfast taco from Torchy’s. But if having lunch, get the Trailer Park, and don’t forget to order it “trashy,” which is not listed on the menu.
And of course, it’s Austin, so there was live music right next to one of the fairways.
You also have to keep things weird in Austin. That includes two giant fish made out of plastic bottles.
It is the Dell Match Play, so there is a fan experience showing off different tech gadgets.
That included a track where fans could race cars.
There were drone simulators and Alienware stations where kids could test out VR games.
There were even robots where you could get a personalised golf ball.
It’s 2018, so it would not be complete without a social media lounge.
Back on the course, the water folk weren’t the only ones with a unique perspective. This pair paused on their hike to watch the action.
On the water hole, it seemed only fitting that Waiters Island showed up.
If you’re lucky enough to get into one of the hospitality tents, especially on No. 13, the view of the action is incredible.
Oh, hi, Justin Thomas!
But the star of the show is clearly the course.
And the views.
And the golfers, of course. This is a WGC event, which means it is always a stacked field.
Incredibly, it never felt overly crowded, despite the event being sold out. It was always easy to get close to the action.
I will certainly be back.
- Read more from Cork Gaines:
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