So this is it. The 2012 PGA Championship. The final major tournament of the year. "Glory's Last Shot." The world's best golfers in our backyard, on Kiawah's Ocean Course, that golf Valhalla where they filmed The Legend of Bagger Vance.
The four days of championship rounds run Thurs. Aug. 9 through Sun. Aug. 12. If you're thinking about going, here's what you need to know.
Management restricts attendance to 27,000 to 30,000 spectators per day. At press time, the only remaining single-day tickets available for purchase were for Thursday's round, at $110 plus tax per ticket. Your other option? Get the four-day Championship package for $500 per person plus tax. To order tickets, call (800) 742-4653 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Your tickets will be at the Admissions Trailer, located near the main entrance to the Ocean Course. Each paying adult may pick up four free Grounds passes for youths 17 and under.
The only other way in is to be an active-duty member of the Armed Services. Present your active-duty I.D. at the Admissions Trailer (may be accompanied by spouse with dependent I.D. card).
WARNING: Unless play is suspended because of severe weather, your ticket only gets you into the event once per day. So no free re-admittance if you leave for lunch. Plan accordingly.
Professional tournaments start at an ungodly hour. On Thursday and Friday, the gates open at 7 a.m., with the first player starting at 7:20 a.m. The gates open at 7:30 a.m. on the weekend, with the first group teeing off 15 minutes later. The gates remain open until 8 p.m.
The only available parking on Kiawah is at the PGA Public Parking Lot behind the Freshfields Village Shopping Center between Kiawah and Seabrook islands. A single-day parking pass is $20 (cash only!), so consider: A. riding with friends, B. registering for a rideshare (tridentrideshare.com), or C. showing up in a Mercedes. Mercedes-Benz is handing out complimentary parking passes to their Loyalty Lot to people who arrive in one of their cars. Special parking for spectators with handicapped parking permits or mobility issues is available. There's also a marked drop-off and pick-up area at the Freshfields PGA lot. Cars left in the PGA lot overnight will be towed.
Your other free option: Ride a bike. There are bike racks at the Freshfields PGA lot, the Ocean Course entrance, and all On-Island Shuttle stops.
Air-conditioned shuttles run from the PGA Public Parking Lot at Freshfields to the Ocean Course all day. The trip takes about 20 minutes.
The PGA has a strict no-photos or video policy, and if they catch you sneaking snapshots with your smart phone, they'll impound the device until the end of the day. They also enforce conduct and etiquette policies and will search your bags for stuff like weapons, signs, coolers, pets, alcohol, and personal electronics (although your phone is OK, if it's set to silent or vibrate). And don't mess with the alligators — for your safety and theirs.
The course has air-conditioned public "cooling zones" at the main entrance and on the back and front nines, plus nine public bleachers. The bleacher on the first hole also has a good view of the ninth hole, and if you sit onthe left side of the bleacher behind the 16th hole, you get a great view of the 17th hole, which is considered one of the most dramatic holes on this year's course. There are two bleachers on the driving range, Hole No. 1, and Hole No. 18, and one bleacher each on Holes No. 12, 15, and 16.
In addition to the 32,000-square-foot merchandise tent, the event offers food concessions that "showcase a regional menu, focusing on Southern and Lowcountry cuisine." You can also get more traditional spectator food and healthier options.