U.S. Senior Open's 19th hole is like no other

MSG Promotions Inc. has created a new 660,000-square-foot experiential initiative around the championship's closing holes that is beyond just golf and traditional hospitality

2022 U.S. Senior Open
A young fan putts at the U.S. Senior Open's new 19th Hole experience at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Mimi Griffin admits there’s nothing unique about the name “19th Hole” at this week’s U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club in the scenic Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania.

There will be plenty of food consumed, beer and wine put away as patrons celebrate the third time the historic club has hosted the national championship for the world’s best golfers 50 and older.

But has there ever been a “19th hole” that measures 660,000 square feet?

“We have some unbelievable initiatives this week that are making the USGA — if not nervous — certainly paying attention to what we’re doing,” said Griffin, the founder of MSG Promotions Inc., a firm that is once again executing the hospitality sector of this USGA championship. “I like to push the envelope, to do things new and different each and every time we do it. It’s the third time we’re having this event at Saucon Valley so shame on us if we don’t really try to change things and evolve.”

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In the previous U.S. Senior Opens in Bethlehem, Pa., in 1992 and 2000 the large open area around holes 16, 17 and 18 was used for corporate hospitality. That piece of the puzzle has now been taken out to the course and erected in and around the greens on those holes, which in turn left a massive space for Griffin to wrap her creative head around.

“What has changed over the years is that clients will not tolerate any hospitality if they don’t have a view of the golf,” Griffin said. “In the previous hospitality area we had on holes 16, 17 and 18 you couldn’t see the golf. Sure, it was an idyllic setting buy you couldn’t see the action. We couldn’t do that this time around. So we took all of our hospitality out on the golf course and on top of the greens, and that has been a major improvement. But then we were left with this prime real estate in the middle of the three finishing holes. So instead of throwing up a big tent with air conditioning and putting a bunch of TVs in there we decided to do something that has never been done at any USGA event, including the U.S. Open. We’ve created a festival inside of the three finishing holes.”

2022 U.S. Senior Open
Fans play lawn games that are part of the 19th Hole experience at the U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club. The new experiential concept includes games, concerts, golf simulators and, of course, food and beverage in a space located around the course's closing three holes.

The 19th Hole area will be an upgraded ticket that runs all week and costs between $50 and $80 per round, or $275 for the entire week — which includes the golf admission piece. The price includes live concerts, social gaming, a 9,000-square-foot putting green, chipping contests and golf simulators that mimic the course’s finishing holes. And of course, tons of food and beverage options.

“All of this is happening in the middle of the three finishing holes,” Griffin said. “The energy and activity is going to be phenomenal and then when it comes time for the telecast to come on it’s going to look like the place is packed because we’re going to have 4,000 people in that space.

“Even people who could care less about golf are going to have something that will entertain them,” she added. “If you only appeal to the golf geeks your attendance is not going to be great. We need to reach out to everybody.”

A local hospital, Lehigh Valley Health Network, is sponsoring the massive fun area, while the local Wind Creek Casino is behind the unique gaming portion. Wind Creek has developed a gaming app that ticket holders to the 19th Hole can enjoy, betting in real time on the action that is occurring on the three finishing holes.

“The 16th hole is a par 4 so it’s who is going to be the long drive in group; No. 17 is who is closest to the hole in that group and 18 is how many will make par,” Griffin said. “You bet for free and you accrue points as you win and they will be redeemable for merchandise, food and beverage. There will be grand prizes and daily prizes that will be hotel stays at Wind Creek and even a trip to their resort in Aruba.”

Even if you are only at the golf course for one day and have a 19th Hole ticket you can still keep betting all week long with an active leaderboard on the app.

“We’re going to get people paying attention to the Senior Open even on the days they are not there, which is great for the USGA,” Griffin said. “And we’re going to have people cheering for the names of guys they’ve never heard of, which I love because they are going to feel the love. It will become something that will keep everybody engaged and give every single player on the roster some adulation, which just doesn’t happen all the time.”