Playing a PGA Tour event across three courses, having each pro golfer paired with an amateur, and having players teeing off on both No. 1 and No. 10 on each course makes The American Express in Palm Springs this weekend one of the more unusual tournaments of the year.
You’ll see celebrities. You’ll see CEO’s of companies that paid plenty of money to play three rounds of golf. You’ll also see long rounds when some hacker you’ve never heard of is laying four from behind a cactus, and remains 220 yards from the green.
But if you’re curious, here’s how all of it works.
Instead of the usual Tour event where players are all on one course and there’s a cut after 36 holes, this event has a cut after 54 holes and players will play three tracks once each on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The three courses are La Quinta Country Club, the PGA West Nicklaus Course (a Golden Bear design), and the PGA West Stadium Course.
The Stadium Course is a Pete Dye design that’s much more difficult than the other two, and the 65 players plus ties that make the cut after play on Saturday will have one more round at Stadium on Sunday to determine the winner.
Players will need plenty of birdies at at La Quinta and Nicklaus, as the winner this weekend likely needs to shoot -28 or better across 72 holes even while playing Stadium twice. And if there’s a place on the PGA Tour where you might see a round of 60 or better, it’s at La Quinta or Nicklaus.
Each PGA pro is paired with an amateur golfer, but they are not a team in anyway unlike you’ll see at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am or some other events. Despite playing right next to the pros, the amateurs are competing as if this was the annual member tournament at their local country club.
The amateurs are competing for two trophies: There’s a gross and a net competition. The gross winner is the amateur player with the lowest score after 54 holes. The net competition is for the player with the lowest score that includes their golf handicap, which is designed to make things more even for golfers of different skill levels.
How do players know what their handicap is? They report their scores after playing at least three rounds of golf that can be competitive or not, and an online calculator does the rest.
If the amateurs score well enough to actually make the cut with their gross score, well, tough cookies. They’re still not playing on Sunday.