Tee shots and tailgating: Your guide to football, fairways and grilling this fall

October 13, 2017

For folks of a certain pictorial passion, leaf-peeping is autumn’s most spendid tradition—but c’mon, have you never tailgated at a freakin’ football game? For fans of grilled meats, foamy libations and trash talking, these sausage fests are as essential as the games themselves. Since, inevitably, you’re also craving some great golf this fall, check out these six stadium tailgate celebrations—and the rockin’ small-ball nearby.

Dallas Cowboys

AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex.

Tailgate Skinny: Love ’em or hate ‘em, America’s Team calls home a state-of-the-art stadium that has to be seen to be believed. The midfield, high-def video screen alone cost $40 mil. Tailgating at the 100,000-seat mothership is divided between team-authorized lots, which are closer to the stadium but offer fewer spaces for chilling and grilling, and privately owned lots, with longer game-time walks but more elbow room. Beef ribs and brisket are legendary Texas faves, but anything with barbecue sauce is a delicacy in the Lone Star State.

Key November Home Game: The Boys’ annual Thanksgiving Day contest (this year, versus the Chargers) is always huge, but one week later, their Thursday night tilt against the division-rival Redskins will likely carry playoff implications.

Best Nearby Golf: The Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine—the only NFL-themed golf complex in existence—scores a touchdown with ravines, elevation change, Texas-sized bunkers, a memorabilia-filled clubhouse and the par-4 fourth hole, which features a large blue-and-white Dallas Cowboys star painted on the fairway’s “A” position. The all-inclusive fee is good for golf and bottomless food and soft drinks—which means you can devour all the halfway house jalapeno sausages you’d like. $129–$189; cowboysgolfclub.com

Arizona Cardinals

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Tailgate Skinny: What’s lacking in Glendale is history and tradition—and, at times, loyalty, given the vast number of transplants who call Arizona home. The tailgate scene, however, makes up for those shortcomings with youthful enthusiasm, the NFL’s sunniest, warmest November weather, and plenty of eating, drinking and merriment, both in the parking lot and on an eight-acre plot of grass next to the remarkable stadium, which itself features a retractable roof and field. Live music, corn hole (a Cincinnati import) and sizzling, jalapeño-infused burgers and brats are just some of the game-day attractions.

Key November Home Game: Circle Thursday, November 9, in red. That’s when the crimson-clad Cardinals take on the Seattle Seahawks, their loathed division foe. The Cards are looking to improve on a 2016 home-game dustup, when the two teams rumbled and stumbled to a 6-6 tie.

Best Nearby Golf: Dozens of marquee public spreads await within a half-hour drive, but a scant seven miles away is a Phoenix-area classic, The Wigwam, which dates to 1929. All three Wigwam layouts are flattish, parkland-style tracks, with the Gold— a sternly bunkered, early ’60s Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design with elevated greens retooled by Tom Lehman—offering the stiffest challenge. The Gold plays host to the annual Patriot All-American, won two years ago by 2017 NCAA Champion Braden Thornberry. $39–$89; wigwamarizona.com

Kansas City Chiefs

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Tailgate Skinny: A sea of red shirts and steady wisps of beef and barbecue smoke greet revelers at one of the great tailgate experiences in football. The Tee Pee tribe in Lot C is tailgate central, but come early. Still, with tens of thousands of spaces available in a dozen lots, there’s room for all. Parking lot gates open five hours prior to game time, allowing for grills to slow-cook ribs, with much of the fun revolving around sweet-smoky sauce competitions. Kansas City strip steaks and chili cook-offs are other mouth-watering options.

Key November Home Game: October 30th’s Monday Night Football matchup against the Broncos will be ginormous, but November 26th’s battle with the Bills could hold even greater significance for the Chiefs.

Best Nearby Golf: The Troon-managed Ironhorse in Leawood, Kan., is a Michael Hurdzan design that zigzags through oaks, lakes and rock outcroppings. Situated 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City and a half-hour from Arrowhead, the relentlessly interesting layout boasts one of the Midwest’s sternest closers, a 475-yard par 4 that plays over a twisting, stone-lined creek. $48–$72; ironhorsegolf.com

Philadelphia Eagles

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.

Tailgate Skinny: To say Philly fans are passionate is pure understatement—these are the same people who once booed Santa Claus, pelting him with snowballs. Pregame festivities, however, are just that—festive. They’ve even decked out an old school bus as a “Football Shuttle,” used exclusively for tailgating. There are 38 small surface lots at the stadium, with roughly a third designated for tailgating. Hot pretzels, pizzas and the ubiquitous Philly cheesesteaks are always on the menu, along with staples ranging from ribs to rib eyes.

Key November Home Game: If the Eagles hope to compete with the league’s elite, a gut-check test takes place on November 5, when the defense-minded Denver Broncos come to town.

Best Nearby Golf: If you pal around with private-club members, suburban Philadelphia is loaded with some of America’s greatest tracks—among them, Merion and Aronimink. For the rest of us, Glen Mills is tops. Located roughly 40 minutes west of the stadium, this 1998 Bobby Weed creation dazzles with private club–like ambience and rolling terrain that is equal parts open and wooded. $82–$98; glenmillsgolf.com

University of Wisconsin Badgers

Camp Randall Field, Madison, Wis.

Tailgate Skinny: With Camp Randall Stadium uniquely situated in the heart of UW’s campus and downtown Madison, tailgating isn’t confined to parking lots. It sprawls everywhere, from grassy knolls overlooking Lake Mendota to the hard-partying Badger Bash in Union Square, and in bars, restaurants and farmers markets in between. The Wisconsin Band (once so rowdy they were banned from a home game) and mascot Bucky Badger entertain, beer and brats flow like water, and—rain or shine—fans bask in one of the most idyllic, carnivalesque pregame settings in college football.

Key November Home Game: On November 18, perennial Big 10 power Wisconsin meets the new bully on the block, the Jim Harbaugh–led Michigan Wolverines. Expect Rose Bowl and National Championship implications.

Best Nearby Golf: Robert Trent Jones Jr. crafted University Ridge in 1989 for the University of Wisconsin. Just minutes from campus, the course rose to the head of the class of elite college tracks after a 2008 renovation by Jones and then associate Jay Blasi, a proud UW alum. Superior conditioning, a beguiling blend of open and parkland holes, and solid bunkering and risk-reward options make this a college course worth repeating. $35–$92; universityridge.com

University of Mississippi Rebels

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.

Tailgate Skinny: Perhaps the word “tailgating” isn’t quite the right fit here. There are no cars or trucks, no parking lots and, in a drawback for some purists, no open flames permitted, so you won’t need a gas mask to get through the grilling. Instead, you get a 10-acre, on-campus park called “The Grove,” which is shaded by stately oaks and dotted with rows of red-and-blue canopies that call to mind something between a picnic and a garden party. People “put on the dog” in the fixin’s, the decor and even their attire. It’s all quite civil and gorgeous—until game time.

Key November Home Game: Although the Rebel football program is currently enveloped in controversy (including allegations of academic fraud) and uncertainty, influential SEC matchups await. Among them is a visit from Kentucky on November 4.

Best Nearby Golf: For value alone, it’s tough to top Mallard Pointe, a 7,004-yard, par-72 Bob Cupp design located in John W. Kyle State Park, 30 miles west of Oxford. Deep ravines, dense tree cover, recently upgraded greens and handsome views of Lake Sardis are among the highlights. $40–$51; mpgolfcourse.com