The Stadium Course TPC Sawgrass

Approaching hallowed grounds, the Player’s Club 

TPC Sawgrass is located about 12 miles west of Jacksonville, Florida. With two dedicated courses and a host of surrounding tracks embedded between subdivisions filled with lifetime golf evangelists, today we were playing the Pete Dye flagship, The Stadium Course.

Tiger Woods at #17 | Winner 2013 Player’s Championship

Opened in 1980, TPC Sawgrass has a rich history. Conceived by PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman, the club aimed to be a distinctive host site for THE PLAYERS Championship, a tournament owned by PGA Tour players. Despite facing challenges, Beman secured the support of land owners Jerome and Paul Fletcher, who ultimately sold a 415 acre piece of land for $1, enabling Beman’s vision to come to life in Ponte Vedra.

Locker Rooms | Player’s Champions Only on Right

The clubhouse is truly impressive, blending TPC history with a heavy brush of leather and exposed-beam Spanish architecture. 

As you walk through the club, there’s a sense that the caliber of your game is elevating to meet those that have been there before. This is Where the Player’s Play.

No time for sight-seeing, it was an hour before our 9am start and I needed to meet my caddie and warm up. 

If the tightly spaced and divot-free area of perfect Bermuda grass accompanied by a mountain of Titleist waiting to be fired wasn’t enough to twist your coil, the morning’s line up was a blend of what looked to be NCAA athletes and actual members of the Champions Tour. Vijay was hitting just five spots down from me…which helped the nerves.

Hole #1 | Stadium Course

After reassuring my strengths and accepting the ‘weak-spots’ in my bag, we were on-deck. And then, after the foursome ahead of us happily peppered the thin piece of grass they called Fairway #1, it was our turn to take the box.

Time to employ a mash-up of breathing techniques, accept control of my body’s movement, clear the mind and commit.

I pushed my ball to the right, but thankfully past the water-lined frontage bunker.

Managing to get up with a well-struck 8-iron from the rough, followed by a humbling 2-putt, I finished the hole. Par.

It was in the low 90’s with on and off cloud cover throughout the day. The wind was almost non-existent. The greens may have well been made of marble and my game was all over the place. 

By the turn I had only made two more pars, racking up a string of Bogey’s or worse. +11 (ouch)

Things were not improving through Hole #14 and something had to change. So i did two things.

First, I requested my caddie to plead with the marshal to allow us to ‘break away’ from the rest of our group, as the current pace of play had slowed by over 30 minutes. The request was made and answered. YES.

Second, I flagged down the beverage cart and enjoyed a rather quick Peroni before taking the box on #15.

From that point until walking off of the 18th, I was strapped in. 

Hole#15 | Looking back at the Green

Middle of the Fairway. Middle of the Green. Commit to your Pace. Par

My memories from the long walk back to the Clubhouse are filled with the surroundings and the abundant wildlife (the course is apart of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program).

Signature Hole #17 was up next and the shot needed would be my biggest test of the day.

Hole #17 TPC Sawgrass | Stadium Course 

It is rumored more than 900 balls a year are ‘donated’ on TPC Hole#17. 

With this knowledge, I still tee’d it up from the Championship box to “Get the True Player’s Experience”, as my caddie recommended.

At 148 yards to the pin and 165 to the back of the green, I chose to hit a soft 8 iron and was thrilled to see my ball sailing at the flagstick.

“Safely Aboard” caddie Garrett declared, and we walked to the green. I then demonstrated the possibility of missing a putt of less than 4 feet and tidied up. Par.

Standing on the Green at #17, I took a moment to envision the stadium that surrounds this iconic island hole each year during the Player’s Championship, and then… I heard applause?

Glancing to the ridge above the hole, I discovered a small group from the catering team enjoying their break, having lunch on the grass, and cheering on those who successfully navigated the hole. 

This time, they were cheering for Me. Very Cool.

#17 Take Par and Run | Me & Garrett

Coming off #17 I was walking on sunshine as the Clubhouse came into view. My mind was nearly empty; 

“Wow this place is unreal”…

“Middle of the Fairway”…”Middle of the Green”.

Hole #18 | Coming Home

Two good swings later and I was on the green to miss yet another Birdie putt. Soon after, Par was mine and my round at the Stadium Course was at an end.

With a big smile from Garrett and a handshake, he handed me the scorecard.

Considered one of the most challenging tour stops in the PGA, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass took me for several strokes across both the front and back. Reinforcing the mantra “every stroke counts”, by my playing #15-#18 at even par, I was able to card an 89, just breaking 90. Which Felt Great.

The course conditions were perfect, and the caliber of caddie and supporting golf professionals were outstanding. 

Be prepared for a beautiful, history-rich, challenging and long round golf. We finished in just under 5 hours.

Heritage, History & Tradition

Coming in off the lawn that overlooks the 18th green, we headed for the locker room to get cleaned up before grabbing some R&R in the Player’s Lounge.

I could have spent a week playing and hanging out in this Clubhouse. 

Exclusive-cool, yet inviting to all those who can tee-it up, the Sawgrass Player’s Club is an absolute institution.

I now understand the reverence, and I look forward to my next Loop at the Stadium Course at TPC.

“The Golden Bear” 1974 | Larger than Life

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