The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass

The Stadium Course

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 13: Jose-Maria Olazabal of Spain plays his second shot at the par 5, 16th hole during the final round of THE PLAYERS held on the Stadium Course at The TPC Sawgrass, on May 13, 2007 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)Accolades for the venue of the Players Championship, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, have been flowing in since extensive renovations took place during the entire summer of 2006. The course and clubhouse were virtually rebuilt in their totality, and amazingly they were ready in time to host the Players Championship in May 2007.

Hallowed by GOLF magazine as one of the ‘Top 100 Courses In The US’, the Stadium Course is known to be a real tester. Water comes into play at virtually every hole, and because of its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, wind is often a real hazard.

Originally built in 1981, the tees, fairways and greens were completely reconstructed with new sand – an incredible 26 600 tons of it – and a modern drainage system, in an effort to encourage ‘firm and fast’ conditions for the golfers.

Over 200 newly planted oaks, pines and palms make the rough a very unpleasant place to be, and even the bunkers have been relocated around the Players Championship golf course.

The notoriety of 1982

There have not always been rave reviews about the course though. At the inaugural Players Championship in 1982, the main media story was not about the eventual winner, Jerry Pate, but about how totally unplayable most of the finest golfers of their day found the course:

The great Jack Nicklaus, three-time winner of the event before its move to TPC Sawgrass, when asked whether the Stadium Course suited his style of playing, is reported to have said, “No, I’ve never been very good at stopping a 5-iron on the hood of a car.”

JC Snead, nephew of the legendary Sam Snead, found it just as unappealing, and said of the course: “90% horse manure and 10% luck.”

Winner of the Masters in 1984 and 1995, Ben Crenshaw was also a tad uncomplimentary when he said of the course: “It is Star Wars golf, designed by Darth Vader.”

This prompted architect Pete Dye to make a couple of re-adjustments during the following year – he made the greens less brutal and replaced several bunkers. The Stadium Course could finally take its place as one of America’s best.

The Signature Hole – the infamous ‘Island Green’

The most difficult of all 18 holes is the 132-yard, par-3 seventeenth, known tamely as the ‘Island Green’, but tame it most certainly is not! The most picturesque of all the holes is riddled with risk – it is in effect an island, though there is a tiny bit of green connecting the hole to the rest of the Players Championship golf course.

It has been estimated that over 100 000 balls have found the water, and many a tournament has been won or lost on the 17th. It has proved to be so popular with golf fans that a spectator mound has been built close by to assure the best views, and an American cable television network has a dedicated channel to cover the action at the 17th exclusively!