Every Hole at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Take a spectacular hole-by-hole drone flyover of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, host to THE PLAYERS Championship. Narrated by Ron Whitten, Senior Editor of Architecture at Golf Digest.

Released on 3/9/2020

Transcript

00:00
[upbeat piano music]
00:04
[Narrator] In 1978, PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman
00:07
hired Pete Dye to design a home course for the PGA Tour.
00:12
Beman gave Dye 400 acres of swamp
00:14
just south of Jacksonville and a deadline.
00:17
Dye embraced the challenge
00:18
by building target golf to the hilt.
00:21
When the Players Stadium Course opened in 1980,
00:24
it was a southern version of Pine Valley
00:26
with ribbons of grass edged by vast expanses
00:29
of sugar sand and coquina shell,
00:31
all framed by high mounds for galleries.
00:34
Today the course is more akin to Augusta National
00:36
with lush, uniform rough, fluffy white sand,
00:40
and beds of pine straw beneath trees.
00:43
But Dye's distinctive features remain.
00:45
His dogleg bunkers with precise, beveled edges,
00:48
his rollicking green contours,
00:50
his vertical wooden bulkheads where fate
00:52
is determined by the single rotation of a ball.
00:55
TPC Sawgrass, among Golf Digest's 100 greatest golf courses,
01:00
has hosted The Players Championship since 1982
01:03
and annually produces the strongest field in golf.
01:08
This is every hole at TPC Sawgrass,
01:11
Players Stadium Course.
01:20
[upbeat orchestral music]
01:21
Many architects want their opening hole
01:23
to be an gentle introduction,
01:25
but not Pete Dye, who filled half the quarter
01:27
of his first hole with sand and water
01:29
and turned a straight par four
01:31
into something that twists and turns.
01:33
The farther left you aim off the tee,
01:35
the more the green side bunker
01:36
will come into play on the second shot.
01:39
Therein lies a fundamental principle
01:40
for playing Pete Dye golf courses,
01:43
play toward the trouble off the tee if you want
01:45
the least obstructive approach shot into the green.
01:48
Some call that strategic.
01:51
Others call it foolhardy.
01:53
Dye designed his par fives to demand shot shaping
01:56
in one direction off the tee and the opposite
01:58
direction into the green.
02:00
Good players play point to point these days,
02:02
so most don't fear the tree lines
02:04
in the par five second anymore
02:06
or the pond in the strip bunker on the right
02:08
the last 175 yards to the green.
02:11
But those who miss the green in any direction often
02:14
end up in awkward situations where they're forced
02:17
to invent a recovery shot.
02:19
That's another Dye principle.
02:21
Expect the unexpected if you miss one of his greens.
02:27
Number three is the most ordinary looking hole
02:29
at TPS Sawgrass, with water and a cross bunker
02:32
so far removed from play as to be harmless.
02:35
The real trouble is on the green, which is two levels.
02:38
Higher in the back, separated by a long
02:40
diagonal transition slope.
02:42
Three putts are common here,
02:44
even in The Players Championship.
02:47
The short fourth is generous off the tee,
02:49
but demanding on the second shot.
02:51
The only forced carry over water
02:53
on any par four on the course.
02:55
Dye later said he regretting digging the canal
02:57
in front of the green, but he never filled it in.
03:00
The back of the green is higher than the rest
03:02
with downward sloped running toward the water
03:05
in front and on the left.
03:07
In 2001, a year after winning The Players Championship,
03:10
Hal Sutton eagled the fourth hole twice in four rounds,
03:14
both times spinning a ball off a back slope
03:16
and into the cup.
03:20
[upbeat orchestral music]
03:22
It's uphill off the tee to a plateau fairway,
03:25
then downhill to the green on the slight dogleg right fifth.
03:28
There's lots of gingerbread around the green
03:30
in the form of potholes, palm trees,
03:32
and one elaborately shaped bunker well short.
03:35
But honestly, this is a benign green
03:37
that's wide open in front
03:39
because Dye knew most would be hitting approach shots
03:41
with long irons or even fairway woods.
03:44
For the careless, around the perimeter of the green,
03:47
Dye put in a few dips that slope off in various directions.
03:53
Drives from the tip of the six once played
03:55
through a narrow gap between leaning pine trees
03:57
just in front of the tee box, but they fell down years ago.
04:01
The lake on the left is relatively new.
04:03
It had previously just been a moat.
04:06
To add visual spice, Pete planted palm trees
04:08
helter-skelter in front of both sides
04:10
of this egg shaped green and approach shots not played
04:13
from the center of the fairway must contend with it.
04:16
Dye called the looks of the mounds in scattered bunkers
04:19
around this green to be his grenade attack.
04:24
For the first 34 years, the area between the parallel
04:26
sixth and seventh holes was a high, long spectator mound,
04:30
ringed by a moat that stifled gallery circulation.
04:33
In a 2016 remodeling of the course,
04:36
the mound was trucked off to be used elsewhere and the moat
04:39
expanded into a full lake.
04:42
Although there's a buffer bunker on the left,
04:43
the water's still uncomfortably close
04:45
off the tee on number seven,
04:48
especially for those who wanna play left to avoid
04:50
tangling with a small lagoon and boomerang bunker
04:53
right at the green.
04:56
The long eighth is the toughest par three on the course
04:58
during each player's championship,
05:00
producing the fewest greens in regulation.
05:03
Trees tight around the tees block the intensity
05:06
of crosswinds and the green rolls off in four directions
05:09
toward nearly a dozen tiny traps,
05:11
as well as knobs and hollows of sticky rough.
05:17
[upbeat orchestral music]
05:18
Nine is widely acknowledged as one of the best par fives
05:22
Pete Dye ever designed.
05:24
A diagonal canal crosses the fairway within range
05:26
of tee shots, so some hit less than driver
05:29
and others aim up the left side.
05:32
Even from the center of this broad fairway,
05:34
the green is half hidden behind clusters of oaks
05:37
and low hillocks on the left.
05:39
The green is narrow and not particularly deep
05:42
with prominent slopes front and back that repel shots.
05:48
Beman wanted the 10th to be the equivalent
05:50
of the first hole, so tournament players
05:52
starting on either nine would not be disadvantaged
05:55
and one paper the 10th seems like the mirror image
05:58
of the first, but 10 has a sharp dogleg left
06:01
and its gooseneck fairway ends abruptly in a deep
06:03
cross bunker, so many players hit iron off the tee.
06:07
The approach is often into the wind,
06:09
but knobs and sand in front
06:11
don't accommodate low bouncing shots.
06:14
The green has ridges throughout and is a shallow target
06:17
when approached from the right side of the fairway.
06:22
The zig zag 11th again tempts us to play
06:24
toward trouble to be rewarded.
06:27
Toward the massive fairway bunker left of the landing zone.
06:31
It is mild compared to the original waste bunker
06:33
that Dye had built on that spot
06:34
that had been filled with clumps of lovegrass
06:36
and was the scene of many lost balls.
06:40
Playing away from that bunker off the tee
06:41
brings into play overhanging limbs of a massive
06:44
oak on the second shot.
06:45
If you're attempting to reach the green in two, that is.
06:49
There's always the bailout fairway on the far left.
06:52
In the 2016 remodeling, PGA Tour designer Steve Wenzloff
06:56
extended Dye's pond around the back
06:58
of this putting surface.
07:02
This is not Pete Dye's original 12th hole,
07:04
which was a sharper dogleg left around
07:06
a series of high knobs.
07:09
To bring more excitement to this corner of the course,
07:11
Wenzloff made 12 a corner cutting drivable par four
07:15
with a pond at the base of a shaved bank
07:17
to the left of a perched green and a hollow
07:20
to the right that leaves a semi-blind
07:22
pitch over a pot bunker.
07:25
Wenzloff insists Pete signed off of this hole,
07:27
although some of the Dye family say Pete
07:29
never believed in drivable par fours.
07:32
They say he considered them just really long par threes.
07:39
[upbeat dramatic music]
07:40
In truth, this corner of the course has never
07:42
lacked excitement because the tee shot of the par three
07:44
13th has always been a demanding carry over hazards
07:47
to a putting surface with three distinct sections.
07:51
A high plateau on the right, a back left shelf,
07:54
and a valley in the front left.
07:56
Putts down the slope from back to front
07:58
can be nerve-racking with a nagging fear
08:01
that a runaway putt could end up in the pond.
08:06
14, the longest par four on the course
08:08
is yet another variation of a Pete Dye zig-zag hole.
08:12
Any tee shot left of center puts the overhanging oaks
08:15
short of the green into play on approach shots.
08:18
The secret here is to play down the right side,
08:20
away from the obvious trouble.
08:21
Counterintuitive on a dye design.
08:24
But mounds in the right hand rough can produce
08:26
a hanging lie in gnarly, deep Bermuda grass.
08:30
Even from the center of the fairway,
08:31
the long undulated green sits at an angle
08:33
and thus is a fairly shallow target.
08:38
15 is the tightest tee shot on the course,
08:40
partly because there's little airspace between trees left
08:43
and right off the tee and partly because the fairway
08:45
swings to the right rather quickly,
08:47
demanding a controlled fade.
08:50
Dye anticipated many would lay back off the tee with less
08:53
than driver, so 15 green is deep to accept long second shots
08:58
and mostly open in front.
09:00
The right center of this green contains a prominent dip,
09:03
what designers often call a thumbprint.
09:07
The dogleg left 16th is another hole that is changed.
09:11
When TPC Sawgrass opened in 1980,
09:14
this hole had a tiny perch green
09:16
beyond a cluster of prominent oaks,
09:17
with water well to the right and behind.
09:21
Tour players complained the small size of the green
09:23
made it impossible to hit and hold in two.
09:26
So in 1986, Dye reconfigured the putting surface,
09:29
making it lower, wider and deeper,
09:31
but extending it right the lake's edge.
09:34
Still, 16 is statistically the easiest hole in the course
09:38
to birdie, which is fitting given what comes next.
09:44
[upbeat orchestral music]
09:44
This is it.
09:46
The gladiator Colosseum of golf,
09:48
where thousands cheer and jeer the world's best
09:51
as they take on the beast, Pete Dye's original island green.
09:55
One actually suggested by his wife Alice.
09:58
Take away the screaming masses
10:01
and the tee shot is still intimidating.
10:03
Each year the club pulls about
10:05
120,000 golf balls from this pond.
10:08
An average of three per customer.
10:12
By the way, that's not a new backstop behind the green,
10:14
it's simply the railing of a temporary footbridge,
10:17
used while the narrow turf walkway was being regrassed.
10:22
Anything less than a boomerang par four
10:24
curving along the edge of oblivion
10:26
would be anticlimactic after the previous hole.
10:30
Play safe to the right off the tee
10:31
and you could be beneath oaks Pete planted 20 years ago.
10:35
From there, the angling to the green brings into play
10:37
a jumble of humps and hollows short
10:39
right of the putting surface.
10:41
Dye's design rewards the courageous.
10:44
Hug the lake's edge and your approach is wide open
10:47
into a slope that's candid like a catcher's mitt.
10:50
TPC's 17th and 18th epitomize Pete Dye's stark options,
10:55
sink or survive, GOAT or glory.
10:59
Go bold or go home.
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