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