Explaining the Meanings of Stadium Course and Stadium Golf

The 17th green surrounded by fans at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
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"Stadium course" (or "stadium golf course)" and "stadium golf" are terms that refer both to a general style of golf course built to include great viewing sites for spectators, and to one specific golf course that inspired such a design.

The General Meaning of Stadium Course/Stadium Golf

A stadium golf course is one that was designed with the hosting of important golf tournaments in mind, so that the needs of spectators are taken into account.

What does that mean in terms of the golf course design? It means having areas between and around holes that allow for the easy movement of spectators. It means creating great vantage points for fans who decide to stop in certain locations to watch the action. It means creating "hubs sites," places on the golf course where spectators can sit and see action taking place on two or more different holes.

Perhaps the thing most associated with stadium courses is the use of mounding and hillsides — grassy berms — around the greens complexes. These become, in the event a well-attended golf tournament is played on such a course, places were spectators can settle down and view the play.

Such greens complexes are often said to create an "amphitheater effect" around putting greens.

And "stadium golf" refers to a tournament played in such a setting, one that allows large numbers of fans to gather, to get around the golf course, to more easily view what is happening.

The Specific Stadium Course

The term "Stadium Course," when capitalized, refers specifically to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

The golf course at TPC Sawgrass that is named the Stadium Course is the site every year of The Players Championship on the PGA Tour, and the "amphitheater effect" can be seen in the photo above of all the grassed seating areas that surround the 17th-hole, island-green complex at that golf course. From those areas, fans can also see tournament play taking place on the 16th and 18th holes.

Sawgrass' Stadium Course was the first golf course purpose-built to host important tournaments that was designed with future spectators specifically in mind.

The Stadium Course, the brainchild of then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, was designed by Pete Dye and Alice Dye, and opened for play in 1980.

Beman, slight of stature at 5-foot-7, knew the difficulty that spectators at golf tournaments prior to that time often had in seeing the actions. Fans would get tightly packed into small spaces between holes, and those not lucky (or fast enough) be in the first row or two often found viewing the golf challenging.

Beman wanted to create both a flagship PGA Tour event (The Players Championship) and a golf course (TPC Sawgrass) that solved those viewing problems. His ideas formed the basis of stadium golf.

Other Meanings of 'Stadium Golf'

The term "stadium golf" can refer to a professional tournament being played at a stadium course. But "Stadium Golf" turns out to be a common name for practice facilities (driving range/practice area combos).

And "stadium golf" also has a more literal meaning: golf played in a stadium, as in football or baseball stadium. There is a company called Stadium Links (stadiumlinksgolf.com) that turns the football field or baseball diamond at major league sports stadiums into golf courses of a sort.

Golfers hit shots from the upper deck down onto the erstwhile gridiron/diamond at target areas on temporary greens, and the targets can even be used to play a "round" of golf hitting from the upper deck.