TPC Sawgrass: The Stadium Course

View of the 17th green on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

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The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is one of the best-known courses in the world, thanks to two things: It hosts The Players Championship every year, and its 17th hole, the famed island green, is one of the best-known individual holes. Pete Dye was the designer, although the idea for the island green on No. 17 came from his wife, Alice.

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a very challenging track, for pros and amateurs alike, with its combination of ribbon-like fairways running between tall trees or against numerous water hazards, and borders of long, snaking bunkers, with plenty of mounding thrown in, too.

The course plays to 7,215 yards with a stout USGA course rating of 76.8 and a slope rating of 155 (the maximum).

Sawgrass Is Part of the TPC Network

Looking back across the 4th green of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

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The "TPC" in the facility's name stands for "Tournament Players Club," and TPC Sawgrass was the first course in the TPC Network. The TPC Network includes dozens of golf courses around the USA, and facilities with the "TPC" designation are owned by the PGA Tour.

Contact info for TPC Sawgrass:

  • Address: TPC Sawgrass, 110 Championship Way, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida 32082
  • Phone: 904-273-3235 (main number)
  • Web site: tpc.com/sawgrass

Is TPC Sawgrass Open to the Public?

Looking toward the No. 5 green on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

 

Yes, both TPC Sawgrass courses — Dye's Valley is the second course, along with the Stadium Course — are open to the public.

Golfers can book stay-and-play packages (that typically include accommodations at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa), or book a daily tee time just as you would at any other public golf course.

Play can be pretty slow at the Stadium Course. Recreational golfers like to take photos; there are often many balls hit into water; and golfers enjoy hitting multiple balls at the 17th. So if you play on a busy day, bring your patience.

TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course Origins and Architects

TPC Sawgrass Holes 16 and 17 - Aerial View
An aerial view of the 16th (bottom) and 17th holes at TPC Sawgrass's Stadium Course. Scott Halleran / Getty Images


The four major championships in men's golf are all run by organizations other than the PGA Tour. So in 1974, the tour launched The Players Championship, the marquee tournament owned and run by the PGA Tour itself. That event rotated courses in its early years, but then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman wanted to build a golf course — also owned by the PGA Tour — as a permanent home for The Players Championship. And he wanted that course to be dramatic and challenging for players, yet to offer prime viewing opportunities for fans. He wanted a "stadium course," one that would offer good seating and prime viewing areas in the forms of gentle hillsides and berms.

In 1978, the PGA Tour acquired 415 acres of wetlands and swamp in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and Beman hired architect Pete Dye to transform it into the first "tournament players club," or TPC course. Dye set about draining the swamp and designing to meet Beman's demands, and in March 1980 TPC Sawgrass opened with the course we now know as the Stadium Course.

In 1987, a second course, called Dye's Valley, was added. Bobby Weed and Jerry Pate assisted Dye on the design of that track.

Specifics of the Stadium Course

The 11th green of the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.

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TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course uses water and ribbons of sand to present odd-looking angles to the golfer's eye, which makes the course appear unusual when viewed from the tees. It's a trick of the eye that unsettles golfers, the same approach that Pete Dye later used at Whistling Straits. Dye's well-known railroad ties are present as reinforcement in many of the bunker facings, or bulkheads next to water. The course ends with a doozie of a twofer: the "island green" 17th followed by the toughest hole on the course, a long par-4 18th with water down its entire left side.

The resort's website states that the course was designed to "favor no particular player or style of play." That meant Dye's instructions were to route a course that had "a selection of short, medium and long holes within the categories of par-3s, par-4s and par-5s. There had to be both right and left doglegs. The course routing was laid out so no two consecutive holes ever played in the same direction."

In addition to lots of sand and water, the Stadium Course has lots of trees, plus man-made mounding around certain tees and greens to create the "stadium" effect. Those fan-friendly berms are most prominent around the Nos. 1 and 10 tees, plus the greens at Nos. 9, 16, 17 and 18.

The hole yardages and pars of the Stadium Course's "The Players" tees (the back tees) for daily fee golfers are:

No. 1 - Par 4 - 423 yards
No. 2 - Par 5 - 532 yards
No. 3 - Par 3 - 177 yards
No. 4 - Par 4 - 384 yards
No. 5 - Par 4 - 471 yards
No. 6 - Par 4 - 393 yards
No. 7 - Par 4 - 442 yards
No. 8 - Par 3 - 237 yards
No. 9 - Par 5 - 583 yards
Out - Par 36 - 3642 yards
No. 10 - Par 4 - 424 yards
No. 11 - Par 5 - 558 yards
No. 12 - Par 4 - 358 yards
No. 13 - Par 3 - 181 yards
No. 14 - Par 4 - 481 yards
No. 15 - Par 4 - 449 yards
No. 16 - Par 5 - 523 yards
No. 17 - Par 3 - 137 yards
No. 18 - Par 4 - 462 yards
In - Par 36 - 3575 yards
Total - Par 72 - 7215 yards

From the tees listed above, the course has a USGA course rating of 76.8 and a slope rating of 155 (155 is the highest possible slope). There are four other sets of tees, the shortest of which is 5,019 yards.

There are 93 sand bunkers on the course, and 24 different water hazards. Average green size is 4,500 square feet, and for tournaments greens run at 12.5 on the Stimpmeter. Turfgrasses in use are 419 bermudagrass on tees and fairways; bermudagrass in the rough; and Mini Verde bermudagrass on greens.

Dye led multiple renovations and tweakings, including in 1983, 1985, 1988 and 2006.

The Stadium Course's Signature: The Island Green 17th Hole

TPC Sawgrass 17th Green from Behind
A view from behind the 'island green' No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass. Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course is one of the most famous holes in golf. Contrary to popular belief, however, it was not the first hole with an island green. Island greens had existed (in very small numbers) at golf courses previously. But thanks to The Players Championship, and the fact that it is the second-to-last-hole of a round, this island green became very famous. Or perhaps the proper word is "notorious" or "infamous." The fact that the green is surrounded by water makes it a potential "disaster hole"; the fact that it is the 17th hole means it can have a very large effect on how good (or bad) your score turns out to be.

The "island green" was actually an accident of construction, and it was Pete Dye's wife, Alice, who first suggested it. During construction, Pete Dye built the green where it now sits, and planned a small pond in front of it. But more and more dirt around that green kept getting excavated for use on other areas of the course. Eventually, a large bowl surrounded that green. Alice Dye, herself a course architect, as well as a great golfer in her day, suggested to Pete that the bowl be filled in with water that completely surrounded the green. And the island green at No. 17 was complete.

The hole is a par-3, and its length from each tee is:

  • Players tees — 137 yards
  • Blue tees — 128 yards
  • White tees — 115 yards
  • Green tees — 92 yards

More TPC Sawgrass History and Trivia

Looking up the 18th fairway at TPC Sawgrass.
The drive on the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass.

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  • When the PGA Tour in 1978 bought the land where TPC Sawgrass now sits, they got a sweet deal from its previous owners. Those owners were golfers and golf fans, and, also, the land was basically a swamp. How much did the PGA Tour pay? One dollar.
  • The Players Championship was first played at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, and the course met with criticism from many players who thought it was too difficult, verging on unfair (changes were later made to address some of the criticisms). Jerry Pate was the first winner, and after he won he playfully pushed the course's creators — Deane Beman and Pete Dye — into the lake at No. 18, before jumping in himself.
  • In the history of The Players Championship, only one golfer has birdied the 17th hole "island green" all four rounds. That was Paul Azinger in 1987.
  • The Stadium Course regularly appears on Golf Digest's "America's 20 Toughest Courses" list, and usually in the Top 10. It has been included on the magazine's "100 Best" list since the 1983-84 rankings.
  • You'll sometimes see references to TPC Sawgrass as "TPC at Sawgrass." That's because the facility opened under the name "Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass."

TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse

Rory McIlroy plays a shot on No. 18 at TPC Sawgrass.
The TPC Sawgrass clubhouse looms over the 18th green.

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The massive TPC Sawgrass clubhouse features Mediterranean Revival-style architecture and includes the facility's golf pro shop. Just how massive is it? Try 77,000 square feet. (That's huge by golf clubhouse standards, but, for comparison's sake, Buckingham Palace is 830,000 square feet.)

This clubhouse is a relatively new one; it was completed in 2007 following 11 months of construction.

In addition to the pro shop, the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse includes two restaurants/dining rooms, locker rooms, offices for the course management, banquet and meeting rooms, a gallery, plus outdoor entertainment areas.

The clubhouse is open to the public, so you can drop in and look around even if you aren't playing. The clubhouse is filled with PGA Tour memorabilia, and staff members are available to show guests around.