TPC Sawgrass - Course Guide
Every course needs a hole that puckers your rear end.
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TPC Sawgrass in Florida is not only the most famous creation of course design legend Pete Dye, but it also features one of the best-known holes in world golf.
The iconic par-3 17th measures just 137 yards but is surrounded by water, putting fear into every pro and amateur alike.
Coming so late in the round, it’s a potential card-wrecker and a swirling wind will only add to the self-doubt when club selection is finally made.
The Stadium Course at Sawgrass, located in Ponte Vedra Beach, opened in the autumn of 1980 and has been the regular home for the PGA Tour’s Players Championship.
It was the first of the PGA Tour’s Tournament Players Clubs (TPCs) – venues built to accommodate big crowds at high-profile events.
The inaugural Players Championship took place in 1982 when American Jerry Pate hoisted the silverware while the winner’s rollcall since then includes legends of the games such as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus was no fan at first though, making this unforgettable response when asked if TPC Sawgrass suited his playing style: “No, I’ve never been good at stopping a 5-iron on the hood of a car.”
TPC Sawgrass Course Guide
As with all Pete Dye courses, he calls for brain to triumph over brawn, and the golfer is often made to feel uncomfortable due to numerous challenging angles off the tee that mess with traditional sightlines. It’s very rare to hear anyone come out with that often-used phrase that “the course suits my eye”. The layout is designed so that no two consecutive holes ever play in the same direction while there are hundreds of trees, 88 bunkers, and 17 water hazards to gobble up errant shots. The wet stuff is in play at 16, 17 and 18 when the stakes are highest. Add in hard, fast greens and this can be an extreme test, especially if the wind blows.
TPC Sawgrass Fast Facts
TPC Sawgrass course designer: Pete Dye (1980)
TPC Sawgrass course record: 63 Fred Couples (1992), Greg Norman (1994), Roberto Castro (2013), Martin Kaymer (2014), Colt Knost (2016), Jason Day (2016), Webb Simpson (2018), Brooks Koepka (2018), Hideki Matsuyama (2020)
Key Holes at TPC Sawgrass
Hole 5 – Par 4, 471 yards: The longest par 4 on the course and traditionally the hardest hole on the front nine. A slight dogleg right, framed by water on both sides, the approach to a smallish green will need to avoid sandtraps and palm trees.
Hole 8 – Par 3, 237 yards: The longest par 3 at TPC Sawgrass, this is definitely a ‘take your par and move on’ kind of hole. To do that, players must avoid no less than 10 bunkers that surround the green – no easy task when hitting a long iron or fairway wood.
Hole 16 – Par 5, 523 yards: Before the potential horrors of 17 and 18 comes this attractive par 5 – an opportunity to bank a birdie or even eagle. And yet, with water in play, this risk-reward hole can be the start of a nightmare. If the tee-shot is straight and long enough, the player can go for the green in two, although the approach has to stay clear of the drink which runs down the right side of the putting surface.
Hole 17 – Par 3, 137 yards: “The Island Green” – although technically a peninsula – was the brainchild of Pete Dye’s wife, Alice. The green is wide but narrow and has a small bunker in front of it. On windy days, the watery grave ball count can ramp up severely and club selection, as well as nerve, have to be spot on.
Hole 18 – Par 4, 462 yards: Even if players have come through the 17th unscathed, double bogey (or worse) danger lies at Sawgrass’ final hole – a beastly par 4. Anything left off the tee results in a splash and the bail-out shot to the right can lead to tree trouble and set up a devilishly tricky shot to the angled, tiered green.
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What They Say
“It’s a very simple formula here: Hit it good. The golf course is one that Pete has set up to intimidate you visually. You have to overcome that part of it. I think we all have to accept that you’re going to hit good shots, too, as well, and going to get some weird hops, get some really, really funky lies, whether it’s off the fairway or around the greens. Stuff where you’re standing on your head and hitting shots, which is not normal, but on a Pete Dye course, it is.”
“Such an incredible golf course, one of the best in the world, one of my favorite in the world.”
Rory McIlroy (speaking about Pete Dye courses):
“An acquired taste. They’re like beer when you’re younger. You sort of don’t like it but then you think it’s cool to drink it and then you sort of acquire a taste for it.”
On the 17th hole
“Every course needs a hole that puckers your rear end.”
“It is like having a 3 o’clock appointment for a root canal. You’re thinking about it all morning and you feel bad all day. You kind of know sooner or later you’ve got to get to it.”
“This is one of the few holes that I can think of that has no bail-out, that has no margin of error, that has no area for recovery. It’s an all-or-nothing type shot. Very few holes are like that.”
“If you’re going to be brave you need to hit a great shot. There’s no way around it. It’s a great, great design of a golf hole when the best players in the world are struggling with a pitching wedge in their hands. It’s as simple as that.”
“It’s not a difficult hole if you go out there on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday and just play it. You know, come tournament day, for some reason that green just shrinks. It only seems six-foot square near the hole, and the rest of it feels like it’s all water.”