TPC Sawgrass, the Stadium Course' history

The Stadium Course The result of Pete Dye's work is a course with many areas where tees, greens, and fairways of various holes are close together

by Andrea Gussoni
TPC Sawgrass, the Stadium Course' history
© Getty Images Sport - Kevin C. Cox / Staff

When Deane Beman became the director of the PGA Tour in 1974, he had a clear vision: Beman wanted to create a series of courses to regularly host the most important Tour events. These courses would be designed to test the game of the world's best players and ensure the best possible experience for spectators.

Thus, the idea of the "Stadium Courses" was born. The following year, the Tour identified suitable land in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and purchased it for $1. The land was given away because it was an uninhabitable swamp, causing more problems than benefits for the previous owner.

Fortunately, Beman knew an architect who had already worked on swampy terrain and, through clever drainage design, managed to make the land suitable for a golf course. That architect was Pete Dye, and the land purchased for $1 is where TPC Sawgrass stands today.

The Stadium Course The result of Pete Dye's work is a course with many areas where tees, greens, and fairways of various holes are close together. This allows spectators to see many shots without having to move too much. These areas were then elevated to provide better visibility and create the "stands" of the Stadium Course.

Stadium Course, history

From a golfing perspective, the course is full of challenges for players. The fairways are relatively wide, but they narrow as you progress, and they are protected by undulating rough, bunkers, and water hazards.

However, from the tee, thanks to visual tricks, the landing areas appear much narrower than they are. Approaching the greens requires extremely delicate shots, especially if played from the wrong side of the fairway; the greens are very undulating and protected by various bunkers and pot bunkers, and depending on the flagstick position, the strategy from the tee can change dramatically.

The Inauguration When the first Players Championship was played on TPC Sawgrass in 1982, the players were furious. None of them were prepared for a course designed exclusively to test the game of the world's best professionals, and they believed the course was too punitive and difficult.

There was even a meeting to request playing on a different course the following year, which fortunately did not happen but led the PGA Tour to make some changes to make the course easier in subsequent years. The Evolution Over the years, TPC Sawgrass has undergone numerous modifications and has been softened.

However, Pete Dye's main structure is still present, requiring players to display extraordinary skill each year to finish near the top of the leaderboard. After Sawgrass, the Tour inaugurated many other TPC (Tournament Player Club) courses around the United States.

However, none of them come close in difficulty and quality to the original. The Finale One of Sawgrass's distinctive features is its final holes. The 16th is a relatively short par 5, always the easiest hole on the course. It's crucial to hit the fairway with the drive to stay out of trouble because the landing area for the second shot and the green are protected by water on the right and a large tree on the left.

The 17th is one of the most famous par 3s in the world. Designed by Alice Dye, the famous island green makes a relatively short tee shot very delicate, as players hit just over a sand wedge. The 18th is flanked by water on the left for its entire length; players who don't have the courage to approach the water with the tee shot have room on the right, but from there, the second shot becomes almost impossible.