PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Emerging from swampland more than 35 years ago, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has always been a good walk often spoiled by the dangers resting from the first tee to the 18th green.
Built by the devilish hands of Pete Dye, the course is a visually intimidating track full of water hazards, thin fairways, potholes, craters, mounds, sharp edges and deep, vast bunkers and waste areas.
Home since 1982 to The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship event, Dye’s gem has terrified even the game’s best players. Dye’s goal was to make the players sweat — over every shot. Goal achieved. With its democratic design — it favors no particular player — the course demands usage of every club in the bag and tests every aspect in the player’s arsenal.
Over the years, the course has been tweaked and the greens softened. While it remained a stern test, the layout had grown a bit tired in recent years. But in keeping with the Tour’s mandate to improve each year, a major renovation began the day after Jason Day wrapped up his authoritative victory in last year’s Players.
Despite the makeover, the spirit of Dye’s doctrine was enhanced with additional temptation and trepidation ahead of this year’s 44th edition of The Players.
“It was much needed,” said 2014 FedExCup champion Billy Horschel, who lives 2 miles from TPC Sawgrass and practices almost every day at the facility when he’s in town. “We need to make sure every part of the golf course is major championship-caliber. Unfortunately, the driving range was not there. The course condition was not major championship-esque.
“So you have to give props to the Tour for spending the money for the upgrades. The course and the range look amazing.”
A natural renovation occurred in October when Hurricane Matthew knocked down more than 200 trees, giving the course a more open look. All 18 greens were resurfaced with a more resilient strain of Bermuda (TifEagle) that can withstand heat and frost. Seven of the greens were reconfigured to withstand wear and tear and provide more pin positions.
The vast practice range has been expanded and enhanced with additional putting and chipping areas and more targets to aim at and improved hitting bays to hit from.
But the biggest eye-opening alterations came on the sixth, seventh, 12th and 15th holes.
The sixth and seventh, which run parallel to each other, are now joined by a sizable lake. The 12th has been redesigned from a 360-yard par-4 to a 303-yard, drivable par-4. And a new tee at the 15th has stretched the hole to 470 yards.
“Every year we’re looking at ways we can improve our product. Our goal is to have it more exciting overall, and excitement in our world is movement on the leaderboard,”…