The Players Stadium Course is iconic. Not only is its famous 17th hole one of the most photographed holes in the world, the course itself was built for tournament play. Other courses lacked in parking, were built for one style of golf, didn't have the room for spectators and frankly were pretty exclusive (ahem ... the Masters). Then came TPC Sawgrass in 1981.
"What Deane Beman [commissioner] and Pete Dye [architect] came up with was truly revolutionary and forward-thinking; nobody has done what they did," says Matt Rapp, tournament director. "They wanted to create the purest test in golf and the best fan experience possible. This course was built specifically to host the best professional golfers in the world in a neutral test in front of large galleries of people."
The Players Championship made a big splash its first year—literally. After Jerry Pate won in 1982, he threw Beman and Dye into the lake and then jumped in after them to the fans' and media's delight.
This year's tournament will draw the top golfers in the world, including Rickie Fowler, back to defend his title and compete for a $10-million purse. The Players Championship doesn't cater to one particular style of play, like long hitters; it favors shot makers. Case in point, Vijay Singh, who plays there regularly, has yet to win a tournament there. An equal-playing field yields surprising finishes. And fans love that.
“The Players is a real unique tournament, with a great finish, greatest amphitheater in golf—which is the whole concept of the stadium—so you get the fans to really see and enjoy the golf better," said Fred Funk, past champion of the Players. "You're surrounded by noise. It's just a great combination of finishing holes."
Not just the stadium was built for fans, but many other amenities as well.
Ladies, have you ever said you'd pay a million bucks not to use a porta-potty? Well, the tournament took that literally. It built a $1.5-million, permanent restroom on the course for your convenience and comfort. Not used to the Florida heat? Tournament organizers provide cooling benches for fans. Want to try local food but you're spending all your time on the course? The tournament is bringing in the area's best restaurants for you. A slew of food trucks will be parked on the 10th hole, and a Taste of Jax venue between the 11th green and 12th tee will feature specialty items from local favorites like Candy Apple Café, Mojo Kitchen, Pele’s Wood Fire and Trasca & Co Eatery. Wine & Dine on 9 will feature gourmet small plates from Vernon's restaurant at the Sawgrass Marriott and wines from the William Hill Estate Winery. For an upgrade, fans can get access to the Blue Room VIP Lounge between Stadium Village and the 10th tee for all-inclusive beer, wine, soda and water. New this year is also The Shop at 18 Fairway with 3,000 square feet of merchandise.
The Players is extremely kid-friendly, and all kids 18 and under get in free with an adult. Family amenities include children's menus, an Imagination Playground and a Kid Zone with putt-putt course, arts and crafts, face-painting and a rock-climbing wall.
While golf clubs have a reputation for being snooty and exclusive, don't be too quick to judge the impressive, 77,000-square-foot Mediterranean clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass. The clubhouse is actually open to the public every day of the year. Storytellers inside give free guided tours of displays highlighting great moments and milestones of The Players and the PGA Tour. Be sure to take time and appreciate the Bart Forbes artwork in the lobby and the Tunnel of Champions. The restaurants are open to the public as well, so that everyone has a place at the table. Now that's true Southern hospitality.
Fun Facts & Figures
- More than $57 million have been contributed to Northeast Florida charities, including a record-$7.5-million donation to local charities in 2014.
- 2,500 bales of pine straw are laid on The Players Stadium Course weeks before the event.
- More than 120,000 golf balls are retrieved from the waters surrounding the 17th hole on The Players Stadium Course every year.
- 2.6 million square feet of grass could cover 60 acres or 40 city blocks.
- The PGA Tour purchased the land, which was wetlands and swamp at the time, for only $1.
- The youngest winner was Adam Scott at 23 in 2004.
- The oldest winner was Fred Funk at 48 in 2005.
- While many lose their ball on the 17th "island green," six golfers have made a hole-in-one including Fred Couples and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
- The 77,000-square-foot clubhouse is larger than the White House (55,000 square feet).
Cool off with this signature cocktail at the tournament, or make one at home.
- 1 1/4 oz Grey Goose L'Orange Vodka
- 3 oz Fresh Lemonade
- 2 oz Fresh Orange Juice
- 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Serve tall over ice and garnish with a slice of lime. Ahhhhhh.