Friday, February 7, 2014

On Location: TPC Sawgrass/Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa

Do you want to know the status of your golf game?

Seriously, are you ready for a thorough test of your golf skills?

If so, I highly suggest you play THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

It's a green grass SAT exam without the number two pencils and timer clocks. The Stadium Course provides a four-hour test that will expose any and all deficiencies in your game. This Pete Dye masterpiece challenges and confounds everyone from pros who play here every year to the once-a-month hacker who boldly believes he can break 90 and par or birdie the famous No. 17 island hole. 

Unlike college entrance exams, this test is fun and memorable, even though you might return to the clubhouse after a round with some high numbers on your scorecard.

Enhancing the experience is one of the world's most amazing clubhouses and the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, a multi-amenity resort designed for golfers.


THE PLAYERS Stadium Course 
Its narrow fairways with tiny target areas, immense waste bunkers, railroad tie barriers, grassy mounds and knolls and pool table-fast greens make it a supreme challenge.

Designed by Pete Dye and built in 1980, the 7,215-yard, par-72 layout is referred to as “The Stadium Course” because of its unique “built in” spectator bleachers. To accommodate spectators, many fairways are framed by high, banked slopes upon which crowds can sit. There are also bowl-shaped natural grass amphitheaters around many greens for the spectators.

An in-your-face challenge in which every shot requires patience, daring and skill, the Stadium Course has trouble with subtle and eerie regularity on almost every hole. From bunkers to lakes and undulating mounding, Dye strategically placed hazards that will gobble up errant shots faster than one of those tractor driven machines at a driving range. 
Undoubtedly, the most recognizable hole and one of the most publicized in the world, is the par-3, No. 17 island hole, which makes golfers hit 132 yards over a lagoon often into a stiff Atlantic Ocean breeze. It looks like a nice, easy pitching wedge or 9-iron shot. Forget that. 

Each year, more than 120,000 balls are hit in the water, an average of just less than three balls per players based on approximately 44,000 rounds played per year on the TPC Sawgrass course. The number is somewhat skewed because some players hit as many as a dozen balls into the water in an attempt to reach the green.
Even if you have a ball or two left to play the finishing hole (pictured below), it presents its own shake-in-your-golf-shoes view from the tee. A lake frames the entire left side from tee to green on the 462-yard par 4. Even if you keep your tee shot right, there’s not much space for a safe landing.

Dye's Valley Course
When you get done with Stadium Course, or it gets done with you, this 6,938-yard, par-72 layout is another legitmate Pete Dye golf test with winding fairways, large greens and lots of undulation.

Sawgrass Country Club
The Scuba guy that retrieves balls from the water on 17 at the Stadium Course probably does pretty well here as well. Water comes into play on 24 of the 27 holes at this Ed Seay design. 

Marsh Landing Country Club
Tall pines, intracoastal marshes and lagoons dominate the terrain at this layout, which is often described as "a nature preserve with golf holes."

Ponte Vedra Golf & Country Club
A par-70, Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay design with tight fairways and water on every hole.

TourAcademy TPC Sawgrass 
If you need a tune up or want to elevate your game, this 2,800 square-foot instructional facility with indoor hitting bays, private practice areas, chipping greens and bunkers is located adjacent to the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. 


Don't leave TPC Sawgrass without spending some time at the clubhouse, a spectacular 77,000 square-foot Mediterranean-style structure open to the public that looks like an Italian mansion air-dropped in from Tuscany. Dripping with the opulent appointments, it's an experience not to be missed.

I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the paintings on display in the lobby that depict famous happenings in TPC Sawgrass history.

A nice touch are the storyteller docents who conduct tours and weave stories about past tournaments and key moments in the history of the club.

There are two dining options:

Nineteen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. If the weather is good, dine on the outdoor veranda, which affords fantastic views of the presentation lawn, 9th and 18th holes. For dinner, I suggest the Pan Seared Red Snapper or Pesto Roasted Chicken Breast topped off with a signature dessert, the Double Chocolate Chip Brownie S'mores (pictured).

Traditions is a fine-dining room open to the public for lunch and exclusively to club members for dinner.


The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa has 510 guest rooms, including 21 suites. Earth tone fabrics, wood furnishings and wall art featuring beautiful color photographs of the golf settings highlight the room decor. In addition, there are 80 villa suites, each with two bedrooms, which are ideal for golfers and small groups up to eight guests.

In-room amenity highlights:

* Internet browser/Web TV
* Down/feather/foam pillows
* Wet bar
* Luxury bedding
* High-speed Internet Access
Villa Accommodations

Resort amenity and services highlights:

* Full-service business center
* Concierge desk
* Access to Cabana Beach Club, a private, oceanfront club
* Complimentary resort shuttle to golf courses and Cabana Beach
* Nine restaurants, lounges, cafes and coffee shops
* 25,000 square-foot spa
* Sawgrass Kids Klub
* 56,000 square-feet of meeting and event space with 36 meeting rooms      
* Jogging/fitness trail
* Two fitness centers
* Miniature golf
* 3 swimming pools  

10 Little Things I Like

1. The huge, expansive, comfortable lobby of the hotel where you can stretch out and check your smart phone or work on your laptop in a relaxing environment.

2. The amazing wall art at the clubhouse in the front lobby.

3. The shuffleboard table, darts and pool table at Alice & Pete's Pub.

4. The large (I guess about 5 inches wide) shower head in my shower in my room.

5. The plush, Euro style bedding.

6. The large work desk in my room.

7. The locally brewed Killer Whale cream ale on tap at Alice & Pete's Pub.

8. The Starbucks near the front lobby where you can grab a cup of coffee on the way to the golf course.

9. The roasted chicken served on a bed of garlic mash potatoes at Alice & Pete's Pub.

10. The lobby bar with views of a waterfall and the par-3, 13th hole of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course.


TPC Sawgrass/Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa are located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 18 miles from downtown Jacksonville and 22 miles from the historic city of St. Augustine. Jacksonville International Airport is located 35 miles from the resort.


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