The PLAYERS Championship started in 1974 and was played at the famous Atlanta Country Club. It then moved to Colonial Country Club in 1975 before going to the Inverrary Club near Ft. Lauderdale. Then it moved to Sawgrass Country Club (not part of TPC Sawgrass) and in 1982 it moved to TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course.
The Stadium Course was built two years prior to it hosting the event. It has 36 holes, the Stadium Course and Dye Valley. It still remains Pete Dye’s hallmark design.
At the time, Dye was becoming the hotshot designer of golf courses. While he got criticism for his designs, most of time his designs were highly sought after by amateurs and land developers and he was usurping the premier designer over the years in Robert Trent Jones. Jones favored long, but open courses with enormous greens and greenside bunkers. Eventually, Jones’ designs started to fall out of favor as being ‘boring’ and Dye’s designs started to become increasingly popular with the exotic designs of holes.
Personally, I always felt that Dye liked to swing for the fences with his designs and was willing to make 1 incredible hole if it meant having 2 pedestrian holes. The other part I dislike with Dye’s designs is his overuse of blind tee shots…particularly blind tee shots where there is trouble on both sides nearby. It not only makes for incredibly difficult golf, but it slows down play. Of course, Pete Dye was a heckuva golfer in his own right so hitting difficult tee shots was likely not an issue for him as a golfer.
This leads to TPC Sawgrass where Dye (I believe) created the first ever ‘island green’ on the 17th hole.
“The Island Green design came by accident: the original design for the 17th was to be a simple par-3 green only partially surrounded by a lake. However, the soil surrounding the 17th consisted of sand, which is necessary to build a good golf course, but rare on the otherwise swampy property, and by the time the course was near completion all the sand had been dug from the area, leaving a large crater. Alice Dye suggested the Island Green concept, remembering another course with a similar green. Pete was not thrilled at the idea but went ahead with it, in the process creating one of golf's most recognizable holes.” – Wikipedia
Sawgrass was not only known for the 17th green, but it also developed a bad reputation as the course was greatly disliked by most of the players and the term ‘Dye-abolical’ became a nickname for Dye.
JC Snead once said of Sawgrass that it was "90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck."
Sawgrass is about hitting that 275-300 yard drive accurately and precisely. After 300 yards, it greatly reduces the room for error. Less than 275 yards it makes for approach shots that are too long and too difficult.
The bombers are at a disadvantage because they can’t use that awesome power to blow it by the rest of the field. But, they can use that awesome power to lay-up with shorter clubs off the tee and hit approach shots so high that they can get them to hold.
Short knockers can hit their drivers and be accurate enough and not have to worry about distance control like they would with a 3-wood off the tee. But, the length of approach shots, particularly on the par-3’s (except for 17) poses a problem for them if they don’t hit the ball high enough. And mid-range distance off the tee players have a blend of advantages and disadvantages in playing the course.
I’m not a big fan of going to Sawgrass to watch the event. There’s no place to sit and watch guys on the range. The parking lot is about the size of Detroit and any walk back to the car is going to be a long one regardless of where you park.
You really can’t cut across holes due to the design of the course and there’s not a lot of great places to sit and watch golfers. Lastly, mid-May is about when the heat really turns up in the state of Florida. I would recommend walking the course during the practice rounds and then sticking at 17 for the day when the tournament is in action.
However, if you're visiting the area it's a beautiful area with the historic downtown St. Augustine nearby and all of the beaches. There are also plenty of great places to eat like Hot Stuff Mon, awesome breakfast at The Bunnery and LuLu's Grille in Ponte Vedra.
What becoming better and better about Sawgrass is that the last 6 holes of the event are complaint with great made-for-TV golf.
The 13th hole is a par-3 over water and they love to tuck the over the left side to force players to hit it closer to the pin otherwise being left with a 3-putt likely 40+ foot putt on a treacherous green. The 13th has been a ‘Critical Hole’ in years past and is still one of the more ‘critical holes’ out there, but the deviation in scores over the past 3 years has gotten smaller. It’s still a good hole to consider when watching.
The 14th hole is a very difficult par-4 as it’s long and the player can’t miss anywhere right because of the huge moguls that run down the right side. The player also can’t miss left as the ground drops off completely. The 14th is another hole that has been a ‘Critical Hole’ in the past because of the difficulty of the drive and the length of the approach shot.
The 15th hole is a difficult hole for those that do not hit a fade off the tee as draws and straight shots will require to cut over the trees and laying-up too far to the left will require a tough approach shot to a green that usually doesn’t hold well.
The 16th hole is an exciting par-5 and the easiest hole in the course that can yield eagles.
The 18th is a very difficult hole as it forces the players to hug the water in order to get it into the fairway or bail out to the right and end up in the trees or hit a 3-wood and leave themselves with a 200+ yard approach into the green.
And then there’s the 17th which after the last 5 events it is now a ‘critical hole’ as the better players have dominated the hole during the week.
PROJECTED WINNING SCORE: -13
Jordan Spieth +1,200
Sergio Garcia +1,800
Jon Rahm +2,200
Rickie Fowler +2,200
Kevin Chappell +4,500
Ryan Moore +8,000
Brendan Steele +15,000
Kyle Stanley +20,000
Jim Herman +30,000
Brian Stuard +40,000