By Charlene S. Mixa
Live the Dream – “It’s Priceless”
Living the Dream! It’s the 17th hole, the “Island Green,” on the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course. Year after year I’ve watched the agony and ecstasy of professional golfers attempting to execute the perfect shot to this world famous green. The forecaddie, Terry, gives me the distance from the teeing area and it is decision time. Do I play the exact distance? Should I go with my “comfort” club? How far is the carry over water? How deep is the green? I go with my gut and execute my shot. Fantastic it is on the back fringe of the green! It’s dry! My husband gets his par and I am content with a bogie.
The TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course is so much more than just the “island green”. It is 18 phenomenal golf holes that test the skill of any golfer. Thrills of massive sand bunkers, pot bunkers, water hazards, waste areas, and major dog legs create a demanding golf course along with greens that are some of the smallest on championship golf courses. Paired with Claire and David from Ireland and their 8 year old son Charlie, it is a spectacular day of golf. With David a scratch golfer and Claire’s single digit handicap, it gives Richard and I a new perspective as we play our round. In fact, David is a PGA Professional and is the Head Professional at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club in Co. Kerry, Ireland. He and Claire also work with TPC Sawgrass arranging golfing trips to Ireland.
Strong wind adds an extra challenge to the game. Terry, our forecaddie, consistently factors in the wind for a one or two club adjustment. His course knowledge is terrific and welcome as we tackle the Stadium Course. On each hole Terry gives specific advice on how to best play the hole, providing yardage, locating balls and lining up putts. Ah, if I could consistently execute Terry’s pointers. On Hole 4, a short par-4 with water to cross, Terry shares the challenges this benign looking hole had for Tiger Woods one year in THE PLAYERS Championship. Is it too much information? We all follow Tiger’s demise with balls landing in the water.
Excitement is found as we approach each tee box in this former Florida swamp. Amazing, Deane Beman, a PGA TOUR Commissioner, had a vision for the TPC Stadium Course to host the players’ own tournament. Not only did he purchase the 400-acres of Florida woodlands and swamp near Jacksonville, Florida for only $1.00 and transform it into the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, he won a $100 bet that he would finish it own time. We even see the $100.00 check in the Clubhouse. Playing the course we appreciate the legendary Pete Dye “Stadium Course” design that improves the overall on-site experience for spectators as well as a championship-caliber golf course accessible to all fans.
We have our own chills, thrills and agony as we play this demanding course. Today it is yoyo golf. Up and down! A good hole followed by a bad one with a few career shots that add to a memorable day. Like my 130 yard shot out of the huge, deep fairway bunker along the edge of No.7 that lands on the green just below the pin. The course is a wonderful balance, favoring no particular player or style of play. The three final holes are considered one of the toughest finishes in golf. We agree! In fact for us the notorious 17th hole is the easiest of the finishing holes. These holes often make or break a pro’s round. We have a renewed respect for the Pros as they play these finishing holes in THE PLAYERS Championship.
It’s photo time as we finish, taking snapshots with the massive Clubhouse in the background. At 77,000 square feet, this elegant, elaborate structure is one of the largest clubhouses in all of golf. The Storyteller tour before golf is a must. Art, our storyteller, gave us a tour of the Clubhouse, taking us through each floor while sharing stories of past Players Championship. We take time to look over the photographs of each year’s winner, recalling some of the fabulous finishes. It is fun reveling in glorious golf history and seeing the numerous mementos, and memorabilia that adorn the walls, hallways and meeting rooms. Plus from the balcony, we enjoy fantastic views of the golf course. Art even takes us out to the 16, 17 and 18 holes telling about famous shots and finishes of the Championship. We learn Pete Dye’s wife, Alice, is credited with the concept of building the island green on No. 17. She saw the construction site one day where continued excavation for the valuable sand base in the area resulted in the green being surrounded by water. Thanks to Alice’s suggestion, the “island green” is now the most famous par-3 in the world.
Next stop is to get our own memorabilia from the large well stocked Pro Shop. It’s Happy Hour with specials on drinks and $5.00 appetizers in the lounge. Over drinks and snacks we relive this memorable day of golf at this immaculately maintained PGA tour course. On our agenda for the next visit is to the Jacksonville area is to play Dye’s Valley Course, the second course at TPC Sawgrass. It is highly recommended by Terry and Art as matching the challenge of The Stadium Course.
TPC Sawgrass Stadium course is not to be missed. Add it to your “bucket list” and make it happen. “Live your dream” and experience this infamous golf course. As the MasterCard commercial states, it’s “Priceless!”
If you go: Forecaddies are required for a fee of a minimum of $20 per player, with additional tip at your discretion. It is cart path only so it makes for close to a 5 hour round of golf, even with the forecaddie’s keeping the pace on track. Include time to take the storyteller tour before golf to learn all that the Tournament Players Club does for charity, golfers and the fans. Then unwind in the Clubhouse to relish in this exciting venue.
TPC Sawgrass, 110 Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082; (904) 273-3235; http://www.tpc.com/tpc-sawgrass