Shank You Very Much – Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass
One of my favorite golf venues in the United States is the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass; host to The Players Championship. It is also home to the Island Green (No 17) where Ricky Fowler came of age last year, with one of the most amazing finishes on tour. The downside of playing great courses like this one, is that I occasionally get too excited. This can lead to early frustration and ultimately horrible golf. Such was the case this spring when I finished the phenomenal Florida swing in Ponte Vedra.
The Stadium Course is narrow enough that you need to be precise to score. Thus, it certainly is no good to find the dreaded “shanks” early in the round, as I managed to do on that fateful Monday morning.
After decent rounds at Innisbrook Copperhead, the Red and Blue courses at Streamsong, and at Bay Hill, this swing flaw came totally out of left field. At least I am not the only one to have this problem. Check out the pros. These guys still look good when they shank. Mine was more like this guy.
The Stadium Course is a classic Pete Dye design that starts tough and ends tougher. Number 1 can bite you right at the start, but 16, 17 and 18 can individually or collectively destroy the scorecard. In
between, there are no easy holes. Four years earlier I must have been playing out of mind, as I shot an
82. This time I had a two doubles and a triple on the first five holes. Despite being located in Florida, this is a woodsy course, with plenty of alligator infested water to attract the wayward shot. There is only modest topography making The Stadium Course a great walking venue.
You need to make it to this course if only to play the most famous hole in golf, Number 17. This is a short par 3 of only 137 yards from the pro tees, with most rounds played at around 125 yards. I love this summary of the hole. Average score by the public is 5.4? I am not sure what the big deal is, I parred it both times I have played, although it can be a bit daunting. (In my opinion the island hole at Coeur d’Alene is the more difficult.) In 2012, I was told that they pulled 140,000 balls out of the water surrounding number 17.
Even if you have to pick up on this hole, there is much to like about TPC Sawgrass. An informal survey of golf addicts over the years has found mixed feelings about many of the top venues, however, the
Stadium Course routinely gets high marks. In fact, I cannot recall anyone complaining about this one.
One easy way to play TPC Sawgrass, is to book a stay and play package with the local Marriott.
This has always proven to be a reasonably priced way to experience the course. If you are only going to play one day, make sure you book the Stadium Course. I enjoy the Dye Valley course, but it is not in the same league as the one the pros play.
Absolutely Must Play? Yes, the site is a regular PGA tour stop, with great history, terrific golf holes and has always been in excellent condition when I have been there. Strongly recommend taking a caddie…he can chase down your shanks.
My Rating: 9+, it is not Pebble Beach, but it will definitely get your attention. This is my favorite Florida venue, and it lives up to the high rankings.
Weekly Observation: Would have been fun to be hanging with Jordan, Ricky, Justin and Smylie in the
Bahamas (http://www.golfchannel.com/news/grill-room/spieth- fowler-thomas- kaufman-vacationing-
together-bahamas/), but it would have cut into my golfing.
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and
design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his
thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top
100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly
for more (im)practical information.