How is it that the Masters can provide such a thrilling finish year after year? Could it be that both players and fans are very familiar with the finishing holes at Augusta including how the putts break?
The TPC Players Championship coming in early May is golf’s fifth major and it also returns to the same venue each year, including tournament golf’s most famous hole. This ticket is much easier to get and the experience no less exciting.
There is no shot in golf that creates the drama of the par three 17th hole at the TPC Stadium Course. On TV, the shot seems easy, with the yardage maxing out at 140 yards. Recently, I toured the course and spent some time on the 17th. Thank god it is only 140 yards because the green looks very small when you are standing on the tee. The width is ample enough but the depth is not more than 20 paces and when you include spin much less. Throw in a swirling wind and you have to wonder how any pro could go for the back right pin. For the tournament, the hole is lined with grandstands and VIP tents. The patrons are certain to see a“Train Wreck “each day.
Tough for Pros but Fan Friendly
The TPC Stadium Course was designed by Pete Dye with a lot of oversight by then PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman. The latter was quite a player in his own right, winning both the U.S. and British Amateur Championships as well as PGA Tour titles. Together they sought to create a course that did not favor any particular player. Taking this to an extreme they even created similar starting holes for each nine. Thus, with the large field using double tees during the first two rounds, no player has a real advantage with starting times.
The former champions here range from bombers like Fred Couples and Greg Norman to straight ball hitters such as Fred Funk and Tom Kite. Most of the former winners are in the Hall of Fame or soon will be. The World Golf Hall of Fame is just down the road in St. Augustine and might be a great side trip if you choose to attend The Players.
A great deal of thought was given to the spectators in the original course design. Most fairways are mounded at some point to provide an ideal spectator vantage point. The famous 17th hole has large mounds running down the left hand side to provide panoramic views not only 17 but 16 as well. The food and entertainment options for fans rival that of a BCS Bowl Game or even the Super Bowl. There are numerous food pavilions including Wine & Dine on 9, run by perhaps Jacksonville’s most famous chef, Matthew Medure. Here fans can enjoy Medure’s small plates and the Beringer Wine Bar.
No other event on tour does a better job for families. Kids aged 18 and younger are admitted free of charge when accompanied by a ticketed adult and there is no limit. An entire soccer team could attend the event while only paying for the coach. The event even has a Kid Zone that includes fun and games for the kids, youth-oriented food for purchase, and a videoboard to keep everyone updated on the tournament action. Last year, The Players issued 20,000 free tickets to the military and once again they will be supporting the men and women of the Armed Services.
Where to stay
At this point, hotel rooms in Ponte Vedra Beach itself will be booked. A great option though would be to stay in downtown Jacksonville at the Omni. The waterfront downtown area is very attractive and, if you request an upper level floor, you are sure to have a great view of the St. Johns River and its colorfully lighted bridges. The Omni is arguably the top hotel in the downtown area and features a classic marble and wood lobby leading in. The Jacksonville Omni is about 20 minutes from the TPC but allow for more time during the event. Visit Omnihotels.com for further details.
Another possibility would be staying at one of the hotels at the World Golf Hall of Fame. Renaissance has a very nice property there with two championship 18-hole layouts surrounding. For complete information go to Marriott.com.