When golfers think of TPC Sawgrass, you can bet they’re thinking of the famous island-green 17th hole and the rest of the Stadium Course, Pete Dye’s masterpiece that torments PGA Tour pros every year at THE PLAYERS Championship.
But what many discover upon visiting the Ponte Vedra Beach golf mecca is that there’s another Dye course that’s challenging in its own right.
Dye’s Valley, celebrating its 25th year of operation, melds the work of Dye, fellow architect Bobby Weed and player consultant Jerry Pate (the first PLAYERS Championship winner at the Stadium Course, in 1982) into a course that can rival the Stadium for difficulty. Golfweek ranked it the 24th-best public-access course in Florida in 2011.
The green complexes are tamer than the Stadium, but there are just as many ways to make big numbers. There is water to be found on every hole – though perhaps only 14 holes where water is an imminent danger. Yeah, "only 14." The par-3 fifth and par-3 11th holes have peninsula greens and ball-swallowing lakes; the latter is a 227-yard shot from the back tees and (for my money) is the toughest par-3 on either TPC Sawgrass course.
Dye’s Valley hosts the Nationwide Tour’s Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open in October, and the pros are quick to say Dye’s Valley Course is one of the hardest they see all year.
Guests who book packages at the Sawgrass Marriott can get a deal on both the Stadium and Dye’s Valley.
Here are a few other excellent "secondary" resort courses:
Innisbrook’s Island course: Like the Stadium Course, Innisbrook’s Copperhead has the PGA Tour pedigree, but the Island has hosted pro events and is another watery test.
World Woods’ Rolling Oaks course: The Pine Barrens course shows up everywhere on "best" lists, with its Pine Valley-like, scrubby-duned layout, but the tree-lined Rolling Oaks is a more relaxing stroll.
Doral’s Jim McLean Signature course: The TPC Blue Monster is the feature course and another longtime PGA Tour mainstay, but the famed instructor’s course has terrific par 3s including its own island-green knee-knocker.