TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course endures as Florida’s toughest test

The par-3 13th hole at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass doesn't have the reputation of the 17th, but still gets its share of water balls.

One of Pete Dye’s creations is at the center of the golf world this week, with the PGA Championship visiting his Kiawah Island Ocean Course in South Carolina.

Many PGA Tour pros are seeing the course for the first time and have told reporters it reminds them of another Dye signature – the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Named last week as Florida’s best public course and seventh-best in the U.S. by Golf Magazine, the Stadium Course has endured for three decades as one of golf’s sternest tests. You know how it treats the pros if you watch The Players Championship every spring.

For amateurs, the Stadium Course is a test everyone should take just once.

I play the course a few times every summer, living and working in the Ponte Vedra Beach/St. Augustine area, and it’s great fun to watch newcomers’ reaction to the place. Last summer, one friend visiting from out of town looked at me on the practice range 20 minutes before our tee time with sheer panic on his face.

“I’m shaking. I can’t get a ball in the air,” he said.

That’s the reputation of the Stadium Course, and well-earned. Dye’s place keeps you on your toes at every turn, with a mixture of different holes and no two consecutive ones playing in the same direction. The finishing stretch is well-documented but a round can go south just as quickly at the last three holes of the front nine, which feature the No. 1-handicap par 4, the course’s longest par 3 and a three-shot par 5 with the course’s smallest green.

From the blue tees (the Players’ gold tees are rarely put out for daily play, though most try the 17th hole from that spot anyway), the yardage is a reasonable 6,661 but the course rating is 73.9 and slope is 146. That’s as hard as you’ll find anywhere at that length.

Three cool holes (besides 16-17-18)

  • No. 2, 507-yard par-5: The best chance to reach a par-5 in two is here, though plenty of mounding surrounds the green to turn birdies into bogeys.
  • No. 8, 195-yard par-3: Put aside 17 and give this par 3 your full attention, and your straightest ball flight. The pros have to, playing it at 237 yards.
  • No. 12, 332-yard par-4: Not intimidating on the scorecard but the second shot is intimidatingly blind, with a devilish little pot bunker in front.

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