Greetings from St. Augustine, Florida!
My wife and I are in town checking out possible retirement properties, and yesterday I took a sojourn to TPC Sawgrass, the home of The Players Championship (up the coast in Ponte Vedra Beach.) I have written about this course, watched every tournament contested at this course, but never visited until yesterday. What a treat!
As I walked in from the parking lot, I noticed the venue was buzzing with practice round activity for the upcoming PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship. This is a 54-hole stroke play event contested on The Stadium and Valley courses over the next three days. I figured this was perfect to see this fabulous operation in action.
The expansiveness and grandeur of the clubhouse can be overwhelming, and I wasn’t sure where to start, so I filmed the following short video and headed to the driving range.
There were dozens of players, coaches, and a few parents working and watching at this extensive facility and I observed for about 10 minutes until I felt the urge to offer swing advice. Then it was time to move along. 😊
Next, I completely encircled the 77,000 square foot clubhouse after first stopping on a practice green and watching some of the women contestants rolling putts. I noticed how shaved down and beautifully manicured the surface was and how quickly the balls were rolling. I started to get the yips just watching.
On my self-guided tour, I was looking for the 18th green but couldn’t orient myself among the maze of cart paths and signs and figured I needed help. Inside the pro-shop, after picking up some souvenirs, I asked if I could tour the course and they said that course Story Tellers were starting clubhouse and course tours at the top of every hour – perfect! That’s when I met Julia Galac. Julia is a volunteer Story Teller and gave me a history of the clubhouse, The Players Championship, and talked about the artwork adorning the main lobby. Next, we jumped in a cart and headed out to the back nine. Julia was full of amazing facts about the course, and as we stood on a hill overlooking the par-5 16th, noted that many tons of earth had been trucked in during construction and that a large piece of equipment had gotten stuck that the crew couldn’t move, so they built it into the hillside. Amazing!
We toured the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes, and I became fully oriented from having watched over the years on television. The iconic 17th green seemed smaller in person than on TV. What do you think?
On the way in, I asked if Julia had visited the World Golf Hall of Fame, and she replied that she had and that it was, “okay.” I was planning to add that to the day’s itinerary, but it didn’t feel like a “must see” and I was getting hungry. So, I returned to the clubhouse and sat down for a delicious lunch of Crab Benedict and afterwards called it a day. The only thing that would have completed my journey would have been a round on the Stadium Course, but I didn’t have my clubs. You’re probably wondering what a tee time costs here. Well, open your checkbook, it’s a cool $600.
A big “Thank You” goes out to the staff at Sawgrass and to Julia for an awesome day. You do a great job!