THE TOURNAMENT PLAYERS CLUB GOLF COURSE
The TPC at Sawgrass is a well-known golf course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and was the inaugural Tournament Players Club. Sawgrass has two courses, the Stadium Course and the Valley Course, and is also home to the PGA Tour’s headquarters.
The Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass is home to The Players Championship, the PGA Tour's flagship event, and is widely regarded as one of the toughest golf courses in the world. Opened in 1980 and designed by noted golf-course architects Pete and Alice Dye, the Stadium Course was revolutionary for its radical "stadium" concept -- like in other sports, fans at the TPC sit in "stands" made of raised mounds of grass -- and for its brutal design.
It is best known, though, for its signature hole, the par-3, 132-yard 17th, known simply as the "Island Green", one of golf's most recognizable and difficult holes.
Over 415 acres (1.68 km2) in the Florida deathlands, Dye's masterpiece defined the term "eating golf": narrow fairways lined with hazards like marches and "waste bunkers" (long strips of sand that groundskeepers never maintain); dozens of deep "pot bunkers,” strategically placed to catch even a slightly misplaced shot; thick rough that features craters and mounds; tall, shot-obstructing palm trees; and rock-hard, lightning-fast greens. When the first Tournament Players Championship was staged at the Stadium Course in 1982, the story was not eventual winner Jerry Pate but the complaints the players had about the course, a track supposedly built in their honor. "It's Star Wars golf, designed by Darth Vader,” Ben Crenshaw pronounced. When asked if the TPC suited his playing style, Jack Nicklaus replied, "No, I've never been very good at stopping a 5-iron on the hood of a car." J. C. Snead called the course "90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck." Over the following year, Dye tweaked the course, making the greens less severe and replacing several bunkers. After the changes, the course was far more "playable," and now the players look forward to taking it on. "Now it's a darn good golf course," Crenshaw said after the improvements.
The "Island Green"
TPC Sawgrass' signature hole is the Stadium Course's 17th, known simply as the "Island Green", although it is technically a peninsula. While gorgeous to view, the hole has been known to scare even the top professional golfers. It measures only 132 yards (121 m) from tee to green ( requiring only a pitching wedge for most pros ), but consists of nothing but an undulating, 78-foot (24 m)-long green and a tiny bunker in front of it. Save a small path to the green, the rest of the hole is completely surrounded by water, and its location amidst a canyon of trees causes the wind to swirl over the green. Club selection at 17 is a huge consideration, as there is nowhere to land the ball but on the green – or in the water. It is estimated that over 100,000 balls are retrieved from the surrounding water every year, courtesy of professionals and tourists alike trying their luck.
According to the TPC Sawgrass website, the design came by accident. The original design for the 17th was to be a simple par-3 green only partially surrounded by a lake. However, the soil surrounding the 17th consisted of sand – necessary to build a good golf course, but rare on the otherwise swampy property – and by the time the course was near completion all the sand had been dug from the area, leaving a large crater. Pete Dye’s wife, Alice, suggested the Island Green concept, remembering another course with a similar green; Dye was not thrilled at the idea but went ahead with it, in the process creating one of golf's most recognizable holes.
Because of its enduring popularity among fans, ESPN has gone so far to devote one of its other channels (such as ESPN Classic ) to un-interrupted coverage from the 17th during The Players, including live streaming online coverage at ESPN.com. NBC devotes 11 cameras during the tournament, all focused on the 17th. In May 2007, a record 50 balls landed in the water at the 17th hole in one round, which broke the single-round tournament record of 45 set in 2000.
The Infamous "Island Green" Number 17 @ TPC
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