14 Mar GolfPass Grass Guru – TPC Saw Grass Stadium Course
The Players Championship • TPC Saw Grass Stadium Course
Hole 14 • Par 4 • 481 yds
By Eric MacPherson
It’s March, and this week on Tour is the Players Championship. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that. In the past, when the Players came around, I already had a handful of rounds under my belt. It was warm and I could walk outside to hit a few balls in between commercial breaks. This year, it’s cold and my clubs are adding to the thin layer of dust that has accumulated on them. I’m still in hibernation mode, and I have had zero 2019 rounds. It just doesn’t feel the same. However, my gut tells me all will change when I see the pinnacle of the Dyes’ design in all its majesty.
TPC Sawgrass, bar none, is the best course on Tour and possibly in all of America. “Golf purists” will probably flip a lid and say Augusta National is the be all end all of golf course designs. The so-called Mecca of American golf. You know what I have to say to them? Get with the times! Augusta is a great course, but the imagination is lacking big time there. They have azaleas and Amen Corner, and the grass isn’t great, it’s phenomenal, but their bunkers are trash when going toe to toe with any course on Tour. TPC Sawgrass, however, is in a whole different weight class. Sawgrass is Mike Tyson when it comes to bunker placement and design. Augusta National is Max Baer.
Ok, enough shade throwing at Augusta National, let’s get back to the smorgasbord of top quality bunkers this week. Choosing a bunker here is like trying to figure out where to start at an all you can eat buffet. Do I go high price options first and hit the crab legs and lobster tails? Do I go for that beautiful porterhouse steak where the chef is behind the counter waiting to cut you a 3 inch slice of deliciousness? Or do I throw caution to the wind and hit that dessert bar first? That’s the dilemma I have here. The obvious hole everyone is infatuated with is Hole 17. It is the hole that causes pits in the stomachs of some of the game’s greatest. While it’s legacy and infamy are not in question, the lone bunker here is the side of peas you felt obligated to throw on your plate when compared to almost any other hole on this course.
The hole that rises above all others and gets the distinction of being the best of the best is the almost entire hole length bunker on hole 14. Damn, was that a hard decision to make. So many great holes. The Dyes love long ass bunkers. Failure to highlight the longest of the long would be a failure on my part to deliver the top quality bunkers you have come to expect. Now the 14th is missing the quintessential water-bunker-fairway sandwich that a hole like 7 so brilliantly exhibits, but the 14th left side bunker is so massive that I let it slide. This thing is longer than a football field, that’s just how big it is. Raking any of these bunkers must be an enormous undertaking. You better have a 2 hour podcast lined up, and then another one, just to even finish grooming this behemoth.
Bigger is not alway better, but in this case I want the biggest and baddest. The stark white snakes that slither around TPC Sawgrass, are tiny compared to this anaconda. Standing at the tee box, how can anyone not want to avoid hitting it left at all costs? TPC Sawgrass deserves all the accolades it gets, and then some. If I had a calendar showing the best bunkers on tour, all 12 month pictures plus the cover would come out of TPC Sawgrass. Simply put, it’s a testament to beautifully designed, challenging, and fun golf.
As the cherry on top, did I mention we can all play here? All of us regular ole Joe golfers. Plus, we can buy tickets to watch the Players pretty easily, unlike anything surrounding Augusta. Sorry had to get that last burn in. Obviously I will retract everything I said about Augusta National if they offer me membership. Seeing as I have no aspirations of being Secretary of State, nor being good enough to ever play in the Masters, it’s safe to say that Augusta will solely be seen through my TV screen. For now, this weekend at the Players, which some might call the 5th major, will be an amazing watch. Enjoy the talent but enjoy the course, and see why I’ve said over and over that Pete and Alice Dye are the masters of bunkers.
Cover Photo: Chris Condon // PGA Tour
Eric MacPherson knows a lot about golf, but even more about grass. Having worked in golf for what seems like forever, and going on to graduate school in turfgrass, he’s able to walk mow a green, and change the shaft in your favorite driver. He’s worked on some of the east coast’s primer golf clubs doing everything from washing carts to building brand new putting greens. He’s also volunteered at several high profile Tour events including a major and the President’s Cup. The only thing he likes more than pushing a walk mower on a beautiful crisp morning, would be teeing it off instead. Shoot Eric a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.