Some call it the Fifth Major. Some pros consider their careers incomplete unless they win this one. And unlike most other tournaments, people remember, generally, if a golfer ever won The Players. Why? It’s a very elite field, drawing all the greats of the current game. It’s held on the same course every year: the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. And they don’t call Pete Dye courses dye-a-bolical for nothing! It’s not that they’re long. Short hitters win here all the time. It’s not that they’re narrow. They’re not really. And it’s not that the rough is tough. It’s about average length.
Working with renowned golf course architect Pete Dye, former Commissioner Deane Beman created a course design that favored no particular player or style of play. The result is a truly balanced course. Players find a selection of short, medium and long holes within the categories of par-3s, par-4s and par-5s; both right and left doglegs; and a course routing laid out so no two consecutive holes ever play in the same direction. With its signature island green on the par-3, 17th hole being one of the most recognized in golf, this legendary track has captured the imagination of golf fans all over the world and is consistently named among the top golf courses worldwide. While the 17th hole gets a lot of attention, the 18th hole on this golf course – a 462-yard, par 4 guarded by water down the left side, is a formidable finishing hole.
And anybody can play this public course. While championship tees stretch the Stadium Course to 7,245 yards, there are four other yardage options to suit your game. The blue tees measure 6,670 yards and the white tees are at 6,086. A blended tee option at 6,406 yards offers a nice compromise. The Green tees are at 5,019 yards.
The Stadium Course has been honored by multiple golf publications as a top golf destination. Golf Digest ranked it 48th among “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses for 2019-2020″ and ranked the Stadium Course 12th overall among “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses” in 2017-2018. Golf Digest ranked the Stadium Course the No. 2 “Best Course You Can Play in the State of Florida”.
It’s nice to see more on-site spectators, for sure, even with more “get in the hole” verbalizations. The pandemic is loosening its grip which is great to see and experience. And so far, the action is as expected–exciting with Sergio taking the first round lead by two strokes. Even Phil surprised all the pundits and played well. As they say you can’t win it on Thursday, but you can sure lose it (Ricky at +5, and Rory at +7 fall into that category; but Spieth and Stricker, both T-12 are still strong). Phil, with a 71, is still in there at T-26. Wouldn’t that be something if he could pull off a win here at 50 years of age.
Westwood, at 47, continues to play well. He’s T-6 after the first round.
I’ve got a new book out called Into the Woods…and Beyond, about my living in a north woods cabin for three years back in the day then returning to city life, chronicling my close connection with nature. Other than teaching the game part-time back then at a resort inn in New Hampshire, it has virtually nothing to do with golf. But if you’re interested, you can find out more about it at my other website at stephenaltschuler.com. The book is available as ebook or paperback at Amazon.