Five weeks before play begins at The Players, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is, at least agronomically, tournament ready and in vastly better shape then it was last year at this time.
PGA Tour officials scrambled last year in the run-up to the circuit’s marquee event following a combination of factors that made some of the Stadium Course’s greens less than ideal.
But thanks to a host of adjustments this year the layout is in ideal condition. GolfChannel.com toured the Stadium Course on Wednesday and found the greens that were most impacted last year – Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 14 – didn’t have any of the bare spots or plugs that dotted the putting surfaces at this point in 2014.
According to Tour officials, the improved conditions are a combination of factors, including a scientifically driven tree removal program, improved traffic patterns for everyday play, reduced play during the winter months and ideal weather the last few weeks in north Florida.
Nor did officials have any issues with the chemical treatment of the greens like they did last year. According to a memo posted on a Tour-player only website last year the putting surfaces at Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 14 were “negatively impacted by [a] misapplication of a product to help manage density and root development during the colder, winter period.”
The Tour discovered via a “shade study” last year that some of those greens were not getting enough daylight, which led the circuit to remove numerous trees over the last 12 months, including many that were out of play but causing shade problems.
Officials also initiated a detailed traffic plan for each green, which included teaching caddies where groups should enter and exit putting surfaces and marking those areas with posts painted yellow and black.
The most intensive traffic plan occurred at the famous 17th hole, where officials constructed a temporary deck along the back of the green that eliminated traffic in the back left portion of the putting surface. The rerouted traffic allowed for healthier turf conditions and will make pin positions available during The Players that haven’t been used much in recent years.
The deck, which was constructed last October, will be removed before The Players, March 7-10.
Last year, commissioner Tim Finchem said the Tour was “90 percent” committed to re-grassing the putting surfaces with a heartier variety of Bermuda grass, likely after the 2016 Players, and that the Tour is considering expanding some greens.
12th green, 2014 (Rex Hoggard)
12th green, 2015 (Rex Hoggard)