Punch Shots: Is the Stadium at TPC Sawgrass the best course in Florida?

By Brandon TuckerMay 6, 2013, 2:24 pm

It's certainly the most famous, but is Pete Dye's THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass the best public course in all of Florida? Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker debate.

Mike Bailey: Stadium is the best public experience

There are plenty of good-to-great golf courses in the Sunshine State and the best of the lot for public golfers is THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass.

Simply put, Pete and Alice Dye's 1981 creation is Florida golf through and through. It's a modern masterpiece, honed over the years with renovations and minor tweaks. The famous island green 17th was a stroke of genius by Alice, who suggested her husband simply fill with water the excavated hole left after using the dirt to create the mounds throughout the golf course. Since then, it's become one of the most copied par 3 concepts in the world, but the 17th is just a small part of what makes the Stadium Course a modern classic and a terrific experience for any avid golfer.

First off, it's the PGA Tour players' club, which means everybody gets the PGA Tour experience. You can take a caddie (highly recommended), use the club's exceptional practice facilities (including the PGA Tour Academy) and perhaps best of all, tour the clubhouse.

The 77,000-square foot Mediterranean-style clubhouse, by the way, is something to behold. Only four years old, it was built to replace the original building, and it's a virtual museum to the PGA Tour and The Players Championship. Inside there are countless artifacts, artwork and memorabilia, not only from the tournament, but from Ryder Cups and other momentus occasions in golf.

But back to the course: It's known for the 17th, but really there are great holes throughout. It's the site of the so-called fifth major, and like Augusta, the only other one to be played on the same course, so we know all the holes. It's never boring and always memorable, right down to the 18th, one of the toughest finishing holes on the tour. And afterwards, you can sit out on the clubhouse's massive deck, enjoy a cold beverage, and see how everyone else fares as they bring it home.

Brandon Tucker: Pine Barrens at World Woods

World Woods

Make no mistake, a round on the Stadium is special. During mine a couple years ago, Pete Dye was on the course surveying potential improvements and watched me hack it all over his masterpiece. I'm going to remember my folly of a tee shot on the 17th -- which struck the top of the bulkhead and carried over the water safely onto the grassy knoll behind the green -- for a long time. 

And the clubhouse, of course, is absolutely one of golf's most opulent. 

But the course itself is tough. You certainly come to respect PGA Tour pros a great deal once you've played 18 holes here, even as your own swing crumbles by the time you arrive at the 17th tee. These days, armed with a golf bag full of demons, I'm more of a sucker for courses with a better blend of scenery and amateur playability. 

So what's my favorite course of the 30-plus I've played in Florida? I'm a Grade-A sucker for Tom Fazio designs and one of the most accessible and affordable courses in existence is Pine Barrens at World Woods just north of Tampa. The rolling, sandy setting full of waste bunkers makes every shot interesting. Fairways, in typical Fazio fashion, are generally wide. The greens, while often guarded with nasty sand traps, are larger and easier to hit than your average Dye course.

Like Sawgrass, World Woods has two stellar 18-hole courses, as well as one of the more complete practice facilities, complete with practice holes, a short course, a circular driving range and a mammoth practice green. Unlike Sawgrass, the humble, one-story clubhouse hides in the trees and green fees are never north of $100 (right now, tee times aplenty under $50 are available), despite the fact it checks in on Top 100 lists. Given its proximity to Tampa, it might be the best value in the Top 100. 

My World Woods pick comes with an asterisk: Streamsong Resort is now on the Florida bucket list map. And once facilities are complete and the course has matured a bit, the experience should rival Sawgrass as the go-to golf resort in Florida.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”