Extensive Stadium Course renovations completed

15 November 2016

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass project took seven months, survived one hurricane and touched almost every corner of the property, from the golf course the best players in the world will tackle in May for The Players Championship to building a small structure to house an industrial ball-washer — so those players could have a lounge near their practice area.

“There were a lot of different projects,” said Michael E. Johnson, the PGA Tour’s vice-president for design and construction services. “The scope and schedule and coordination of the multiple facets was a little unusual, for seven months. But we were surrounded by great people, staff, contractors and the support of the Tour, which gave us the resources we needed.”

The finished product, which did not exceed the estimated $50 million projection, will open on Tuesday, with shots hit by resort players and members for the first time since last April when it was closed to prepare for The Players.

The bulldozers began chewing up turf, sod and underbrush the day after Jason Day won the 43rd Players, and the 35th contested at the Stadium Course.

The major contractors were based on the First Coast: MacCurrach Golf Construction, which built the Stadium Course in 1980 and has been re-hired for every renovation since then, J.B. Coxwell for road and earthworks projects and Gardens South for landscaping.

The course is re-opening on schedule, despite losing time to clean up after Hurricane Matthew passed through the area on Oct. 7.

“It set us back about two weeks but everyone who was focused on what was going on outside the ropes turned it back inside the ropes,” said Players Championship executive director Matthew Rapp. “We have great teams and they worked even harder.”

The scope of the work was the most massive since the entire property was renovated and the new clubhouse built in 2006 and 2007:

* All 18 greens on the Stadium course were torn up and re-grassed with Tifeagle bermuda, which stands up to summer heat and winter chill better than the Miniverde bermuda.

* The practice facility was overhauled, with about 35 percent more turf added. Two USGA greens and two Sandbelt greens were built, plus other smaller target greens. The Tour professionals-only practice area was re-done, with two large putting greens (one undulating and one flat) and a new chipping area.

The main advantage for PGA Tour pros when they practice is that the balls they hit to the greens will react, depending on the shots they hit.

“They’re going to be maintained like greens on the course, rather than having a piece of turf with a flagstick in it,” Rapp said. “They know their distances. They need to know how the ball is going to perform.”

* The 358-yard par-4 12th hole was revamped to make it a driveable par-4 of between 285-to-310 yards. The large mound on the left was torn down and replaced by water and a fairway bunker. Another mound between the sixth and seventh fairways was taken out and also replaced by water, improving the aesthetics on a part of the course to which fans rarely ventured.

* The greens at Nos. 1, 4, 8, 11, 13 and 14 were modified slightly to allow for more pin positions and a new tee was built for the par-4 15th hole, creating a daunting shot through a chute of trees.

* New spectator mounds were built to allow for better views, especially in the areas around the fourth, sixth and seventh holes on the front, and the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th on the back. By adjusting cart paths and mounding, numerous “choke points,” or areas where it was slow going for spectators and players to get from one hole to the next have been widened.

* The PGA Tour Academy building is being doubled to 7,200 square feet, with four hitting bays (instead of two), a larger putting lab and a fitness area.

* The Agronomy department was re-located to an area near the seventh green and the volunteer staging area moved to a spot behind the 15th tee. Fewer carts, trucks, tractors and mowers will be going through spectator walkways.

* A new entrance road to the clubhouse from PGA Tour Boulevard is nearly finished that will offer a more dramatic view of the clubhouse; and a spectator entrance through the Nicklaus Gate will lead to a spot immediately behind the 18th tee.

Rapp said the new entrance to the clubhouse was designed to make it seem as if a driver was going down a fairway. Coming up the old road offered a view of the clubhouse through the parking lot.

“There have been all kinds of studies done that show the entry and exit experiences have a disproportionate influence on people’s impresses of their overall experience, how long they’ll stay, how much they enjoyed their stay and whether they’ll recommend it to their friends,” Rapp said. “You’re going to feel as if you’ve entered the golf course, that you feel like you’re a part of the golf course, as soon as you pass the PGA Tour headquarters.”

All that remains is some landscaping, especially around the north and east of the clubhouse where the maintenance and volunteer staging buildings once stood.Some storm debris remains, but it is within wooded areas away from the course.