If you asked a handful of golfers to name a bucket list of golf courses to play in their lifetimes, a safe bet would be that the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass appears in the majority.
The iconic venue first hosted the Players Championship in 1982 and it has grown enough in prestige and heritage to be compared to the sport’s four major tournaments.
With long, looming bunkers and treacherous approach shots, with large areas of water thrown in, Sawgrass offers a stiff test to the best players in the world each year.
Cameron Smith braved tough conditions that forced a Monday finish in 2022 to pick up the coveted Players trophy, one of his last hurrahs before moving to LIV Golf.
Smith may not return to Tour HQ this season as defending champion, but 49 of the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup standings will tee it up to etch their names into the history of this illustrious event.
NCG’s own Hannah Holden tackle the course as we answered the nagging question: What would a scratch golfer shoot at TPC Sawgrass?
Here is our hole-by-hole guide to TPC Sawgrass, the host venue of the Players Championship:
1st. Par 4 – 423 yards
This must be one of the most intimidating first tee shots you will see on the PGA Tour. The way the bunkers are designed makes you feel as though there isn’t really anywhere to hit it, other than just chipping it down the left. The longer hitters will try to carry all the rubbish down the right but getting caught in the rough mounds just before the fairway starts will turn a birdie chance into a tough par.
2nd. Par 5 – 532 yards
The 2nd hole is huge. Hitting out of a shoot, and moving the ball right to left is a definite advantage. Strikingly similar to the 2nd at Augusta, apart from the tiny bunkers that flank the green, and the lack of a hill, and the green doesn’t gather, but you take the point.
3rd. Par 3 – 177 yards
A cracker of a par 3. A mid to long iron to an upturned saucer generally played with a crosswind. There is no easy chip onto this green and the bunker that runs around the left and rear of the green is a near impossible up and down.
4th. Par 4 – 384 yards
The 4th, the one where Bryson topped it, runs adjacent to the world-class practice ground. Mounds protect the view and the golfer. The shallow green sits beyond the pond that wraps around the left-hand side. It is classic rock-and-roll Sawgrass where any score is possible.
5th. Par 4 – 471 yards
A drive up the left provides the best angle into the green, and anything leaked out right will force an approach from a bunker, or even worse end up wet. A lone tree sitting directly in front of a big green can cause a few issues depending on where the pin is. Long hitters will blast one over the trouble leaving a wedge in.
6th. Par 4 – 393 yards
The 6th has seen loads of changes over the years and feels like a chance. A huge pond on the left, separating you from the 7th, doesn’t interfere and the second shot is a short iron between giant Capier Oaks.
7th. Par 4 – 451 yards
A super intimidating tee shot, with water and bunkers left, and a bail-out right will bring into play more sand and potential tree trouble. Accuracy is the key from this tee so expect players to hit less than a driver. The green has some interesting humps and hollows and some tasty runoffs that will allow an excellent display of your short game.
8th. Par 3 – 237 yards
The 8th is perhaps the least architecturally interesting. It is enveloped on all sides, and has a rarefied, almost still atmosphere in comparison to the bluster and brawn elsewhere. Home to Hovland’s hole-in-one with 4 iron in the 2022 renewal.
9th. Par 5 – 602 yards
A risk-reward tee shot that entices a player to hit something long up the left side to bring the green into play with the second shot. A more sensible player will lay back on the tee and make it a three-shotter, but the approach is a struggle from further away. The green is three-in-one and missing the correct level makes a two-putt extremely difficult.
10th. Par 4 – 424 yards
The 10th is a belter. A lofted metal from the tee, helping to shape the ball around the corner of the broccoli-shaped tree leaves a short iron to a green site improved by the creation of runoffs to the back left.
11th. Par 5 – 558 yards
This has to be one of the best par 5s in the world – the scene for many iconic blowups on the PGA Tour. A straightforward tee shot leaves one of the most interesting second-shot dilemmas in golf. Go for the green and risk water or a tricky short game shot, or lay up to an awful yardage leaving a tight hanging lie pitch to a green the size of a postage stamp. Epic.
12th. Par 4 – 369 yards
The 12th, in typical Sawgrass fashion, has been reinvented. Where once was a moderate length par 4 is now a risk and reward belter. Nothing says Sawgrass like the 12th. Birdie is possible, but so is double. Love it.
13th. Par 3 – 181 yards
You cannot see on TV how ridiculously sloped this green is. It is the most three-putted green on the PGA Tour. If you don’t find the correct section that the flag is placed on, two putts is basically a birdie.
14th. Par 4 – 481 yards
The 14th is the start of a monumental finish. 14 and 15 set up the final triumvirate. You need to pass the test they present before you can grandstand through the last three. 14 is monstrously difficult with too many mounds, too much water, and a green too hidden. Just make 4 and tip-toe off.
15th. Par 4 – 470 yards.
This feels like the tightest tee shot in the world. Overhanging trees everywhere to a fairway that doesn’t seem to exist. Missing the fairway is not an option as the pine straw will swallow your ball making a shot at the green with your second impossible. A shot from the fairway is a must as this has another green with plenty of slope and dangerous pin positions.
16th. Par 5 – 523 yards
Is the 16th the best par 5 in golf? Shift it off the tee and you have Hobson’s choice. You feel you must take it on but the entrance is so tight. It is another Sawgrass risk and reward charmer. The lay-up though is no picnic, off a hanger to a tiny green with that 17th right behind. No thanks.
17th. Par 3 – 137 yards
The island green of the 17th hole is minuscule. The TV coverage makes the green look a lot bigger than it actually is. What should be just a straightforward chipped 9-iron is one of the most stressful shots you will hit at this golf course. Just getting it on the green feels great, but don’t relax until the ball is in the hole as the surface has many three-putt-inducing slopes.
18th. Par 4 – 462 yards
The 18th has spawned 1000 PGA Tour replicas. The palace of a clubhouse sits about 470 yards, 100 miles in real terms. Everything gathers into the water. Even chip outs when you inevitably hang one out into the pine straw, just ask Cam…never mind.
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