On February 12, 1978, PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman hit a ceremonial drive into 415 acres of thick wetlands and swamps. Afterwords, Pete Dye and Bobby Weed were tasked with turning that piece of property – one with minimal elevation, wet, murky, sub-standard soil conditions and dense vegetation – into the permanent home of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Following Jerry Pate’s 1982 Tournament Players Championship win, an immediate need arose for TPC Sawgrass modifications that would appease more players. These changes were significant and difficult to incorporate, as TPC Sawgrass was a design ahead of its time.
At this point, Pete recommended to Commissioner Beman to bring in Bobby Weed. With his blessing, Bobby oversaw these influential Stadium Course renovations.
Weed was then hired by the PGA TOUR as the Certified Golf Course Superintendent at TPC Sawgrass. From 1983-87, he played a critical role in re-building the world-class, annual home of the PGA TOUR’s flagship event.
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What to do with massive amounts of sub-standard, mucky soils? The PGA TOUR requested massive spectator mounds so fans could view tournament action from multiple vantage points, thus a home for the undesirable material.
Additionally, they wanted the design to be “the most democratic course in the world.” No two consecutive holes would move in the same direction. Prevailing winds would make each hole play differently.
Furthermore, the Stadium Course concept wasn’t just focused on golf. Miles of underground cables, utilities, dedicated spaces for television compounds, hospitality tents, parking, etc. all had to be incorporated.
For months, construction crews would drain the low-lying, sometimes swampy site, moving sand and creating dry land for playable areas. A canal would be built around the entire golf course perimeter to drain water off the property. At times, Pete questioned if the course could ever be completed.
The Stadium Course has always focused on being environmentally-friendly:
- No housing development
- Core routing with a moat that used reclaimed water for irrigation
- Native, indigenous landscaping
- Copious amounts of pine straw and minimal turf areas, creating an exceptional sanctuary and habitat for wildlife that continues to grow each decade
When The Tournament Players Championship was first played at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, the pros’ reactions were quite critical. At the direction of the Commissioner, Pete and Bobby leveled and softened some heavily contoured greens. Many of the course’s other “rough edges” were also softened and altered. Continued alterations have been implemented over the years, not unusual to many great designs throughout the world.
THE PLAYERS Championship now attracts the strongest field in all of golf. The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is heralded around the globe for its firm and fair test.
The Stadium Course was also the catalyst for the highly successful TPC Network, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020.
Pete had a vision like no other modern-day architect. His routing of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was exceptional; his directional compass created the balance, variety and interest that remains present today.
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