As a golfer and golf fan, I love attending big tournaments to watch my favorite players in action, in person. Too many events have so many restrictions: big crowds, lack of food and restrooms, high ticket prices and poor visibility, it’s usually more comfortable to sit in front of my 50″ HDTV and watch the event at home. THE PLAYERS Championship is different. I just returned from a visit to TPC Sawgrass, home of the event, and was amazed how fan-centric the whole operation is. With the anticipated return of 2013 winner Tiger Woods, the 2014 event, coming May 8th through May 11, is sure to offer some great golf. THE PLAYERS Championship has added to the excitement of the tournament itself and is now the focus of a long weekend of music and food, making it a great family golf travel destination. Here’s my guide to the event and how golfers and golf fans can visit and be part of the fun.
THE PLAYERS Championship 2014 – May 8-11
THE PLAYERS Championship, held each May at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is a very unique tournament. With no lifetime exemptions, no sponsor exemptions and no amateurs, the event attracts only the best players in golf. Played on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass since 1982, the event also offers some of the highest prize money ($1.8 million to the winner) of any PGA Tour event and also awards the most golf ranking points of any non-major tournament. The money and the points make it a key event for tour professionals. With few repeat winners, the course’s neutrality and difficulty proves itself, as it was designed to favor no specific type of play or player, no right or left hand, no short over long, it just tests every aspect of a player’s game.
More than a golf tournament
Now THE PLAYERS is the focus of a long weekend of golf, fun, music, food and more. Aside from the golf competition, there’s a concert that normally attracts some big names in rock and country music. There’s also a lot of great food including a “Taste of Jacksonville” sampling of some of the area’s best restaurants and cuisines. And this is Florida, so they have some amazing Southern specialties. It makes the THE PLAYERS a great golf travel destination, like the Super Bowl or World Series. TPC Sawgrass is surrounded by other courses and is close to the World Golf Village and World Golf Hall of Fame, both must-sees for any golfer.
Tickets and visitor info
Fan-friendly thinking extends to THE PLAYERS ticket pricing and policies as well. Kids are free (with a paying adult), as are members of the military, active, retired and their families. Veterans also get a discount. Parking is reasonable and carpool parking is free. Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday grounds tickets are $58 each or $150 for the week. Yes, there are more expensive, hospitality packages, but for one $58 grounds ticket, an adult can take a group of kids, park for free as a carpool and enjoy some championship golf, even on the final day of the tournament.
The Stadium Course
THE PLAYERS is held on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and the course is unique in that it’s literally a purpose-built, 18-hole, golf stadium. It was not created to serve a country club or community, it was designed to host a golf tournament, THE PLAYERS, and to offer fans the best views of every stroke on every hole of play. As event Executive Director Matt Rapp told me, the course is designed so fans can see “any golfer, hit any shot, on any hole, at any time”. That’s a pretty tall order, but I can personally confirm the course delivers on all counts. I played the course and experienced how it took every aspect of my game to remain competitive. I could also see, as a player, how the design of the course allows spectators such great sight lines of every hole.
As a course designed as a natural golf stadium, each tee, fairway and green is lined with elevations, berms, hills and other raised features allowing a great view of play on each part of every hole. It really creates a course-long golf stadium, where fans can line every part of every hole for the best vantage points. Purpose -built bleachers created for the event enhance the experience.
Adjacent to TPC Sawgrass, the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa offers both luxury and Southern hospitality. The hotel also controls a high percentage of tee times at Sawgrass and offers many golf packages that include a room and play. For visitors headed down not during THE PLAYERS, it’s a great way to get a tee time, which can be difficult. Rooms at the Sawgrass Marriott start around $199 per night.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog luxuryfred.com. In the past year, he has visited Turkey twice, had a foodie adventure in Hong Kong, taken a cruise down the Mekong river through Vietnam and Cambodia, slept in an Ice Hotel in Canada, performed on stage with Yes at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas and toured Peru. You can follow him on Twitter -@luxuryfred and on Instagram – @luxuryfred.
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