Travelers from across the globe have long been fascinated by St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach — the original America. Now known as Florida’s Historic Coast, this destination is renowned for its old-world charm and beautiful unspoiled beaches. Situated worlds away from your traditional beach vacation, a trip to Florida’s Historic Coast is guaranteed to include everything from world-class cuisine to new adventures at every turn. That being said, however, my fellow golf aficionados can attest to the fact that no trip to Northeast Florida would be complete without the PGA TOUR’s signature event, THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Originally known as the Tournament Players Championship, the event began in 1974 and was held in different states and courses until it found a temporary home at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach. It was during this time that Deane Beman, former commissioner of the PGA TOUR, envisioned building a permanent site for the tournament. In 1982, 415 acres of wooded wetlands and swamp were transformed into the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the home of THE PLAYERS Championship. Needless to say, THE PLAYERS Championship has since become more than a must-see event for golf fans. It’s a destination for travelers from around the world to witness history in the making and the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa plays the perfect host.
Recently renovated and brimming with world class amenities, the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa is the catalyst for a luxurious vacation in Ponte Vedra Beach. From refreshed rooms and suites showcasing floor-to-ceiling windows to deluxe bedding and ergonomic workspaces, the accommodations you’ll find upon arrival are guaranteed to set the stage for a relaxing stay. When the heat picks up, guests can take a cooling dip in one of the resort’s four refreshing pools. When hunger strikes, the property boasts a multitude of outstanding restaurants that have something for everyone. Guests seeking a casual dining experience will find tasty fare and a hearty atmosphere at Alice & Pete’s Pub. Those who enjoy dining al fresco will delight in the sights and sounds of Florida’s indigenous wildlife at the American Gator Club. Guests can even hop on the resort’s free shuttle to the recently renovated private Cabana Beach Club for the laid-back ambiance and delicious American fare of Sharkey’s. My favorite dining experience came in the form of an exquisite dinner at Vernon’s, the signature restaurant of Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. With fresh Florida seafood, masterfully cut chops, locally-sourced produce, an enviable wine list, and spectacular resort views… foodies and families all score big at Vernon’s!
During my stay at Sawgrass Marriott, I had the delight and pleasure of learning all about the rich history and exciting future of TPC Sawgrass while on a golf course tour with Executive Director of THE PLAYERS Jared Rice and PGA TOUR Manager Jen Hendrich. With a distinct design concept and continuous improvements aimed to elevate the fan experience, THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has become one of the most prominent courses in the world. In addition to the course’s spectacular uninterrupted views, TPC Sawgrass is also notorious for its par-3 No. 17 “Island Green.”
During my stay at Sawgrass Marriott, I had the delight and pleasure of learning all about the rich history and exciting future of TPC Sawgrass while on a golf course tour with Executive Director of THE PLAYERS Jared Rice and PGA TOUR Manager Jen Hendrich. With a distinct design concept and continuous improvements aimed to elevate the fan experience, THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has become one of the most prominent courses in the world. In addition to the course’s spectacular uninterrupted views, TPC Sawgrass is also notorious for its par-3 No. 17 “Island Green.” Situated on a man-made island and spanning 137 yards from tee to green, the hole has captivated fans and challenged players from around the world and is considered to be one of the most iconic holes in the game. While THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass consistently welcomes the best players in the world every year, it’s not just a destination for die-hard golf fans. Every year the tournament adds fan features and experiences, including new and updated venues and views and this year is no different.
At this year’s tournament, Hoptinger will present a new Bier Garden located behind the 16th hole. The garden will be open to the public and feature a wide selection of Florida’s refreshing craft beers. Over at THE PLAYERS Club, guests will witness an entirely redefined luxury golf experience. The weekly membership provides exclusive access to the clubhouse, private viewing spaces on 17 tee and 18 green, and premium food and beverage prepared by some of the nation’s top chefs and bartenders. With everything from the elevated dining experience of THE PLAYERS Club to modern takes on fan favorites, there are dining options for all tastes at TPC Sawgrass. Wine and Dine on 9 is the ideal place to enjoy a Northeast Florida sunset, with a variety of food options and a perfect wine pairing. For those who prefer something on the go, Trucks on 10 showcases some of the best local food trucks. Perhaps one of the most impressive sights on the tour was inside of the expanded and upgraded Performance Center.
While there, I decided to take up Putting Analysis by Mike Shannon. An hour with Mike can improve your putting skills tremendously! I highly recommend Shannon and the V1 Golf Academy. In 1992, Shannon invented the Laser Optics Putting System that is used by countless professionals to this day. To date, Mike has worked with over 150 TOUR players and is regarded as one of the best putting instructors in the world. It is that expertise he can share with you to improve your putting! He is a GOLF Magazine “Top 100 Teacher” and has been one of Golf Digest’s “Top 50 Greatest Teachers.”
Also impressive is The Massage Envy Player Performance Center, which is a mobile fitness and therapy tractor trailer, used by players each week on the PGA TOUR and on PGA TOUR Champions. The facilities are staffed by professional physical therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers who assist players in rehabilitative and preventive care, as well as personal conditioning and stretching programs. I opted for the hour long Stretching Program — went in with a bad back and came out feeling pretty good. The trailers (16½ feet wide, over 14 feet high and 60 feet long) contain state-of-the-art fitness and therapy equipment. There are two sets of tractor trailers (4 total) that navigate the country each year, representing a tremendous investment with a goal of providing a consistent and trusted training center for professional golfers.
In discussing my experience as a guest of Sawgrass Marriott and Ponte Vedra, I’d be remiss to not mention all there is to explore and do in nearby St. Augustine. Less than an hour away from the blissful relaxation of Sawgrass Marriott is the sun, fun, history and mystery of St. Augustine. For an entire day, my companions and I explored the cobblestone streets of the nation’s oldest city and enjoyed a tour of experiences showcasing the heart of historic St. Augustine. Old Town Trolley Tours helped us to make the most out of our vacation with 23 stops at more than 100 points of interest detailing all there is to know about St. Augustine’s culture and rich history. Visitors will also delight in a historic walking tour along the bayfront to Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. The large Spanish stone fortress is now a national monument and, at over 315 years old, it’s the oldest structure in St. Augustine. From the numerous rooms that once housed soldiers and prisoners to the large interior courtyard and gun deck which offers a great view of the city, there is always plenty to explore at the Castillo and when hunger strikes, there was no shortage of tasty dining options nearby.
But of course the star of this vacation was TPC Sawgrass and with the tremendous improvements and renovations completed to the stadium course ahead of the tournament, I am nothing short of excited to see THE PLAYERS Championship return to their facilities from May 8 – 13, 2018. For more information visit THEPLAYERS.com.
Ask Jared or Jen how to get into the incredible 1st Class VIP Experience!
PGA TOUR National Headquarters
100 PGA TOUR Boulevard
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082