Play golf’s most iconic hole on quick getaway

Access Travel: Play golf's top hole, stay at top Florida resort

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Golf lovers missed The Masters and have lost out on golfing getaways during the COVID-19 pandemic, but here is some good news: one of the game’s most famous courses and maybe its most famous hole sit only a short drive away.

“We get people from all over the world that come,” TPC Sawgrass Storyteller Toby Jones told WSBTV.com’s Nelson Hicks. “Some have bucket lists where they want to play here.”

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Jones is talking about TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and its famous Stadium Course, home to The Player’s Championship Golf Tournament.

“We are open to the public and we are very proud of that,” TPC Sawgrass’ Nick Warner said. “So anyone from -- we have handicappers from zero all the way up to 90s -- so anyone is allowed to play here and we encourage that, too. Families, buddy trips -- anyone can come out and play.

TPC Sawgrass
TPC Sawgrass (AP PHOTO)

The best advice is to plan ahead. Most championship courses like TPC Sawgrass aren’t open to the public, so it can get busy. Here’s some more advice: bring some spare golf balls. The stadium course is home to one of the most iconic holes in all of golf, the 17th island green.

“I don’t know how to describe it other than you need to come and see it in person,” Jones said. “It’s extraordinarily diabolical up to and including the fact that over the course of a year, the hole is pretty short, it’s only 130, 135 yards generally, but we take close to 100,000 golf balls out of the pond in the course of a year.”

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 14: Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain putts on the 17th green during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship at the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 14, 2017 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 14: Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain putts on the 17th green during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship at the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 14, 2017 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) (Mike Ehrmann)

Forget fishing your ball out of the water, there's no time for that. Instead, head to the PGA Tour Performance Center on-site. Utilizing the latest in technology, combined with expert teaching, they'll put guests on lower scores in no time.

"We do fitness, club-fitting, full swing, short game, putting," Todd Anderson, from the PGA Tour Performance Center, said. "So, whatever the golfer kind of needs, we have someone here who can take care of them in that regard. We basically just try and make people better."

Once a round of golf or day of instruction ends, head inside the 77,000 square-foot clubhouse. From the murals of memorable moments to an interesting collection of golf clubs, there’s history and a story around every turn.

“We asked each one of (The Players Championship) champions throughout the years if they would donate a golf club, preferably one that they used during the championship,” Jones said. “We’ve got this tremendous display going from Jack Nicklaus’ wooden driver to (2019 champion) Rory Mcllroy has got a driver down there that is significantly improved in terms of technology.”

Here are some more photos from the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Here are some more photos from the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The facility’s storyteller program, with Jones and his fellow volunteers, makes a trip to the course worthwhile whether you’re a golfer or not. During August, the program is offered Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s free.

And if you’re looking for a place to stay nearby, don’t miss the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club.

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

“We pride ourselves on the traditions, but also pride ourselves on staying current and relevant and being a destination that is appealing to modern families,” Craig Schoninger, from the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, said.

Between the pool, spa, tennis center and the beach with room to play, it’s no surprise that the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club ranks as a five-diamond resort this year. But there’s another reason it’s been a five-diamond resort for nearly two decades. That’s the staff.

“Many of our employees have worked here for 25 or 30 years or so,” Schoninger said. “And with that comes great recognition, great attention to detail and great service.”