The water hazard on the par-three 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course should not be a factor. The 137-yard shot to the center of the ample green would be easy enough with a short iron or even a wedge, but it's more complicated than that. Players come to Sawgrass dreaming of this legendary hole, this shot. Course caddies estimate that 40 percent of players hit water.
TPC Sawgrass is bucket-list golf at its finest: A renowned PGA tour stop at a hyper-posh club that remains open to the public when it's not hosting The Players Tournament, a championship considered by by many to be the fifth major. And the Stadium Course is a menacingly difficult track, created to test the best players in the world. It consistently ranks among the country's hardest, but the challenge is part of the attraction.
The course was designed by Pete Dye, whose particular brand of sadism is creating difficult to read, unforgiving holes (he got the idea for the island green from his wife). The 17th hole in particular has claimed a lot of high-profile victims. During the 2013 Players, the water ate 45 balls. Sergio Garcia, who was leading the tournament with Tiger Woods, put two in the drink on the final round of last year's Players, gifting Woods a win. The par-four fourth, par-five ninth, and par-four 18th are similarly confounding. They require target golf precision and guts. Tentative golfers are rewarded with failure.
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For visiting golfers, Sawgrass's TOUR Academy provides a tour atmosphere. The Academy offers club fitting so you can update your bag with custom sticks – VJ Singh can often be found working his wedges on the shops grinder – and a fitness program designed to increase strength and stamina. Tired golfers frustrated by their first round, head to Nineteen, the club's barroom. Get the blackened fish sandwich (when you've donated to the water, there is a certain satisfaction in taking from it), forsake the fries for hushpuppies, and get back to the tee. Second time is the a charm.
More information: Golf at Sawgrass’ Stadium Course is expensive. A round in the high season runs $400. But when a player visits TPC Sawgrass, it’s to feel like a PGA pro for a day and for that experience the price seems like bargain.