The eyes of the golfing world will this week turn to TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, as the club hosts the 2017 Players Championship.
Those who watched last year’s tournament at the club, won by Jason Day, will notice a number of changes have been made to the course ahead of this year’s event.
This includes the creation of a new twelfth hole, as well as a series of renovations across the course.
GCA caught up with Jeff Plotts, director of golf course maintenance at TPC Sawgrass, to find out more about the recent work and what golfers how the course is expected to play during the upcoming championship.
“We have redone the golf course and carried out a major renovation following the 2016 Players Championship,” Plotts said. “We redid all the tees, bunkers and greens. The twelfth hole has been completely reconstructed, and a new lake between the sixth and seventh hole has been created.”
Steve Wenzloff, vice president of Design Services for the PGA TOUR, has led the project from an architectural standpoint. Wenzloff consulted with Pete Dye, the course’s original designer, before the recent project commenced.
Plotts worked closely with Wenzloff throughout the work, having collaborated on numerous projects together in the past.
“We redid TPC South more than a decade ago, and Steve and I worked together there, as well as multiple projects in Scottsdale,” he said. “Having the opportunity to work with him here has been really good. Steve’s a very talented architect.”
Other elements of the project include the creation of a new practice facility, tweaks to numerous green complexes, and modifications to the irrigation system.
The project was affected by Hurricane Matthew in early October 2016, which saw 300 trees destroyed and more than 14 inches of rain landing on the course.
“The hurricane obviously slowed down the process, but because we had two major contractors here on site, they were able to get us back on pace and we were able to meet the deadline for the tournament,” Plotts said. “Ultimately, an extensive amount of work was done in a short space of time.”
With some of the world’s best players heading to TPC Sawgrass this week then, what can they expect?
“I think aesthetically the golf course is way more appealing, and I think everybody’s seen that,” said Plotts. “That’s obviously a feather in our cap when people are understanding how much improved the facility is. But you don’t truly know until you see the data from the guys playing it.”
Plotts added: “We’ve removed the rough away from the greens, with a lot more short grass around the greens now. In some ways, guys think that might be a touch easier, but you just don’t know. We feel like the ball’s going to roll. The idea is to get the ball in the hole, so if the ball’s rolling away it’s getting a little more difficult. We feel balls are getting into different spots than they used to. I don’t think it’s necessarily going to play easier, it’s just going to play differently.”
The 2017 Players Championship takes place from 11-14 May, and coincides with Thank a Golf Course Superintendent week.