Sawgrass Marriott Resort: At the Head of the Class

By Derek Duncan, Contributor

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL -- Some of our world’s greatest golf landscapes are simply revealed rather than made. The best Scottish and Irish links courses were always there in some form, and the natural coastal beauty of sites such as Casa de Campo or the primordial sandscape of Sand Hills are beyond the scope of man to create. These are the rare plots of land destined for golf holes, places that fill us with pride to think we could invent a game that suits such earth so perfectly.

Then again, there are some real lemons for properties, or sites that would appear to be lemons.

The 400-plus acres of swamp where the Sawgrass Marriott Resort and world renowned Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass is located was so highly thought of in the late 1970’s that the PGA Tour, under the guidance of former commissioner Deane Beman, was able to buy it for $1. Today the property, headquarters of the Tour, is a billion dollar operation thanks in large part to The PLAYERS Championship played at the Stadium Course. The real estate adage says “Location, location, location,” but apparently if you’ve got what Beman and golf course architect Pete Dye have got, you can make location.

When life deals you lemons, make lemonade.

Though he had no budget to build the course that was to be the venue for the Tour’s own “major” tournament, Beman was able to strike a deal with Marriott that allowed the corporation to develop the resort on the property free of charge in return for financing the construction of the Stadium Course. The dollar that originally bought the PGA Tour poor soil, land that didn’t drain, and alligators, has since exploded into a gorgeous 4,800 acre golf resort that few dispute is among the country’s best.

From the jungle emerged peaceful lagoons and lakes, villas, pools, a world class tennis facility, and the 508-room Sawgrass Marriott Resort centerpiece connected to a 46,000 square foot conference center, the largest between Orlando and Atlanta. Four full-service restaurants – including The Augustine Grill, one of Ponte Vedra Beach’s finer dining experiences – service the resort and four separate lounges offer a variety of ways to unwind. A full-service spa is on the way, and a complimentary five-minute shuttle ride delivers guests to the resort’s private strip of beach on the Atlantic.

Of course when it’s all said and done, it’s the golf that places Sawgrass at the head of the class of Southern resorts. Why? Quite simply, few resorts have as many golf holes (99), and none can boast the Stadium Course, one of the defining golf courses of the world.

When the Stadium Course opened in 1980, it captured the imagination of the world and the ire of the pros who were sentenced to play The PLAYERS Championship there beginning in 1982. Pete Dye’s revolutionary course marked a turning point in golf course architecture, all but finishing off the Robert Trent Jones heroic school of design that had dominated the industry since the late 1940’s. In turn, the Stadium Course ushered in a period industrial design and “target golf” that would last for more than a decade. It also was the first example of Beman’s stadium seating, a concept that carried out at various other TPC ventures.

Though it’s not nearly as controversial as it was in 1980, the Stadium Course remains one of the most significant places in golf. No golfer’s career would be complete without a round here if for no other reason to experience the defining gut-check moment of playing to the island 17th green.

In 1987 the Tournament Players Club opened a second 18 adjacent to the Stadium called the Valley Course, designed by Dye and Bobby Weed. Guests of the Marriott can also access an additional 63 holes designed by Ed Seay, including 27 holes at Sawgrass Country Club (where The PLAYERS Championship was held before it moved to the Stadium Course), and 18 holes each at Marsh Landing and Oak Bridge Club.

Click here for more about the Stadium Course and the Valley Course at the Tournament Players Club.


The Sawgrass Marriott Resort is located in Ponte Vedra Beach, 15 miles southeast of Jacksonville. From I-95 exit J. Turner Butler Blvd east to Highway A1A and turn right (south). The resort is approximately 5 miles on the right.

Rates and Packages

18-hole golf and room packages begin at $218 from June 30-September 11 and peak at $342 between February 1 and May 19. Special holiday room rates range from $109 to $165.

Derek DuncanDerek Duncan, Contributor

Derek Duncan's writing has appeared in,,,, LINKS Magazine and more. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Cynthia and is a graduate of the University of Colorado with interests in wine, literary fiction, and golf course architecture.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • tpc stadium course

    Chris Rosset wrote on: Nov 12, 2007

    Service abysmal, round unbelievably slow, course in poor condition, all around bad experience.