The 2019 PLAYERS Championship will be played in March (14-17) for the first time since 2006. It's not only a change of dates, but a major change for the golf course as well.
That means The PLAYERS Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass will look and play much differently this spring. Instead of the Bermuda look it's had in the past dozen years, the course was closed October 31-November 20 to heavily overseed with rye grass.
Now reopened, the course will play much differently this season not only at The PLAYERS but for its daily guests.
For example, in January in recent years, the course was fairly brown because the Bermudagrass was mostly dormant. Now, it's essentially a cool weather golf course, which means bright green fairways and greens, offset by the pure white sand bunkers and water hazards throughout the course.
You might be wondering, if you don't already know, why the change in dates? Twelve years ago, The PLAYERS was moved to May because PGA Tour leadership believed it would stand out better after the Masters and before the U.S. Open. But now that the PGA Tour has decided to end its season earlier as the final major, the PGA Championship, has now moved to May, moving The PLAYERS earlier the season became necessary. That in turn, necessitates the change in agronomic practices, but what goes into that exactly?
Prepping the course for emerald green
Maintenance crews began overseeding back in October. They did the practice grounds first (Oct. 8) and began overseeding fairways, greens, tees and rough on Halloween.
The first step was to prep the Bermudagrass for the overseed with special equipment to ensure good seed to soil contact of the new seed. The second step was to apply the ryegrass. And the final step was to manage the irrigation and rain to give the new grass the best chance to grow into a healthy plant.
Overseeding golf courses in Florida is pretty typical, but what they do at The TPC Sawgrass is a little heavier than it at most courses in Florida. It's not quite as aggressive as the courses in Arizona, but there are similarities.
"The moisture that we experience here in the southeast is beneficial in the establishment, but can cause other challenges that are not typically faced in Arizona," said TPC Sawgrass General Manager Derek Sprague. "Both environments have pluses and their share of challenges. Overall, the prep is not quite as aggressive in the southeast comparatively, and the rate of seed is generally much lower."
Best times to play the PLAYERS Stadium Course?
While Stadium Course will certainly be in great shape during the wintertime, Sprague emphasizes that the goal of the TPC Sawgrass is have the course in championship condition throughout the year. It will, of course, transition back to Bermuda at the end of May.
To ensure that it's as good a summer course as it is a winter course, The PLAYERS Stadium course will close from June 10 to July 7 for a special prep that involves removing the ryegrass so the Bermuda can thrive again.
And if you're looking to save a little money off the peak season green fees ($550), off-peak will now be from May 28-Sept. 2.
As for how the course will play for the pros in March, it will probably be more difficult for them for several reasons. The wind, with the possibility of cold fronts, will be more unpredictable, and the course will play longer. But there will be other differences, too.
"The biggest changes for the players will be that the rough will be more challenging for the players to play from," Sprague said. "And the greens should be a tad faster than the Bermudagrass greens."