Klein on Design: No. 6, TPC Sawgrass
Bradley S. Klein, Golfweek’s architecture editor, offers his opinion on one memorable hole:
Yards: 393, par 4
Architect: Pete Dye (1981)
Where: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., The Players Championship, May 6-9
Ranked: No. 16 on the 2010 Golfweek’s Best Modern List
It’s great because . . . no tournament course in the U.S. makes better use of angles and perception/misperception of ground features than this historic Dye tract. In an era when everyone else was building for aerial power golf, Dye took a dead-flat swamp and tamed it into a bewildering concatenation of quirky bounces, false safe zones and straight-in-your-face difficulty. For all the attention paid to the photogenic par-3 17th, it’s the least characteristic hole on a layout that gives every golfer options, bailouts and diagonally arrayed hazards. And for all of the focus on the dramatic trio of finishing holes, the golf course, from the opening tee shot, allows players to pick and choose a safe or risky path from tee to green.
It would be even better if . . . the sixth hole did not feel so claustrophobic. It’s the only hole on the course where the primary hazard isn’t sand or water, but overhanging trees that clamp down the fairway. The confinement starts with a tee that’s so tree-shrouded that the canopies on both sides nearly touch. Palms and pines pinch in so tightly at the beginning of the fairway that they effectively block the route for mid-handicappers trying to avoid the long bunker that runs the length of the hole on the left. The strangling continues in the prime landing area and greenside, where it’s not only canopies but trunks of trees that block the right-side entrance to the putting surface. Peeling back the tree coverage a little down the right side would go a long way toward making the hole more enjoyable for the higher-handicapper while barely affecting how the pros play it.