PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It’s getting down to crunch time at TPC Sawgrass.
Television and hospitality structures were being hammered in and built up on Monday. Grounds crews were cutting and clipping away at grass. There’s so much in motion out here and there’s a not much time left to get one of the world’s best golf venues in pristine condition. In less than a month, fans will be making their way to the Stadium Course as The Players Championship prepares to tee off.
The tournament is March 9-12.
For Players executive director Jared Rice, the bulk of the heavy lifting is out of the way and the home stretch is about sewing things up.
“The last 30 days the team is really pushing through … it’s down to the details now,” Rice said on Monday. “It’s leaving no stone unturned and thinking how we can make this a best-in-class experience for our fans, our players, our volunteers, and hold that responsibility for the community. Because when we do all that we’re able to do quite a bit for charity here in Northeast Florida.”
As is the case every March (or May, if the tournament ever shifts back there), much is the same but quite a bit has changed.
Digital ticketing is here to stay. So, too, are contactless and cashless payments on tournament grounds. Parking has gone the digital route as well and remains a pre-tournament purchase. And the popular option that encouraged carpooling and gave cars with four or more passengers free parking is gone.
Among some of the new and notable changes — cut through buzzwords like enhanced or premium — come in the form of viewing areas, technology and storage.
Fans should benefit the most from the addition of on-site storage lockers. That will give fans a place to keep their valuables during tournament time. They’re free for fans to use, a significant perk. Think Disney gives patrons free lockers?
Technology is another perk that fans could actually benefit from. An updated PGA Tour app has all the “bells and whistles,” Rice said. If fans download the app, there’s something on it that they’ll be able to use, he said.
While there’s layer after layer of things to choose from in the app, the updates most applicable are likely to be a wayfinder and an augmented reality update. The wayfinder promises to help fans navigate the grounds easier than in years past. The AR addition is nifty for fans who want to merge tech with The Players.
The venues around Nos. 16 and 17 are getting a second level, which elevates the viewing experience. Instead of just a ground floor setup, a double-decker structure is in the process of being fleshed out. That will boost the viewing area there to more than 131,000 square feet. The No. 8 green and the No. 9 tee have grown into an expanded fan area with the Oasis and a branded lounge.
“It’s funny, during championship week, to see our team take a lot of pride in seeing families come out and really enjoy the event and seeing our players interact with fans,” Rice said. “Putting all that on, we take great sense of pride in seeing our partners improve their business or new partners of the tournament coming out in Northeast Florida for the first time and saying, ‘Wow, this place is so amazing.’ So, that responsibility is something that really drives us.”