Written from a local’s perspective, Forbes covered one of JAX’s biggest events of the year, THE PLAYERS Championship. An event that is more than just about golf, it’s about coming together with your community to see and be seen, enjoy local food and drink vendors and of course, watch the best golfers battle it out on the green. To avoid a serious case of #FOMO, read the article below to see why thousands come out to experience this phenomenal six-day event.
By Kristi Dosh, Forbes, February 26, 2020
Fans pose for selfies at THE PLAYERS Championship
2019 BEN JARED/PGA TOUR
Live music, food trucks, a wine bar.
What does this sound like to you?
In Ponte Vedra, Florida, just outside Jacksonville on the Atlantic Ocean, it sounds like a golf tournament. THE PLAYERS Championship to be precise, which, in addition to an unrivaled lineup of food, drink and entertainment options for fans, also offers golf’s richest prize and toughest field.
THE PLAYERS aspires to be more than another stop on the PGA Tour. More than “the fifth major,” a designation this event wrestled with for years. THE PLAYERS wants to be another Kentucky Derby, a bucket list destination appealing to fans beyond sports where the party, the fashion and people-watching shares attention with what’s taking place inside the ropes.
“To us it’s about diversifying our fan experience as we diversify our fan base,” THE PLAYERS Championship Executive Director Jared Rice said of the tournament’s efforts to think beyond the confines of a traditional golf event. “Our efforts to diversify our fan base mean looking outside the Northeast Florida area and elevating the tournament on a national scale.”
To that end THE PLAYERS has built out a series of curated “bucket list” experiences for fans attending this year. Detailed itineraries for families, foodies, (golf) fanatics and “socialites” have been created by tournament staff to assure these constituencies have the time of their life March 12 through 15.
Socialites are encouraged to attend a concert by Grammy-award winning artist The Chainsmokers who are performing at the Military Appreciation Ceremony Tuesday, March 10 at 5:00 PM. Tuesday tickets allow for watching practice rounds – where you’ll have the course largely to yourself – and cost only $45 plus tax. That includes access to the concert at the course’s famed 17th hole island green.
The famed 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass
2016 STAN BADZ/PGA TOUR
Speaking of 17, as the sun sets behind the 17th hole, patrons in the bleachers behind the green are guaranteed what the tournament describes as “#gramslam” photographs.
Foodies will love the course setup. As soon as visitors enter THE PLAYERS Welcome Experience, they are greeted by a food court featuring numerous local options to choose from including Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Firehouse Subs, Hawkers Asian Street Fare, M Shack, Tropical Smoothie Café, Daily’s and bibigo.
Perhaps a picnic at THE PLAYERS?
If Mother Nature cooperates, seasonal temperatures are in the 70s with an ocean breeze and bright sunshine across the wooded grounds making for a delightful day dining al fresco.
Taste of JAX (behind the 12th hole tee) offers local flavors from more of Jacksonville’s favorite restaurants including Homespun Kitchen, Cousins Maine Lobster, Mojo BBQ and Zoës Kitchen.
Tacos on 12, featuring dishes from Jacksonville’s popular TacoLu Baja Mexicana, has become a staple of the event.
The GREY GOOSE Bloody Mary Bar or “Wine & Dine on 9” presented by Meiomi Wines with gourmet plates from Matthew Medure, one of Northeast Florida’s most renowned chefs, elevate the guest experience.
“Bringing in local restaurants that highlight Northeast Florida, when we do that, that’s great for the locals because they get a chance to go to their favorite place, but it’s equally, if not better, for us on a national scale because if you’re a guest coming in from Nashville who loves food and love sports, you’re seeing great athletic competition here and able to go to ABBQ or TacoLu, or Restaurant Medure on Wine & Dine,” Rice said. “That is much more than stadium food and it’s all restaurants that they can’t otherwise get in Nashville.”
With all that food and drink over a full day of golf, what about restrooms?
Not a fan of port-o-potties at sporting events? There are four permanent restrooms (and filtered water stations) at The Patio between the tee on 10 and 18th hole green/16th hole tee, Taste of JAX behind the 11th hole green and 12th hole tee, Wine & Dine on 9 and behind the 16th hole green. The temporary facilities utilized by THE PLAYERS are climate controlled and assuredly the nicest you’ve ever experienced at a sporting event.
The Benefactor is a shared hospitality venue situated behind the tee box of the world famous 17th … [+]
2019 SCOTT STEVENS/PGA TOUR
While most of THE PLAYERS exclusive hospitality areas have already sold out, limited space remains available inside The Benefactor, The Turn and the Captain’s Club. Each offers a unique combination of amenities from air conditioning, inclusive food and beverage, private restrooms and unparalleled views of the action.
THE PLAYERS considers itself a public trust for the Jacksonville area which is known as Florida’s “First Coast” due to nearby St. Augustine being home to the nation’s longest permanent European settlement dating all the way back to 1565. As such, it takes seriously the opportunity to create a positive impression on the tens of thousands of visitors in the area for the tournament.
“The result of it is for people coming from outside of this region, delivering them a best in class experience… when you come on site, its ease of entry, great first impressions, amazing views of golf and all the competition with the ancillary benefits of great food and beverage and having something for everybody,” Rice said.
Lest it be forgotten, a golf tournament does take place around all of this eating and drinking. Since 1982, THE PLAYERS has been held at the Pete Dye designed TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. The course serves as a shrine to golf fans with every aspect of its creation carried out with the fan experience in mind.
The field at THE PLAYERS represents the best in golf. Only 144 participants earn their way in. Invitations go out to the top 125 players from the previous season’s FedExCup Points List, the top 50 players from the Official World Golf Ranking through the Honda Classic (March 2, 2020) and recent major championship, THE PLAYERS Championship and World Golf Championship events.
No sponsor exemptions. No amateurs. No club pros. The best and only the best.
This March they will compete for the largest purse in golf, $15 million, with the winner taking home $2.7 million.
Champions since the tournament moved to TPC Sawgrass have included Fred Couples, Nick Price and Greg Norman along with, more recently, Tiger, Phil and Rory McIlroy.
Hard-core golf fans will enjoy close-up access to their favorite players. Here’s an insider’s tip: there’s a secret back side of the practice grounds left of the fourth hole green. This section of the practice range was constructed specifically for the best players in the world to utilize throughout the year and during THE PLAYERS, this range is open to spectators for viewing.
As the locals around the First Coast say, “see you at THE PLAYERS.”