The views around holes 16, 17 and 18 at The Players Championship are known as some of the best in golf. But the PGA Tour’s marquee event has 15 other pretty good holes that tournament officials want spectators to see.
To that end, the tournament is initiating several new fan amenities around TPC Sawgrass in hopes of distributing the crowds, which can reach as many as 45,000 people for the weekend rounds.
Fans will have more areas where they can sample a “Sawgrass Splash,” the tournament’s signature cocktail, or get something else to eat or drink.
“This course was built with the fan in mind, when you think about how easily walkable it is, and all of the great vantage points and mounding,” said Matt Rapp, the tournament’s executive director. “What we’re trying to do this year is go deeper into the playbook to create an even better fan
Most of these new food and beverage areas are open to fans with grounds passes — the entry-level ticket — and don’t require an upcharge. Many of these spaces are intentionally set in shaded areas or they’re climate controlled, which is important in May when temperatures can rise above 90 in the Jacksonville area.
Minnesota-based Prom is the lead caterer for the tournament, but nearly two dozen Jacksonville-area restaurants have been recruited to establish food and beverage stations around the golf course.
One of the unique aspects of TPC Sawgrass, which was the brainchild of former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman, is the course’s layout. Several intersections of holes create what Rapp refers to as hubs, “where you can walk 30 or 40 paces and see three great holes,” Rapp said. “The next chapter in the book is putting fan areas in these hubs.”
These food and beverage areas will be as simple as the TacoLu taco stand between the 12th and 13th holes. The Players also will bring in several Jacksonville-based food trucks, like Baby’s Badass Burgers and Up In Smoke BBQ. Those food trucks will be dispersed around the course. The Players and Prom jointly cover the costs for electricity, tents and payment devices at these sites. Then the tournament and local restaurants work out revenue-share agreements.
“We do this purely as a fan enhancement and a great PR opportunity for them and us,” said Rapp, who added that the local restaurants promote the event in their own facilities in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
The offerings will include traditional stands and food trucks dispersed around the course.
The lounge for The Players will be situated between the 9th and 18th fairways, overlooking both holes. Two large video screens will carry multiple feeds from around the course. Michelle Beauchamp, Grey Goose’s brand director, said the sponsor will have a presence at 15 PGA Tour events this year with its branded lounges.
A new premium area will make its debut next week, as well. The Michelob Ultra Blue Room, an all-inclusive VIP lounge near the 10th tee for up to 125 people per day, will require a separate ticket, which costs $75 early in the week and goes up to $125 on the weekend. Mezza Luna and Mellow Mushroom are among the restaurants serving in the Blue Room.
A Jacksonville Beach marketing agency, Adjective & Co., which focuses on how brands connect with millennials, consulted with the tournament on many of these changes and its advertising.
A three-year snapshot shows attendance up by 32 percent, corporate sponsorship revenue up 53 percent and food and beverage up 50 percent.