Stadium Course vs. Dye's Valley: Players weigh in
September 17, 2014
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- September 17, 2014
- This week's Web.com Tour Championship will be played on Dye's Valley. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla -- Roberto Castro enters this week’s Web.com Tour Championship at No. 41 in the projected Web.com Tour Finals Priority Ranking, needing to stay in the top 50 by week’s end in order to secure PGA TOUR status for 2014-15.
Castro is on the bubble, to be sure, but he might have a slight advantage over some other players in the field – he carries the memory of one particularly amazing round at TPC Sawgrass.
While competing in THE PLAYERS Championship in 2013, Castro fired a 9-under 63 in the opening round, an effort recognized by Golf World magazine as one of the top 10 ball-striking rounds of the ShotLink era.
Castro’s otherworldly round came at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course, which is adjacent to Dye’s Valley Course, site of this week’s Web.com Tour Championship.
A number of players in this week’s field have experience at the Stadium Course from competing in THE PLAYERS in years past, including Castro, Vaughn Taylor and Jonathan Byrd.
All three veterans spoke highly of the Valley Course on Wednesday afternoon. When asked to compare the Stadium and Valley courses, Taylor and Byrd each paused to think for a few seconds, before providing thoughtful responses.
“Man, that’s a tough question,” Taylor said. “They’re both similar in what they demand; you’ve got to be in the fairway, first and foremost. The Bermuda rough is tough to control the ball out of, and then the Stadium has its signature holes (16, 17 and 18); those are a big part of the Stadium Course.
“At both courses, there is just a really good mix of holes – you get one or two tough ones, and then you get a couple easy ones. There’s not a brutal stretch in there, but you’ve got to play golf. You’ve got to hit it in the fairways.”
Byrd also agreed that finding the fairway is paramount at the Valley Course, saying the narrowness of many of its fairways (about 20 yards wide) rivals that of some U.S. Open venues.
The former Clemson player noted the abundance of tough driving holes at the Valley Course, notably the par-4 15th and par-4 18th, both dogleg-right holes with water down the right side.
“I think they’re both great tests,” Byrd said. “I’m impressed with the Valley Course. It’s a nice, solid golf course; it’s challenging; it’s probably a little more difficult off the tee. I think the Stadium Course is a little more target golf-oriented; it’s a little more difficult visually, but it’s also a little more tricked up – there are a lot of humps and bumps around the greens, and the greens probably play a little smaller. “Overall, the Valley course is just a more straightforward golf course.”
Scott Hend lives in the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, area and plays both the Stadium and Valley courses frequently, and he echoed the sentiment that the Stadium Course’s greens play smaller. Hend said that putts tend to break more on the Stadium Course, and that the Stadium Course generally requires players to hit longer irons into greens.
Hend describes the Valley Course as more of a position golf course off the tee, and a course where it’s critical to hit the right sectors of greens with middle to short irons.
“Just position the ball off the tee and give yourself a chance,” Hend said of his mentality when he plays the Valley Course. “It’s a very demanding golf course, yet it’s a fun golf course. In itself, it’s a great golf course.”
Steve Wheatcroft also lives in the area and plays TPC Sawgrass often, saying he plays the Stadium Course about 95 percent of the time, and the Valley Course the other 5 percent. He said that he anticipates playing the Valley more in the future, however, in light of the course’s recent restoration, particularly on the greens.
“Until they did the redo on the greens, the greens usually weren’t that great out there,” Wheatcroft said. “But now, they’re phenomenal. They’ve done a great job.”
Wheatcroft and Taylor both point to the par-4 eighth and par-4 17th as holes where par is a great score – Wheatcroft describes them as “brutal par 4s,” and Taylor refers to them as “tough, tough, tough holes.”
Nos. 8 and 17 played as the two toughest holes at last year’s Web.com Tour Championship. Although they will almost certainly remain tough, Wheatcroft said the recent course restoration should make the two holes – both converted par 5s -- more playable.
“They’re still tough, but they’re a lot more fair than what they were last year,” Wheatcroft said. “They made each of them a little wider, a little flatter – calmed some of the slopes in the greens.”
Castro describes the Stadium and Valley courses as similar layouts – “They’re both hard. You’ve got to stripe it off the tee, and you’ve got to kind of go make some birdies from there.”
Castro also feels comfortable at TPC Sawgrass in general. He enjoys staying at the on-site Marriott hotel, and he appreciates the familiarity of the locker room, after competing in THE PLAYERS for the past two seasons.
If the comfort translates onto the course this week, Castro should have no trouble earning back his TOUR card.
“Absolutely, I like this place,” Castro said. “It’s a good feeling. A lot of positives. No doubt, it’s good vibes here.”