NEED TO KNOW
Five Things to Know: TPC Southwind
August 08, 2022
By Jeff Eisenband , PGATOUR.COM
- August 08, 2022
- TPC Southwind will host a FedExCup Playoff event for the first time with the FedEx St. Jude Championship. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
With apologies to the 1991 Marc Cohn hit single, there will be limited “Walking in Memphis” this week.
Grinding, hustling and fighting to win and/or advance will be more like it as TPC Southwind hosts a Playoffs event, the FedEx St. Jude Championship, for the first time. Although the course has never kicked off the three-week FedExCup Playoffs, which will continue with the top-70 BMW Championship and finally the top-30 TOUR Championship, its bona fides as a PGA TOUR stop are well established.
Here are Five Things to Know about TPC Southwind.
1. RICH HISTORY
This week, TPC Southwind accomplishes a rare feat: Host of three PGA TOUR events.
The course was designed with tournament golf in mind. With architect Ron Prichard at the wheel and Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller acting as consultants, the course opened in 1988. In 1989, it began hosting the Federal Express St. Jude Classic, and it would continue to do so through 2018. (The tournament’s history in Memphis goes all the way back to 1958.)
For the past three years, the course hosted the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
This year, TPC Southwind makes its FedEx Cup Playoffs debut as the FedEx St. Jude Championship, formerly the spot occupied by THE NORTHERN TRUST, won by Tony Finau last year.
The low score at par-70 TPC Southwind is 61, shot by three different players in three decades. Jay Delsing set the pace in 1993, Bob Estes tied it en route to victory in 2001 – he also made a hole-in-one at TPC Southwind in 2002 – and Tom Lewis also signed for a 61 in 2020.
John Mahaffey was the first player on the PGA TOUR to win at TPC Southwind in 1989, edging a group of four players, including Green. World Golf Hall of Fame members Tom Kite, Fred Couples and Nick Price (twice) are also among those to have won at the storied Memphis course. A statue of World Golf Hall of Famer and 1961 St. Jude Classic winner Cary Middlecoff, who was a dentist before winning 39 times on the PGA TOUR, including two U.S. Opens and the 1955 Masters. He is tied with Tom Watson for 10th on the PGA TOUR’s all-time wins list.
Middlecoff was born in Tennessee and won the Tennessee State Amateur four consecutive times.The statue of Dr. Cary Middlecoff by the clubhouse at TPC Southwind. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
2. NEW CHALLENGES
TPC Southwind’s first big renovation came in 2004 as a means of modernizing and strengthening the course. David Toms had won at 20-under 264 in 2003, after which the course got 11 new tees, 15 new bunkers and three new bridges, while three ponds were enlarged, four creeks stabilized and over 125 trees planted. The fifth hole was adjusted from a par 5 to a par 4 and the par-3 eighth hole was completely altered.
The course also went from bentgrass to Champion Bermudagrass on the greens, and when Toms came back in 2004, he shot four strokes higher (16-under 268) but this time won by six strokes. The changes had had their desired effect, and no one has since reached 20 under.
The course got another renovation in 2020, when some bunkers were eliminated, some were added, some were enlarged, and some were reduced in size. But above all, every bunker was re-edged and packed with fresh new sand and all-new drainage.
Meanwhile, two front-nine holes were lengthened. The par-5 third, which had played at 554 yards, mostly straight, had 25 yards tacked onto it with a new tee box. The first half of the fairway, already near the water, was shifted 15 yards to the right. With water in play on the second shot, this further complicates the decision of whether to go over the lake in two or lay up to the left.
The par-4 17th hole was lengthened to a peak of roughly 505 yards. What’s more, players now must recalibrate their distances with a creek splitting the fairway on the downhill hole.
The par-4 15th hole got 100 yards of new stone, placed along the creek that runs to the left of the tee shot, but to the right of the green. While aesthetically pleasing and matching other holes on the course, the artistic addition also provides less bail out for shots rolling or flying fast toward the water.
“The course has been on kind of a yearly project, reinforcing a lot of the creeks and ponds,” TPC Southwind superintendent Nick Bisanz said in 2020. “Adding retention walls to help shore things up. But there are also three or four projects each year as part of kind of a beautification process, to enhance the look of the course.”
What has remained constant are the two grain silos and windmill on the course that serve as reminders of the property’s former identity as a dairy farm.A view of the 15th green at TPC Southwind. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
3. SPLISH SPLASH
Memphis may not be known for its beaches, but TPC Southwind is known for its water.
Since 2003, TPC Southwind’s 5,989 balls in the water are the most at any PGA TOUR course during that stretch. TPC Sawgrass (4,809), Muirfield Village (4,753) and PGA National (4,730) are the next three.
Of the many water holes at TPC Southwind, one that stands out is No. 11, which is similar to Pete Dye’s island 17th at TPC Sawgrass. Like the famed hole at THE PLAYERS Championship, No. 11 in Memphis requires a short iron into an island green with one bunker protecting the front runoff. But while TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole plays just 137 yards, TPC Southwind’s 11th is listed at 157 yards but can tip at 165.
Si Woo Kim recorded a 13 on TPC Southwind’s island hole last year, the highest recorded score on a par-3 in a non-major since the TOUR started keeping such statistics in 1983. The highest score at TPC Sawgrass’ 17th is a 12 by Bob Tway in 2005.
The 457-yard ninth is a hard dogleg to the right that requires a precise, long tee shot before an approach shot over water. Players out of position off the tee will likely need to hit a conservative second shot up the right side. The 18th hole has water running along its entire left side, but unlike No. 9, this 453-yard par-4 is a dogleg to the left.
The 239-yard, par-3 14th hole can also sneak up on players with water down the right side. Any pin positions on the right side of the green will require players to make a full carry over the water.
4. ZOYSIA AND BERMUDAGRASS
TPC Southwind is one of the TOUR stops with zoysia fairways and tee boxes.
The grass, hardier than other strains, is beneficial in the Memphis climate that can see cold bursts in the winter and significant heat in the summer. The bermudagrass rough has been known to contaminate the fairways, with the TPC Southwind staff constantly working to preserve the pureness of the zoysia.
Recent PGA TOUR zoysia stops include Bellerive Country Club for the 2018 PGA Championship and Trinity Forest Golf Club and TPC Craig Ranch for the AT&T Byron Nelson have shown the potential for low scores. However, at TPC Southwind, especially going back to the 2004 renovation, other elements have given the course some defense. Since 2004, only one winning score – Justin Leonard’s 4 under in 2008 – has been outside the 9-under to 19-under range.
TPC Southwind’s pure bermudagrass greens give some respite to the players who avoid the sand and water, however. TPC Southwind had the TOUR’s lowest three-putt percentage (1.44%) and highest percentage of made putts from 5-10 feet (60.5%) and from 15-25 feet (18.8%) last season.The ninth hole at TPC Southwind features a brick structure to the side of the fairway. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
5. 18TH HOLE OF BLUES
TPC Southwind saves its most dramatic hole for last. The 18th hole, a 453-yard par 4, is fierce, fair and demands champions attack one final challenge in Grind City.
To call it a dogleg left would be an understatement; the hole makes almost a full 90-degree turn around a gaping water hazard. A short tee shot brings bunkers into play on the right, with limited rough and water awaiting left misses off the tee. A longer tee shot can take out the bunkers on the right but requires more carry over the left water if players want to take the chance.
Hit it too short off the tee and you face a long-iron approach mostly over water. A longer tee shot brings water into play on the left, while a deep bunker hides behind the green.
A year ago, Cameron Smith came to No. 18 tied for the lead at 16 under, but after pumping his tee shot long and right through the fairway, he went for too much and hit his second shot off a tree and into a neighboring backyard. He ultimately made a double-bogey 6 to finish T5.
In 2021, No. 18 played as the course’s second-toughest hole with an average score of 4.14. Only No. 5, a 485-yard par 4, played harder at 4.22. However, while players made six double-bogeys or worse at No. 5, they racked up nine such scores at TPC Southwind’s challenging finishing hole.
For the leaders of this tournament – and for those trying to make it to the next leg of the FedExCup Playoffs at the BMW Championship – the 18th hole will provide a stern test.