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A Golf Home on the Road

The TPC Network of Golf Courses Provides Sanctuary for Itinerant Duffers on its System of Clubs Spread Throughout the Country and Across The Globe
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99

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Jim Dixon has a tip for those looking for preferred tee times at Sawgrass, which is packed almost year round. The nearby Marriott resort gets good tee times for its guests. "The thing to do is book a tee time, any tee time you can get," says Dixon. "If you stay at the Marriott, then you can get one of their times. If you don't, you wait until late afternoon and if the Marriott hasn't booked all its times for the following day, it turns them back in to the golf shop. So you call around four o'clock or so and maybe you can pick up the morning time you wanted instead of the afternoon time you got."

The TPC of Michigan, just outside of Detroit, is geared toward corporate membership. This lavish Jack Nicklaus-designed course, with an opulent clubhouse to match, is home to the Ford Senior Players Championship, one of the majors of the Senior PGA Tour. "Jack really did a beautiful job on this course," says Davison.

The TPC at Sugarloaf is a Greg Norman course that is only two years old, but it has garnered raves from both its membership and from PGA Tour players. Located in the Atlanta suburbs, the PGA Tour's BellSouth Classic is played here. The course wends it way through a forest of Georgia pine and can contend with the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, for the best course in the state. "Almost every hole sits by itself; you can't see one hole from another," says Dixon. "You get a feel of absolute privacy, like it's your own course."

Don't go to the TPC of Scottsdale for privacy. Go there for a good time, especially if you're one of the 100,000-plus fans in the gallery for the weekend rounds of the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open. The TPC of Scottsdale is a 36-hole daily-fee course owned by the city of Scottsdale and operated under a lease agreement with the TPC Network. The two courses, the Stadium and the Desert, were designed by the former partnership of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. Because they sit on the flat desert floor, the courses don't have the drama and flair of courses built in the foothills of the surrounding mountains, but Weiskopf and Morrish did a fine job of bulldozing the parched earth into a rich golf experience that offers plenty of contour in the fairways and greens. A mound by the 12th tee of the Stadium course affords a view of 11 holes.

Last summer the TPC at Jasna Polana opened on the outskirts of Princeton, New Jersey. The course was built on an estate founded by the scions of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. The mansion at the center of the property now serves as the clubhouse, and what a clubhouse it is. "I don't think we could have ever afforded, from a business standpoint, a clubhouse like this," said Davison. "To re-create it today it might cost $100 million. It's really a tremendous facility, which is geared toward corporate membership. We have three houses on the property that are being converted to overnight lodging. This is our first venture into that area. We'll have 29 rooms. It's perfect for a small corporate retreat. We're reaching out to the corporate community, primarily in New York City." For a $75,000 initiation fee and $9,000 annual dues, you, too, can have a corporate membership at Jasna Polana.

Outside of Las Vegas there are two TPCs--the private club at Summerlin and the daily-fee course, the Canyons. Summerlin is a pleasant, desert-floor course with lots of green grass, carpet after carpet of expansive fairway. The Canyons is a true desert course. The course takes its name from the deep arroyos that cut through the property. There are several forced carries over these arroyos, and players must play away from them when they flank a fairway. In the hot desert wind, the Canyons can be a real test, not just of golf, but of the depth of your ball bag. If it's blowing, bring plenty of balls. The Canyons co-hosts the Las Vegas Senior Classic with Summerlin.

While hosting a tournament means that members have to give up their course for a week, Smith sees that as a plus, rather than as a drawback. "For one thing, holding a tournament there gives the club a certain prominence, which is nice," the physician says. "For another, it means that the Tour will want it to be in good shape and will take care of all the little things that go into having a first-rate course. That doesn't always happen at a private club."

Several more TPCs are coming on line in the next two years, and the Tour is constantly looking to expand the network. Just opened is the TPC of Myrtle Beach, a high-end, daily-fee course designed by Tom Fazio. It will host the Ingersoll-Rand Senior Tour Championship this year. Another course to look forward to is the TPC of Virginia Beach, a collaboration of Pete Dye and two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange. If ecology is a concern, 13 of the 18 courses are certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.

Whether it's the sumptuous swamp of Sawgrass or the dazzling desert of Scottsdale or the fragrant forests of Sugarloaf, the goal of the TPC is a consistently high level of quality, service and golf, something that Jim Dixon says he has never failed to experience at a TPC course. "They get good young pros who know how to run and stock the pro shop," says Dixon. "The food-and-beverage operation is just fine everywhere. You know, it goes right to the bag-and-cart guys. The bag guys seem to be there before you can pop the trunk. And you never see a dirty golf cart. It's always Mr. Dixon this and Mr. Dixon that, wherever I go. I don't really need a high level of that myself, as long as I can get a Diet Coke with a piece of lemon after my round. But it's nice to see such attention to detail."

Jeff Williams writes about golf for Newsday.

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