Imagine showing up at the local Y to play three-on-three with your pals and seeing Kobe Bryant practicing his jump shot and crossover dribble on a nearby court. Picture going to a batting cage with your child and finding Alex Rodriguez at work ripping one line drive after another.
The chances of such scenarios ever occurring are slim to none, of course, but at the PGA Tour–caliber practice complex at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, you can experience the equivalent in golf. Nearly three dozen Tour players—including stars such as Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Fred Funk—make their homes in the area, largely because of the resort’s first-rate facilities. Which means that on any given day any number of them could be spotted working on their games. “It’s really the only public or resort golf course where that can happen on this scale,” says Matt Borocz, the head pro at the club, which is the main selling point of Marriott’s Sawgrass Golf Resort & Spa, voted the number one resort in Florida.
The impressive practice ground, expanded as part of a resort-wide renovation completed last year, spreads across twenty acres. It includes a two-sided all-grass range, three short-game areas, four putting greens manicured to near-Tour standards, and a state-of-the-art learning center called the Tour Academy. Although the resident pros hit balls primarily at the back end of the range, which is reserved for them, they sometimes move up to the front to practice in an opposite wind.
When visitors arrive at the range, they’re greeted by TPC staff members, who hand them bottles of water and fresh towels, introduce them to their caddies and offer to use rangefinders to measure yardages to various target flags. But the Tour pros are often the best ambassadors of all. Even the notoriously hardworking Singh is known to chat and sign autographs when he has a moment.
“Most people who come to play here know enough about golf not to interrupt a Tour player when he’s working,” says Doug Kidd, a Sawgrass official whose job it is to make sure the pros are taken care of. “By the same token, those Tour players are almost always accessible and open with the fans. It’s a great part of the total experience.”