- Scott Kramer, Forbes Magazine
Perhaps best known for its famed island green, TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida is a much-visited golf destination. After all, its Players Stadium Course hosts the PGA Tour’s unofficial fifth major -- The Players Championship -- every year on national TV. As if that weren’t enough of a draw, the facility’s other course, Dye’s Valley, has also hosted some pro tour events through the years. And there’s a gorgeous Marriott hotel on property, as well. A pretty complete resort, to say the least.
But what’s really been garnering attention since it opened in late May is the all-new PGA Tour’s Performance Center at TPC Sawgrass that’s adjacent to the practice facility. It’s loaded with the latest, state-of-the-art technology that’s used for both club fitting and teaching. Each of the four 500-square-foot hitting bays are indoor/outdoor. Two of them are designed for teaching, two for club fitting. Several drawers in a cabinet off to the side are loaded with the latest driver and iron clubheads, while a wall has roughly 400 shafts hanging. “We swap out heads and shafts, using all of our technology, and keep going through that process until we find the perfect clubs for golfers,” says Todd Anderson, PGA director of instruction at the facility. “The biggest thing we do is give students a full assessment of their game. We use the technology -- Trackman, Foresight’s GC Quad system, V1 Pro computer software, high-speed video, hitting vests, balance plates, etc. -- to assess where they are with the game and how their body functions during a swing, and to quantify how to improve their game. We don’t have tech that’s different than everyone else, but it’s how we assess a golfer and apply that to help them improve their game that’s unique.”
And in fact, high-end academies and studios are popping up at an increasing rate all over the country at golf resorts. This goes along with private club fitting studios like Club Champion opening and thriving around America, as well. At all of these places, people pay a healthy fee to go through fitting and teaching sessions just like the Tour pros do, and ensure they have the best-possible fitting gear for their game. Golfers are even folding teaching and club fitting sessions into their golf vacations at an increasing rate, say PGA Professionals. Anderson believes that’s what golfers generally now expect when they go to a nice golf resort. “And when they go to high-level performance centers like ours, they expect them to have the latest technology there. It comes with the territory and is becoming a larger part of how resorts bill their destination.”
Upstairs at the Sawgrass facility -- adjacent to a gym -- is a putting lab that’s full of technology, to help people negotiate greens better. The Quintic ball roll software utilizes a high-speed camera to track the ball and putter during impact. The software automatically provides all the data both graphically and numerically, in a way that was formerly only available in full-swing analysis software. And SAM Puttlab is another computerized system Anderson employs that is also used by putter manufacturers to help develop their products.
As vacationers, in general, seek more experience-rich trips with their valuable travel time, places like TPC Sawgrass will become more of a fantasy world for golfers.