TPC Stadium is a course with a TON of golf history and holds a must-play spot in golfers' hearts due to its reputation as one of the toughest courses in the world and its responsibility for making and crushing many golfer's dreams in Q School.
The emphasis on this course is penal with thick rough, sloping fairways and bunkers that would take a slingshot to get out of rather than a sand wedge. I was super excited to play the course after all of this buildup and despite the well known nature of the course, I was surprised in many ways.
: The amount of water on the course,
Call me crazy but I am always surprised when encountering many water holes on a desert course. Of course with Dye, the water signifies the real trouble and when it comes into play in holes 5-7 which is arguably the toughest stretch on the course. I was lucky to walk away with one par out of the 3 holes which I consider one of my great golf accomplishments so far.
: The bunkering here is outrageous.
Bunkers can run for the entire length of the hole. Bunkers can be 30 feet below the hole. Sometimes the safest play is to hit from one bunker to the next. It is like Dye took the concept of the bunker and decided to feed it HGH to become an all-pro wrestler or something. When hitting approach shots you have 3 options, hit the green, bail out of the small safe zone or encounter ball death in the bunkers or rough.
I was struck by the prevalence and variety of trees on the course. Considering that most Palm Springs courses have palm trees or bust when it comes to this department, Stadium felt practically park-like while playing it. Playing around or through some trees reminded me of playing golf back East although the 100+ temperatures snapped me back to reality that I was in the desert.
: My favorite hole was one of the toughest.
The fifth hole is a lot of fun in trying to completely screw up your game. Most golfers have a fade/slice although many also have a draw/hook. This hole requires you to use both, a fade off the tee and a draw for the second/third shots. It is an absolutely fascinating hole to play and even though I mucked it up with my terrible game it beauty and routing was undeniable.
: The par 3's while classic SoCal water holes, had so much teeth in them, my game still has bite marks from them:
(when one of your par 3's is named "Amen" you know you have issues).
Also the 17th, modeled after TPC Sawgrass is just as tough as it looks on TV. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it is a long shot of over 160 yards, no bailouts at all and if the wind is up, it is super tough.
It was a fun hole and no, I didn't make the green on my tee shot :(.
: The greens were a mess.
I had been looking forward to playing this course for several years and I couldn't believe the conditions of the greens. Whether they were being allowed to die in order to be re-seeded or a negligent lack of maintenance or for some other reason, their condition marred what was otherwise a historic round for me. The putts didn't roll true, the tuffs of grass that did remain deflected the ball off line, and it felt like I was putting on the worst muni course ever rather than a top flight course. Certainly when the winter comes and then the PGA comes to town, these will be nice and green but it was sad after finally hacking your way to the green not to putt on the same surface that the pros do.
Overall, Stadium lived up to its fearsome billing. Despite the chunk it took out of my golf ball supply, it was great to walk the same fairways of the pros and the hopeful pros of Q School. Like Jem and the Holograms, the course design was truly, truly outrageous and once the greens come back into shape, a must play for any fan of golf history.
For more info on TPC Stadium, check it out here: http://www.pgawest.com/club/scripts/library/view_document.asp?NS=PG&APP=80&DN=STADIUM
For a great book about Q School and TPC Stadium check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-School-Inside-Golfs-Fifth/dp/031601432X