TPC Sawgrass' refurbished Valley Course prepares for Tour Championship

Fresh off a seven-month renovation, the Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. should look shiny and new for its big debut, the Tour Championship, Sept. 18-21.

The refurbishment left the Pete Dye/Bobby Weed design dating to 1987 virtually intact, although the greens grew larger, returning to their original size. The work reconstructed all the greens, tees and green-side bunkers. A new irrigation system, improved drainage and new grass on the greens, fairways and tees should ensure quality conditions for years to come.

TPC Sawgrass General Manager Bill Hughes said the 6,847-yard course is experiencing a "rebirth." It will open back up to the public again Sept. 23 after the tournament.

"It's great to see it come back to life," Hughes said.

Project Manager Milan Moore, a golf course design associate at the PGA Tour, said the course's age made it tough to keep the layout consistently in top shape before the renovation. Moore indicated the new Celebration Bermudagrass on the tees and fairways will look a deeper shape of green.

"The guest will think it is just that much better of a course and comparable to the (Players Stadium Course)," she said.

TifEagle Bermudagrass now covers the greens. Some are 25 to 30 percent bigger, Hughes indicated, adding a variety of new pin locations. The best example is the larger putting surface on no. 9 (the tournament's 18th hole).

"What this has done is we can have the players challenge these corners that were never there before," he said. "Over the years, you lost some of these edges. Now that they are back to their original size, there are little areas behind bunkers."

The Valley tends to be the forgotten course at the TPC Sawgrass. The Players Stadium course, host of the Players Championship and home of the famed island green at 17, casts a huge shadow. Hughes said he hears a similar sentiment every day, that the Valley is more "enjoyable" to play than the Stadium.

"Anytime you have a second or third golf course next to a global treasure (such as the Stadium course), you never get the panache and publicity it deserves," Hughes said. "Without question, people who know golf know the course can stand on its own two feet."

There's tons of water on the Valley, although much of it sits off to the side of the target. Higher handicaps can avoid long carries simply by aiming at the generous bailout areas. For all its playability, the Valley can still get stingy when in tournament shape. Chesson Hadley won the 2013 Tour Championship at just 10-under par.

"Dye's Valley is an extremely challenging course and was a great test of my game last year," Hadley said in a statement. "I was proud to win on such an esteemed course and am sure the renovations will only heighten its reputation.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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TPC Sawgrass' refurbished Valley Course prepares for Tour Championship