TPC, we’ve all seen the logo, we’ve all seen the tournaments on TV and we all get a chuckle from MasterCard commercials: “Yeah, that’s the guy Brandt Sneeedakar.”
On the flipside everyone may not be familiar with what makes a TPC course so special, present company included. That was until Three Guys Golf was invited out to play the host course for the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
With 32 courses in the TPC Network, you are likely not far from one of these gems and since many are public you can play nearly all of them. For example, in my town, Las Vegas, we have two TPC Courses, TPC Las Vegas (public) and TPC Summerlin (private).
The TPC Summerlin course was built in 1991 and was designed by Bobby Weed a Pete Dye, yes that Pete Dye, protégé and designer of several TPC Courses. Its member layout stretches to 7,243 yards and plays to a Par of 72. However during the Shriners event it gets bumped down to a par of 71 when the challenging Par 5 3rd hole (at least it’s challenging to me) gets turned into a Par 4.
Weed used the natural terrain of the desert and meandering canyons to create a terrific layout. The course has some fantastic elevation changes and features some exceptionally tough greens due to the undulation.
Being a resident of the Vegas valley I try to attend at least one day every year the PGA Tour makes its annual stop. Now, with the new season starting early and the PGA coming to terms with the failed and ridiculous “Fall Season” the Shriners has taken on some new life, mainly due to a stream of revenue from FedEx. More on how that’s going to help with the Shiners later.
Having walked the golf course numerous times over the last five years or so, this day for me was a special one. Many times I’ve stood on the outside of the ropes dying to get out on the course and see how I’d do a PGA track. I was finally getting my chance.
You’ll find TPC Summerlin located on the far west end of the Vegas valley right in the heart of the master planned community that is Summerlin. It’s our Scottsdale or Beverly Hills for those of you who might not be familiar with the area. With the stunning picturesque mountain ranges to the west and the famous Vegas skyline to the east there is plenty of visual stimulants as you make your way around the course. Quick access to the highway makes getting to and from TPC Summerlin a breeze in a city that’s isn’t exactly known for its ease of travel once you get away from the sidewalk of the strip.
Like I said earlier having walk the course many times as a spectator during the PGA event it was a nice change to actually drive into the parking lot and make our way to the bag drop. Being shuttled into the course takes away from the enjoyment of driving onto the property, visiting the bag drop and being treated very well by the attendants. It’s a much more pleasurable experience than “Ticket please, thank you. NEXT.”
The TPC Summerlin characteristics are that of a facility that hosts a PGA Tour event. It’s synonymous with the TPC moniker; I mean it does stand for Tournament Players Club so it better be special right? The practice facilities are remarkable and it went on for what seemed like forever and without question the staff was truly phenomenal and made us feel very welcomed. The course was in amazing shape and even though I tried, it’s kinda my job, it was very challenging to point out even a slight weakness when it came to the overall experience.
What caught me by surprised though was how I uneducated I was when it came to a TPC facility beyond the things you’re expecting. Our gracious host, Mr. Garfield Ogilvie, was very thorough in explaining what makes the TPC Summerlin not only a great golf course to host a PGA event but why over the years the course and the TV ratings for the Shriners have continued to evolve.
For instance, because they are a host to a PGA event the course gets to retain the ShotLink data from the tournament. That is a huge source of information and until Mr. Ogilvie explained it to me I had no idea how useful the information was. Having access to every shot that is hit on the course over the four days of the tournament has allowed the facility to find out where the PGA guys are taking advantage of the course. They can then make changes to increase the shot making and take away some of those “easy” spots a tour Pro looks forward to.
On the flip side they can also use that information to eliminate bunkers or trouble areas of the course that don’t come into play much which in turn allows them to focus more on the areas that are being utilized. Mr. Ogilvie told me about an area of the course where they completely removed a bunker because not one player had taken a swing from it. It’s a fantastic way to allow the course to continuously evolve and keep the course challenging for the PGA event.
Speaking of the PGA, as I mentioned earlier in the post The Shiners Hospitals for Children Open is now a FedEx Cup event where 500 points are awarded to the winner along with and a nice chunk of cash. Now that the new season starts in the fall rather than January the Vegas stop, along with the other fall tournaments now have a lot more meaning to the overall season. As we are seeing this year with the dominance of Jimmy Walker early in the season I believe more TOUR players are going to take a look at the success of these early winners and start enter in a few more of the fall tournaments.
After playing the round and touring the facility with Mr. Ogilvie it was easy to see why so many Tour Pro’s that call Las Vegas home are current members at TPC Summerlin. When you enter the Pro Shop the upper half of the room has on display quite a wonderful collection of staff bags from a ton of local players. Names like, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Scott Piercy, Natalie Gulbis to name a few are displayed and it’s quite enjoyable to walk around and see all the bags.
Why wouldn’t they be members? Like I mentioned earlier the practice facility is enormous, it covers over 14,000 square feet and in the words of the TPC Network, it’s a TOUR-Caliber facility. Not only is there a large, all grass, no mat range to warm-up or to work on your swing but on the west side of the practice area they have a wedge area so you can dial in your short game as well. After I went through my warm up I headed over to another short game area, this was to the East of the range, and put in some much needed chipping practice as well as some bunker work. Getting some time in “real” bunker was an opportunity I wasn’t going to waste.
Not that is was a surprise but the putting green was just another addition to a marvelous practice facility. So much in fact it made me start thinking about a membership. Seriously! OK, so the Three Guys gig hasn’t vaulted me to the upper echelon of income that would allow such crazy idea to become reality but honestly I can’t recall a better place to fine tune all aspects of your game in one location, here in Vegas, it’s that nice.
The golf was outstanding. It doesn’t hurt when the company your with is as big a golf nuts as your are. Aside from my group being just some damn outstanding guys and lovers of the game the golf course is an absolute blast to play. The front nine takes you through some treacherous terrain where if you’re not in the fairway you’re flat out screwed. Being one who frequently finds themselves in those types if scenarios it didn’t take me long to find out I wasn’t a fan of the TPC Summerlin desert landscaping.
Just when the course gives you a breather after a very demanding second and third holes the rug gets pulled out from under you when step up to the tee on 5th. It’s not a long Par 3 by any means but the elevation changes and the canyon to the East make it a very deceiving hole. There wasn’t much for me to cheer about during the front nine but the fact was the only one in my group to hit the green gives you an idea of how tricky this little Par 3 really is.
I was happy when I walked off the green. Even though I three putted (give me a break it was from 50’ at least). That joy quickly turned to anxiety when I looked down the fairway of the wicked par 4 6th for the first time as a player and not as a spectator.
From the tee box the hole is visually daunting but very playable. I smashed my drive and when the end result of that swing looked like I had thrown it from where I was standing; I knew I was in trouble.
The design of the hole is incredible. Narrowly tucked inside a canyon the hole plays much harder than it looks. Even if you do hit a great drive the approach shot is incredibly difficult with how the terrain and undulation of the green is designed. Miss right and you’re toast. Miss left and there is a good chance you’ll end up on the right side way down the hill the way the green slopes. It a very difficult hole that forces you to execute.
I could seriously talk about all the holes on the course. Each one has a unique personality that adds to the enjoyment of the round. For me though I could wait to get to the finishing holes. TPC Summerlin has four absolutely outstanding closing holes that cover a wide variety of playability.
First up is the short par 4 15th that plays from 320 yards. It’s a drivable par 4 that is certainly not a gimmie birdie. The severely elevated green and dramatic undulations makes getting up and down a challenge even for the world’s best players.
Next is the par 5 16th(which I birdied by the way) that plays slightly downhill. It reachable for the big hitters but much like the hole before there is a risk/reward. The green is guarded by a lake on the front side and bunkers beyond the green. Not having the length off the tee like my playing partners I laid up for my second shot and it came to rest about 5 yards in front of the lake. A short wedge in to 3 feet and I had my birdie. The TOUR pro’s during the tournament attack the hell out of this green knowing is one of the last real chances to make a move up the leader board. Sitting on the hillside, watching the players hit into the 16th green, is one of my favorite places to view the Shriners event. Making birdie there was certainly the highlight of the round for me.
The par3 3 17th is an iconic hole in golf. That’s a bold statement considering all the amazing holes there are but when you consider what took place on the 17th hole during the playoff for the 2010 Shriners Open it’s deserved of the description.
Anytime there’s a monument on a golf course it’s pretty significant and when you consider winning a playoff with an ace had NEVER happened before in the history of the PGA Tour it makes standing there looking down on the hole all the more special.
TPC Summerlin concludes the round with a hole that is not only beautiful with the hazardous canyon to the left, the mountains in the foreground and the lake that guards the long front to back green but can also be a game changer. The hole plays up to 450 yards and moves right to left. Walking up the fairway after I hit my approach shot was a memory I’ll hold dear to my heart for a while. So many times I’ve watched the champion of the Shriners event (including Tiger Woods in 1996 when he won his very first PGA tournament as a professional) make that walk. Mine was far from as dramatic as those but I relished the moment and took it all in.
I like to thank Mr. Ogilvie for inviting Three Guys out to TPC Summerlin and also for taking the time out of his schedule to talk with me about the facility. Even though I considered myself to be very knowledgeable about the course he broadened my education on not only the TPC Summerlin course but the TPC Network of courses as well.