Why TPC Sawgrass Land Was Bought For Just $1

Now known as one of the most iconic golf courses anywhere in the world, the home of the PGA Tour came from humble beginnings

A side view of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass back in 2018
(Image credit: Future)

TPC Sawgrass is one of the most iconic golf courses anywhere in the world and is on the bucket list of many an amateur. It has also hosted over 40 editions of The Players and acted as the stage for so many memorable victories by legends of the game such as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

Yet, while it is now known as one of the premier locations in the sport, the Floridian property has undergone a significant transformation throughout its history - starting with the moment the land on which it now stands was purchased.

As anyone who may have been lucky enough to experience a tour around modern-day TPC Sawgrass will know, the location has a lot to thank the PGA Tour's second-ever commissioner for.

Deane Beman - who served from 1974 to 1994 - was a former professional golfer who won four times on the PGA Tour before injuries curtailed his career and he set off for a life in golfing governance instead.

Noticing a plethora of private golf courses on the tour's schedule during the 1970s, Beman wanted to buy somewhere that would ultimately be player-owned and host a layout befitting its flagship event. He also planned for it to become the PGA Tour's headquarters as the circuit aimed to grow.

Opting for Florida, due to its favorable climate and tax laws, Beman initially set out to buy Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach - a neighbor to what is now TPC Sawgrass. However, the then-owners - a local real estate and development company - did not want to sell.

A general view of the 12th hole at Sawgrass Country Club

A view of the 12th hole at Sawgrass Country Club

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Said company's chairman, Charles Cobb, was so confident that Beman would never achieve his dream that he bet the commissioner $100 it would never happen. But, as the saying goes, he who laughs last, laughs longest - and Beman is almost certainly still chuckling to himself about it now.

Undeterred, Beman chose to take the long route towards building his version of a golfing utopia and negotiated a deal with a pair of Floridian landowners - named Paul and Jerome Fletcher - to buy 415 acres of swampland in the very north-eastern corner of the state for exactly $1 in January 1979. He wrote a check out to the pair which, these days, is proudly displayed inside the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.

Beman vowed to transform a seemingly unusable area into his version of paradise - a stadium course with patrons in mind. His first port of call was to hire the renowned course designer, Pete Dye and put him in charge of bringing the property to life.

A general view of a hole at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course

A general view of a hole at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course

(Image credit: Future)

Before holes could be drawn up and built, however, it was discovered that the entire plot sat just three feet above sea level, so the course would need the mounding built in first. That involved certain areas being excavated to create lakes and provide soil for mounding, ultimately giving birth to the world-famous 17th.

However, when the Stadium Course hosted its debut Players Championship (1982) two years after opening (1980), the layout was not well received by many of America's best with criticism arriving from the likes of Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw, who described it as “Star Wars golf designed by Darth Vader.”

Dye took the criticism on board and quickly altered the design, though, including sanding the edge of some pretty severe greens. “Now it’s a damn good golf course,” admitted Crenshaw.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Since the 80's, TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course has continued to develop at an astonishing rate and now competes with the likes of Augusta National Golf Club as one of the most aesthetically-pleasing locations around.

It is also one of the most expensive places to play for the casual golfer, too, with its most expensive green fee pitched as the second highest anywhere in the world. Speaking of money, the pros involved in the 50th edition of The Players in 2024 were competing for a total prize purse of $25 million and a winner's check of $4.5 million - the tournament's highest prize purse ever.

All that money being played for at location that, less than 50 years ago, was nothing more than swampland and bought for $1.

Jonny Leighfield
Staff Writer

Jonny Leighfield is our Staff News Writer who joined Golf Monthly just in time for the 2023 Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. He graduated from the University of Brighton with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2017 and spent almost five years as the sole sports reporter at his local newspaper. An improving golfer who still classes himself as ‘one of the worst players on the Golf Monthly team’, Jonny enjoys playing as much as he can and is hoping to reach his Handicap goal of 18 at some stage. He attended both the 150th and 151st Opens and is keen to make it an annual pilgrimage.