The Players Championship golf tournament at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida is a yearly event held every spring, attracting U.S. incentive programs and meeting events. The venue includes a 77,000-sf Mediterranean-style clubhouse and two championship golf courses, including the world famous Stadium Course. In addition to the large variety of entertainment and dining options in the Jacksonville area, the TPC Sawgrass offers groups the opportunity to mingle with celebrity golf professionals during VIP sessions.
We spoke with Matt Rapp, director of the Players Championship to learn more about this month’s tournament running May 9-12.
PREVUE: What makes the tournament such an effective incentive option for groups?
Matt Rapp: The tournament and course were built for large groups to come watch professional golf. In terms of scalability, we are very unique in that regard. We have a 77,000-sf clubhouse and several corporate tents to rent out by the week or day as well.
Is there are VIP watching area that the group can buyout?
We have specialty areas on the course that can be rented out or closed off. We have a paved patio with water features, tables, chairs, flowers and shade. It’s open to the general public throughout the day, but we have the Gater Bowl Association renting it out during the tournament. The patio holds about 200 people.
More intimate venues include the Wine & Dine on Nine venue. It has a high-end restaurant and great views of the course for about 100 people. Anther venue called Staduium Village has a great bar and a mini replica of the Island Green on 17. We have a function going in there that’s going to have about 600. We can go from very large events to very small.
What kind of special experience can you create for large groups?
For a customized VIP experience, we have several champions/players that will host private group functions. They host clinics, dinners or even a house tour with celebrity golfer Fred Funk. Groups get to hear some great stories, view the trophies and enjoy his company. There’s great meet and greet options before or after the tournament.
We can also give behind-the-scenes tours for smaller groups and also provide gifts from the players. One of those is a putter fitting with a pro golfer. We ship them off to their house and it’s something that really lasts forever. It’s a great conversation starter if displayed in house or office, especially for golf lovers.
Where can meetings take place on and off property?
The Clubhouse hosts events as well; that’s ideal for morning meetings. There are also venues that can be rented by the day for up to 100 people. The largest room accommodates about 500.
The nearby Sawgrass Marriott has very large meeting space and it’s within walking distance. If you’re having a large scale conference, you’ll want to do it there so that you can stay, meet and enjoy the tournament. You can actually see the hotel from the 13th hole. There’s a little lake that separates the two, but there’s a new land bridge that connects them.
What do you offer for groups wanting to participate in golf during the weekend?
People who like to come to this kind of event want to play golf while in attendance. There’s easy access to championship level golf courses in the area. We have a state-of-the-art training venue that hosts up to 35. They can measure where the ball will land as soon as you hit it. We custom fit clubs and teach them how to use it. We have a second course onsite that isn’t used in the tournament, which we can have groups playing on during the tournament.
Can you tell us about the area?
There’s a wide variety of hotels in the area, from 5-45 minutes driving distance. Our corporate groups use the event as a reward package/incentive trip. We have 70+ courses in the area, beaches, shopping, restaurants, etc. There’s really something for everyone.
What are attendees doing during off time?
Groups can also visit the induction ceremony of the World Golf Hall of Fame and view the exhibits.There’s a high-end hospitality staff that can cater to those groups really wanting a VIP experience.
The World Golf Village is 30 minutes away and so is downtown Jacksonville. The Ponte Vedra Club is very close as well; they have a very complete facility. And even if the group isn’t entirely focused on golf, we also have a lot of options for families.
Photo credit: PGA TOUR Chris Condon