While the European Tour is in Dubai putting a cap on their season, the PGA TOUR will wrap up its fall schedule this week at Sea Island Golf Club.
This event has been on the schedule since 2010 and winning scores have ranged from 14-under all the way up to 22-under. A part of that is the move to a multi-course event over the first 36 holes. More on that in the course section.
The use of two courses allows them to pack in a full field of 156 golfers. Perfect timing for the Korn Ferry Graduates as it gives them one more event to pad their FedExCup totals and reposition themselves in the reshuffle.
The host course this week is the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. It's played host since the inaugural 2010 edition and it's split duties since 2015.
Golfers that make it through the cutline will play 54 holes at Seaside this week.
The Seaside Course is a links-style course that hugs the Atlantic coast. It's a par 70 that plays right around 7,000 yards for competition. Originally designed by Harry S. Colt back in the late 1920s, it's since been overhauled by Tom Fazio.
This layout features larger-than-average green complexes and just a few bunkers on most holes. There is water "in play" on about 14 holes but these pros can easily navigate around most of that trouble and it's' in play for the pros on maybe five holes total.
The only true defense of the course is wind and tricky bermuda rough. The course played over-par in 2013 but it's been sub-70 scoring in every other edition with an overall scoring average 0.65 strokes under par (per round).
As is true with most classical layouts, a conservative approach is often preferred and driver is not really required that often here.
For turf, golfers will see bermudagrass that gets overseeded in mid-October.
The second course they'll see this week is the newly redesigned Plantation Course. Golfers will play one round here on Thursday or Friday.
Tipped at just 7,060 yards while playing as a par 72, this is where the fireworks happen. It's been on the rota for four years now and the field has averaged -1.61 RTP, or 70.39 strokes per round.
Since last year, Davis Love III and his design team have come through to completely redesign this course. This biggest change is probably the bunkering as roughly 170,000 square feet of bunkering was removed (previously 250,000 now 80,000). This will make it easier on the mid-handicappers while they've repositioned those bunkers to play more strategically for the pros. A win-win.
The Love Design Team claim their green complex design was inspired by classical architects like Seth Raynor, C.B. Macdonald, and Donald Ross. They also threw in a mention of Pete Dye, of course. Sea Island Life Magazine has a great rundown of the redesign. The Plantation Course greens average 6,100 square feet which is much smaller than the Seaside Course (7,200).
Other changes include the swapping out of outdated bermudagrass and replacing the tees and fairways with platinum paspalum. The greens remain bermuda. The Plantation greens are prepped to run around TOUR average at 11 to 11.5 feet on the stimp while the Seaside course can ramp their speeds up to 13 feet if they want.
This course already played extremely easy so I can only imagine it playing tougher after the redesign, if anything. That being said, it's a par 72 that plays just over 7,000 yards so birdies and eagles should still be readily available.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Cameron Champ: "Length on this course is pretty much irrelevant. I'm just trying to find the fairways and middle of the greens and take my 20-footers and having to push or pull one to the pin, I'll take it."
Austin Cook: "I mean, distance helps, but it's not necessary on this golf course to play well, but straight ball-striking is. I mean, you see Cameron, I think Cameron's up there as well. He hits it so long and straight, dude's going to have a great career. It helps, but it's not necessary."
Mackenzie Hughes: "The Seaside course kind of has some bigger fairways when there's not any wind blowing, but when the wind's blowing, you've got those crosswinds going, the fairways seem kind of small. The golf courses are awesome. They're both kind of different styles. I think the Seaside's more, I don't want to say linksy but it has that linksy feel to it, and the Plantation's a bit more tree-lined."
Brian Gay: "You want to be on the fairway out there on the Plantation, especially coming into these small greens. It would be tough out there out of the Bermuda catching flyers to the small greens"
Brendon Todd: "It's a golf course that relies on the weather, the conditions, the wind to be the teeth. And anybody could play a great round out there, whether you hit it long or short, and I think really comes down to who approaches it well and makes putts."
Overview: The consensus is that distance doesn't matter here. Golfers talk about the bermudagrass. Some talk about junior events or college events played here. Lots of comfort factor to consider this week.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
El Camaleon (Mayakoba)
Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)
PGA WEST (American Express)
Port Royal (Bermuda Championship)
Colonial CC (Charles Schwab)
Innisbrook Resort (Valspar)
The main theme is short courses with bermudagrass turf. If it's also coastal then it's a big plus too.
Thursday: Clear with a high of 68 degrees. Winds calm around 5 MPH most of the day.
Friday: Overcast with a high of 73 degrees. Humid with calm winds.
There is a threat of rain over the weekend but this looks great after all of last week's rain down in Playa del Carmen.