It’s almost time! Yup, time for the two weeks of the year I get excited about GOLF! I’m a “fair weather fan” of almost all sports, but definitely cannot claim to have any knowledge of any specific sport (aside from soccer)! The Players Championship is one of the biggest events of the year in Jacksonville, and I do look forward to it every year.
Every year The Players Championship steps things up a notch from the previous year, and anything is game. One year they even moved the tournament from March to May to improve it. Over the past few years, they’ve worked hard at improving the guest experience with better facilities and food options. This year, they’ve expanded upon this even further. I was recently invited to a private blogger event to showcase some of the new features that will be available to attendees at this year’s The Players Championship.
The first improvement we
face-planted jumped right into was the food! The Players has expanded beyond the typical chili cheese dog found at typical sporting events, but have no fear, I’m told they are still available at some concessions if that’s what you’re really craving. (or if you need to quickly sober up a drunken friend). For starters, their Food Court offerings include items from Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Brucci’s Pizza, Firehouse Subs (yummo!), MShack, Tropical Smoothie Cafe and more. Not bad, I’d say!
Over the past few years, special areas have been created to give attendees somewhere to gather and chat set back from the actual course. It still gave the attendee the ability to see some of the game play and enjoy the beautiful course all while also having access to upgraded food and drink options as well as restrooms. The Patio debuted in the 2011 Players, offers a shaded area with open-air seating where you can chat with friends while keeping up with the game on a giant video board. There’s also food and drinks available to purchase and permanent restrooms. Hello! Permanent restrooms can be hard to find out there, so they’re DEFINITELY worth mentioning!
After the success of The Patio, The Players expanded in 2012 to add The Oasis and Wine & Dine on 9. All of which are open to general attendees, no VIP pass required at these locations! The Oasis even offers air-conditioned viewing and signature cocktails for those 21 and over. I’m also told this year there will be an outdoor patio overlooking the No. 9 tee.
If you ask my friends, I was all about the Wine & Dine last year (pictured above). I’d heard the buzz about it and just knew I had to check it out. Once I did, it was hard to get me to leave. Wine & Dine offers upgraded dining selections from Matthew Medure, one of North Florida’s most renowned chefs, as well as a BERINGER Wine Bar. (I bet you can tell why I was so adamant about heading there.. it wasn’t for the food).
Honestly, it wasn’t 100% the alcohol, the food or the fact that there were chairs to sit on… it was the view. It was just nice and peaceful. The weather was wonderful too. It was relaxing to sit with great friends, enjoy a few drinks and catch up.
…aaaaand maybe the view of the blimp ahead was pretty cool too. The pergola’s really added some ambiance. New this year to Wine & Dine on 9 are the permanent restrooms right next door. No portolets here, ladies!
In addition to these facilities, they’ve also added the the Taste of JAX which is also open to general admission guests offering options from local restaurants like Indochine, Metro Diner, and Pele’s Wood Fire. Niiiice! There will also be a bar, upgraded restrooms, and videoboards. This is also where you will find Club 1791, an indoor cool zone.
Click the map above for a PDF file with a detailed map and descriptions of each of the food locations.
Now that you’re all caught up on some of this year’s improvements, let’s move onto THE FOOD PARADE!
We we arrived for the event, we were ushered via golf cart to an area they preset for us. This area actually happens to be the same area as The Patio during the players (but it wasn’t all setup like it will be during the players).
When we arrived, we were offered a selection of beverages similar to the ones that will be available during this year’s event at most concession stands. They’re trying hard to cater to requests by fans to offer more healthy and alternative dining options including vegetarian and gluten-free items. This also included the beverage selection which included your typical beer and wines but also Omission. Based out of Portland, OR, Omission is one of the first gluten-free beers I’ve ever tried that actually TASTES like a beer (without the bloat). The reason it tastes so great and not like cider like most gluten-free beers? Omission is actually made with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley with the gluten magically removed. If you find yourself the opportunity, give Omission a taste. You might be surprised yourself!
The first items up to taste were three sandwiches pictured above. From left to right they are Chick’n Salad, Avocado Power Lunch, and the BSR Sandwich. One thing to note is everything was served in bite size portions (or we would blow up like Violet Beauregarde!) so some of these items may be presented slightly differently than they will be at The Players.
All three of these were good. The Chick’n Salad was a nice surprised because it’s actually vegan being made out of chick peas instead of chicken. I loved that they snuck some celery in there too (just the right amount). I’m a huge fan of Avocado, so the Avocado Power Lunch was tasty. It’s served on a gluten-free bun which was pretty crumbly. It was a bit messy and might be a bit difficult to eat walking around on the course…buuuut that might all depend no how it’s actually served. If it’s wrapped up in paper of some sort, it might stay together more easily. Lastly, the BSR Sandwich was their take on a BLT but with Turkey Bacon. This too was tasty (but I’m not on the Turkey Bacon train. Gimme the real stuff).
Lastly we sampled three more items. Clockwise from the upper left below, we tried THE PLAYERS Signature Item, Mayport Shrimp and Grits with Fried Green Tomato, the Steak Sandwich with Grilled Onions, the BLT with Turkey Bacon, and a Black Bean Patty Melt.
Below is a photo showing how the Shrimp and Grits will actually be presented to give you an idea of the portion size. If you’re a fan of shrimp & grits, this is definitely something you might enjoy. It’s served with Black Eyed Peas and Ham Grits. I loved the addition of the Black Eyed Peas and the fact you get a whole fried green tomato as well. I personally didn’t try the Skirt Stake, so I can’t offer any feedback on that. The Bubba Turkey Burger was pretty much just that. a BUBBA Turkey Burger. The last item, the Black Bean Patty Melt, sorta stole the show. It was a grilled black bean burger (which wasn’t mealy like some black bean burgers can be), with caramelized onions and soy cheese on a Whole Wheat Bun. This was tasty, but I personally don’t care for soy. If they server this with regular cheese, I just might snatch one up when I’m there.
I think that looks pretty tasty! I like that it’s a long rectangular plate. It also will come with a clear plastic cover too.
After the food parade, we took a golf cart ride around the grounds and chatted about a few of the tips and improvements they have with traffic and parking this year.
I’ll be honest, this is actually a tip I don’t want you to know. In fact, I highly recommend you continue on as lemmings and try to access Sawgrass by driving south down A1A. Why’s that? Because the way I get there is a breeze and I don’t want that to change!! In fact, last year, we met our friends Jimmy & Blakeley at THE PLAYERS. We both left our houses at the same time. They drove down A1A, and we went came from the south. We literally waited on them for 30 minutes after we parked. PLUS it’s just such an easier drive. No stop and go. Smooth sailing almost all the way there.
What is this magical route, you ask? Use CR210/Nocatee Parkway.
I know for some of you this might not make sense. You’d be going waaaay out of you way to access this, but it just might be easier than sitting in that bumper to bumper traffic.
Now, knowing that.. THIS tip will save you some money. THE PLAYERS have a new “Four for Free” policy which allows cars with four or more guests per vehicle to park for FREE Thursday through Sunday. You DO need to download a parking voucher online at www.PGATOUR.COM/theplayers (click on the “Tickets” tab), in advance which allows free parking in the general lot off of CR210.
And one lasssst tip for you JUST from me. There’s an Irish bar called Mulligans Pub, in Sawgrass Village just outside the gates for THE PLAYERS. When you’ve had enough fun in the sun and golf for the day, they have happy hour daily from 3 – 9 p.m including half price domestic draft beer, house wines, and well drinks AND happy hour apps. (see below for those)
Here’s to a great upcoming week at The Players!
Do you plan to attend this year?