The history of Florida has always been oneof developers turning land into prime realestate—even land as primitive as swampland.And the story of Jacksonville, Fla—the fastest-growing city and the largest metropolitanarea in the United States (the city covers 845 squaremiles)—is no exception.
Before the recent surge in real estate development,however, Jacksonville lacked a decent infrastructurethat could support a reasonable quality of life. Besidesa weak infrastructure, it was difficult to get into thecity on the J. T. Butler Boulevard, a 2-lane toll road. Inaddition, once you got there, there was nothing to do.
"Nowadays," says George C. Fetherston, an areabooster and the general manager of the SawgrassMarriott Resort and Beach Club on nearby Ponte VedraBeach (904-285-7777), "We have major league football(ie, the Jacksonville Jaguars), an outstanding symphony,impressive museums, and 4-star restaurants."
Fetherston waves his hand in the direction of 1 ofthe most photographed holes in golf, the celebrated17th island hole of the Tournament Players Club (TPC)Stadium Course (904-273-3230; www.tpc.com), boasting,"And we have golf. Without it, we'd just be abedroom community for Jacksonville. With it, we'relike the Monterey peninsula in California—1 of thepremier golf destinations in the United States."
Fun and Games
More than golf
Indeed, the majority of guests who stay at theSawgrass come for the golf. In the summer months,however, the family packages, which include children'sprograms and complimentary shuttle busing tothe resort's beach club located only 10 minutes away,lure many people who don't play the world's most dif-ficult game. : Other activities includehorseback riding and bicycling.
In addition, there's 26 miles of uninterruptedbeach and historic St. Augustine nearby, the oldestcity in the United States. There's also the St. AugustineAlligator Farm 40 miles south of the resort (904-824-3337; www.alligatorfarm.com), which has, over time,morphed into a world-class sanctuary for birds—thealligators killed off bird predators and word somehowspread among the bird world.
Tennis anyone? Besides having a premier golfcourse, Sawgrass is the international headquartersfor the Association of Tennis Professionals (www.atptennis.com). Five of its 11 tennis courts are lit up fornight play, and all 4 surfaces are available so thatplayers can prepare for the different Grand Slamexteriors. There's grass for Wimbledon, red clay forthe French Open, and hard cushion and green clayfor US tournaments.
Of course, let's not forget about the golf. With 99holes of golf, Sawgrass is the second-largest golf resortin America and 1 of only 2 resorts to have 2 prestigiousTPC courses. More than 40,000 rounds of golfare played at the TPC Stadium Course every year, andits groundskeepers are said to fish 120,000 balls outof its ponds annually.
A number of alligators claim the TPC courses astheir own, which diminishes golfers' enthusiasm forretrieving their own balls. Once during the first roundof a Players Championship when a strong Northeastwind was blowing at the 17th island hole, 55 of the150 professionals playing in the event saw their ballsend up in the water.
If you get tired of playing the sport, you canalways check out the World Golf Hall of Fame (904-940-4000; www.wgv.com), which is only 40 minutesaway. And if your body needs a break after 18 holeson the golf course, visit the spa. A new 30,000-squarefoot facility will be completed by the spring of 2004.: This new facility will housebetween 15 and 20 treatment rooms.
Twelve airlines service Jacksonville InternationalAirport, a 37-mile, 35-minute drive from Sawgrass.It's a 2 1/2-hour trip by car from Orlando and a 6-hour road trip from Atlanta. Sawgrass sits on a longisland bounded on the west by the IntercoastalWaterway and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Inthe north it's bordered by the St. Johns River (1 ofthe few US rivers that runs north) and in the southby the St. Augustine Inlet.