For this lover of great hotels and golf, the last couple of months have been an absolute dream. I didn't intentionally set out to go on a springtime tour of America's best golf resorts, but there was no complaining when it sort of turned out that way. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, but not before one last stop at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach. And as the host hotel for The Players Championship - plus arguably the most famous golf course in Florida - there was no doubt this tour was ending on a high note.
Where most golf resorts pride themselves on their connection to the game, the Sawgrass Marriott takes this a step further by showcasing their affiliation with one of the great events in the sport. The Players Championship is golf's most prized trophy outside of the four majors, and has been held at the resort's Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass since 1982. The connection is clear from the moment you turn onto the drive leading to the hotel. There are banners with portraits of past champions adorning the lightposts, enormous pictures from the tournament near the porte cochere, and the caption above the front door reads "Host hotel of The Players."
There's good reason for the Sawgrass Marriott to be proud of their shared history with The Players Championship, but what about the other 51 weeks of the year? In an ever crowded market of luxury golf resorts, being the home to one of the biggest tournaments in the world can only take you so far. To that end, the resort finds themselves in the midst of a $20 million ReFresh of the entire property, leaving no stone unturned as the hotel is updated from top to bottom.
I may have casually mentioned once or twice before my love for atrium style lobbies, and the Sawgrass Marriott tugged at my heartstrings by remaking theirs into an enormous living room. By day, the space was perfect for some Kindle time with a Starbucks - conveniently located at the top of the stairs. By night, the lobby and its bar sprang to life with every seat in the house filled with guests cheering on their team in the NCAA Final Four. MJ and I joined the crowd for several hours, and got a laugh from the number of tuxedos in attendance; clearly participants in a wedding upstairs that had excused themselves from the proceedings in order to check the score.
Beyond the golf, the Sawgrass Marriott features an array of amenities for those that aren't planning their visit around the daily tee time. Why anyone would care about anything but golf when visiting Sawgrass was beyond me. That is, until I took a seat in a chaise lounge at the resort's private Cabana Beach Club, located just a short drive from the hotel. Suddenly, that famous island green on the Stadium course was just a distant memory.
Back at the hotel, MJ took on the tedious task of an afternoon at the spa, while I labored away on the golf course. Afterwards, she spent roughly 45 seconds telling me about the massage and lunch by the spa's serenity pool, and roughly 8 minutes explaining in great detail the chocolate covered strawberry with whipped cream they presented her as she left. Just more proof for hotels out there that sometimes the smallest things can create the most lasting memories.
As part of the ReFresh, the rooms at the Sawgrass Marriott also underwent a head-to-toe renovation. What emerged are sleek yet comfortable accommodations, that work for both the solo golf traveler and families alike. To my delight, the room also featured all of my "Big 3" amenities: white duvet, WiFi, and a great view from the balcony.
It's worth noting that like almost every resort in Florida, there is a $20 resort fee per day at the Sawgrass Marriott. I'm not a fan of these anymore than the next guy, but sort of like with Justin Bieber, I've learned it's just easier to accept the fact that they exist in our world. Where Sawgrass is different, however is there's actually a fair amount of value given in return for the fee. WiFi, parking, golf club storage, and two cocktails at the bar (once per stay) were just some of the amenities included in the resort fee, which sure beats the usual newspaper and local phone calls.
The newest addition to the Sawgrass Marriott is soon to be V. Kelly's Pub, a watering hole that is sure to be a hit for groups wanting to reminisce on their experience at the Stadium course. Since we were a few months early for fish and chips, we went back to the beach club for dinner at 619 Ocean View. As the name suggests, the restaurant pairs an incredible view of the ocean with a diverse menu of land and sea. My swordfish was the highlight of the meal, right up until the chef delivered a miniature dessert buffet.
Oh, and did I mention there's a Starbucks right in the lobby? Like an actual Starbucks, not one of those "We proudly brew Starbucks Coffee" kind of places. Just making sure I drove home that point.
These days, standing out in the crowded landscape of luxury golf resorts is no easy task. Thanks to its ties with one of the world's most famous golf courses, the Sawgrass Marriott has a built in advantage over most. It's the rest of the amenities, however, that solidify their place among the best golf resorts in the country, if not the world. And with $20 million being poured into the hotel, it's safe to say they won't be relinquishing that title anytime soon.
Enjoy Your Stay
Special thanks to the Sawgrass Marriott for hosting our visit. As always, all opinions and pontifications are my own.