The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale will be a different track for the PGA players – and the massive crowds – for the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 29 – Feb. 1 in Scottsdale.
A $15 million renovation project to the course and clubhouse, and months of construction for the on-course structures, has the club prepared for what is expected to be around 600,000 spectators for the week of the tournament.
The course reopened in November after closing April of last year for the renovation project, while the on-course construction has been ongoing since October.
“We started on the construction around the stadium hole, No. 16, on Oct. 6,” said Doug Hodge, the new Head Golf Professional and Assistant General Manager at the club.
“The most common question I get is ‘why don’t they just leave it up?’ It’s expensive to put it up and to take everything down, but all of that material goes to other tournaments and events around the country.”
“It takes about four months to build everything and another two months to take it down.”
This year the tournament coincides on Sunday with the Super Bowl, but rather than being in competition with the game in Glendale Hodge said having the game in Phoenix helps – not hurts -attendance.
“In 2008, they teed off on one and 10 to get the tournament completed by the time the game kicked off,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re planning to do that again this year, but for us, along with everyone else in town, the Super Bowl only enhances activity and attendance for the event.”
The ambitious renovation project made improvements to the course and clubhouse, with original course designer Tom Weiskopf overseeing changes to the course.
“We resurfaced all the greens with a Tifdwarf-Bermuda, redid all the bunkers and redesigned the contours and reshaped some of the greens,” Hodge said. “Additionally, there were big changes to holes one and two, the greens on three and four are completely different and 13 and 14 were changed dramatically.”
Better irrigation and drainage were key factors in the decision to make the changes on the course.
“The course is nearly 30 years old, so irrigation was one of the key reasons – we needed a new irrigation system on the course – so that kind of spearheaded everything,” Hodge said.
The clubhouse had undergone a renovation about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t nearly as extensive as the changes made in 2014.
“It needed a renovation,” Hodge said. “We built a new locker room for the players and for everyday use, adding 162 new lockers and about 2,800 square feet of space.”
The banquet space was also enlarged to accommodate players inside the clubhouse.
“In year’s past during the tournament the players were eating outside, we didn’t have enough indoor seating for the event. For player enjoyment and for our facilities, it should be a great improvement.”
“Everything was kind of in need of a refresh as we move forward to the next 25 years on the property.”
The tournament is recognized for having the highest attendance of any event on the PGA Tour. Last year’s attendance of around 600,000 for the week of the tournament could be surpassed in 2015.
“When the tournament moved to the course in the 80s, the attendance was around 200,000, and it’s just grown from there,” Hodge said. “As far as handling that many people, all the infrastructure and plans, the Thunderbirds have a great history of running the event and provide great help to make sure it’s successful.”
Hodge, who came to TPC Scottsdale just five months ago, has a history with running PGA Tour events. He was previously the head pro at Grayhawk Golf Club, which hosted the Frys.com Open for three years.
“Fortunately, we hosted three full-field events there and worked with the Thunderbirds on those events,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I was experienced for this tournament though, because it’s completely different in dealing with the volume of people.”
“We would have 30,000 people total for the week – here we get that many on Monday for the practice round. Fortunately the Thunderbirds have a great history of managing that aspect of the event.”
The pre-tournament preparations are the recipe for a successful tournament, Hodge said.
“With all tournaments, whether it’s a member-guest, corporate event or this tournament, it’s all about planning. What you get done in advance will dictate how difficult of how easy an event is when it actually takes place.”
For Hodge, a successful tournament this year hinges on the enjoyment of the players, the spectators, and of course the money raised for charity by the event. Last year the tourney earned more than $7 million for charitable organizations, with more than $67 million raised since 2003.
“For us as an organization, having the players enjoy the changes to the golf course and the clubhouse, and the spectators enjoying the event are very important,” he said.
“The tournament is one of the largest contributors for charity on the Tour. Raising the money for charities is what we’re here to do and what the Thunderbirds are here to do.”