(CBS Miami) — TPC Southwind’s been a regular stop on the PGA Tour since 1989. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the private golf club hosted the FedEx St. Jude Classic through 2018. The title sponsor, whose corporate offices are nearby, then took over what was then the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, moved the event to to TPC Southwind and rechristened it the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
The heightened Tour status — WGC events offer larger purses and additional FedExCup points — rubs off on the host course as well. But TPC Southwind hardly needed the additional cachet. It’s long been one of the Tour’s harder courses and bigger draws.
TPC Southwind was designed by Ron Prichard on a former dairy farm nestled in the rolling Tennessee countryside. (A couple of grain silos and a windmill remain.) The architect, best known for restoring classic Donald Ross courses, looks to bring that traditional aesthetic to newer courses. And he accomplished that goal here. His designs can also be found at such notable courses as Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania and Charles River Country Club in Massachusetts. Tour veterans Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller consulted on the project.
>>STREAM: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
In 2004, the TPC Southwind underwent an extensive renovation. The work included 11 new tees and 15 new bunkers. The fairways were slimmed down and adjusted, with the grass changed from Bentgrass to Bermuda grass. The course was extended by over 200 yards, with trees and native areas added. The upgrades qualified it for Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program certification.
More upgrades have occurred over the last year. And while these renovations weren’t as extensive as those from 15 years prior, they were significant. Bunkers were added, resized and re-edged. Layouts on certain holes were shifted with yardage added.
The scenic TPC Southwind, a par-70, measures 7,238 yards. And as CBS Sports golf analyst Ian Baker-Finch put it in a 2017 interview, “you better come prepared to play well, because you can get in trouble pretty easily if you’re not sharp.”
This ball-strikers course requires precision and shot-shaping. Seven of the holes dogleg left, five more dogleg right. The fairways can be challenging; the greens are firm. Water hazards can be found on more than half of the holes. And when the wind picks up, which it often does, the difficulty is compounded that much more.
The par-3 11th hole may be the course’s most notable. At 155 yards, it’s similar to TPC Sawgrass’s iconic island green on 17. A pond surrounds the green, and a small bunker guards the front edge. Players tend to go with a short iron to make the green; laying up is obviously not an option. The wind can hold up a lofty shot and drop it in the water. Longer shots might find one of the two backside bunkers.
The 14th hole, a longer par-3 at 231 yards, is among the Tour’s more difficult par-3s. It plays from a raised tee and carries over a pond that guards the front and right of the green. The green slopes back toward the water.
The 18th hole, a par-4 that stretches to 448 yards, doglegs to the left around another pond. Bunkers guard the fairway to the right to make things even more interesting. A strong finishing hole, the 18th won’t pack quite the punch that it was in past years without fans on hand.
Even without spectators, this finishing hole promises its share of drama. The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational boasts a stellar field of the PGA Tour’s best in the final tournament before the season’s first major. The top eight players in the world have committed, and because it’s a no-cut event, they’ll play through the weekend.
Watch the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Saturday, August 1, 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST and Sunday, August 2, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST on CBS.