The best way to describe the dining options at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla?
“They start it and we have to finish it strong,’’ said Hector Gonzalez, food and beverage director for the TPC Sawgrass’s two public dining venues – Nineteen and Traditions.
The “they’’ Gonzalez refers to is the TPC Sawgrass’s golf courses (Players Stadium and Dye’s Valley), most notably the Players Stadium Course and it’s famous (or infamous) island green 17th hole and the 460-yard, par-four 18th. Back to back, they are as strong a two finishing holes as any in golf. The bane of PGA Tour players and 20-handicaps; the beauties of one of the world’s premier golf courses.
But you’re really not finished with the TPC Sawgrass after 17 and 18. Dare I say the best is yet to come at Nineteen and Traditions inside the Mediterranean-style, 77,000 square foot clubhouse? That’s for golfers to decide. But suffice to say that you haven’t really had the complete TPC Sawgrass experience without a meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) at Nineteen or Traditions.
Traditions is open to the public for lunch and exclusively to members for dinner, while Nineteen has freshly prepared American and Continental cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Nineteen’s outdoor verandah has great panoramic views of the presentation lawn and the 9th and 18th holes on the Stadium Course. It’s a great location to begin the day – and a round – on the Stadium or Dye’s Valley course and equally as good for lunch and dinner.
Nineteen’s Happy Hour (Monday-Saturday) is a popular happening, as is the restaurant’s Sunday breakfast buffet and Sunday Supper.
Each of the eateries also offers a well-rounded list of craft beers – many from the local Jacksonville area. Jacksonville, by the way, is one of the Southeast’s fastest growing cities for the manufacture of craft brew.
But regardless of the menus, Gonzalez, who started out as the TPC Sawgrass executive chef more than a dozen years ago, likes to keep things simple and golf-centric.
“Our whole goal in the clubhouse is to keep golf first and foremost,’’ Gonzalez said. “We don’t want to be ultra-exclusive as far as menus items. We bring in a lot of fresh fish and we’re getting some farm-to-table offerings.’’
My favorites? The triple stack of buttermilk pancakes is a great breakfast option; for lunch, the signature burger on a toasted brioche bun is a “must have:’’ and for dinner, the 14-ounce ribeye and pan-seared scallops each show off the turf and sides.
Again, each menu focuses on the needs of golfers, and the fact that for many of them, they’ll only get one opportunity to visit TPC Sawgrass.
“It’s about service and having a personal connection with the people,’’ Gonzalez said. “We know we’re a ‘bucket list’’ for a lot of golfers. The four guys from Illinois – those are the guys I want to key in on. Working with the membership is great, but when you can have an impact on everybody – and make it an over the top experience – that’s what is great.’’
Over the top – from start to finish.