What The Match site Pelican Golf Club has in common with Augusta National
Hoot Design Company
You’re familiar with the stars. But what about the stage? In preparation for the seventh iteration of The Match, Saturday’s primetime televised showdown pitting Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, here are 6 things to know about the Tampa-area host course, Pelican Golf Club.
1. It’s an LPGA stop
If the name rings a bell, it might be that you’ve heard it on broadcasts before. Since 2020, Pelican has been an LPGA stop. Originally known as the Pelican Women’s Championship, it now goes by this mouthful: the ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican. A lot of letters come with a lot of dollars. The event also features the largest purse the LPGA Tour offers, outside of majors.
2. It was originally a Ross
A century ago, no architect loomed larger than Donald Ross. In 1925, four years before he finished fabled Seminole, in Florida, Ross put the final touches on what was then known as the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, which operated for the next nine decades as a public-access course adjacent to a hotel of the same name. In 2009, the hotel shuttered and Beau Welling — who is now Tiger’s lead design man — was brought in for a redo. Finding little in the way of reliable historical documentation of Ross’s intent, Welling strived to revive the layout’s Golden Age spirit. Though Pelican retains much of the original routing, people who know the property refer to it as “Ross-inspired.”
3. There are echoes of Augusta
When Pelican landed an LPGA event, the club’s co-owner, Dan Doyle Jr. cited the Masters as an inspiration. “The only way I could equate it would be, you’ve got the Masters, and they play it in Augusta every year,” Doyle Jr. told LPGA.com. “We want this to be the women’s version of the Masters.”
A lofty goal, but the club has built-in parallels with Augusta, and not just because Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley is a Pelican member (for the record, Pelican members wear blue blazers). The bunkers are sharped-edged and blinding white, filled with the same crushed quartz from Arkansas that Augusta uses.
There are echoes, too, in the way that Pelican plays, according to Golf Channel commentator and on-course reporter Kay Cockerill, who covered the ANNIKA event this year. “There’s a good amount of room off the tee that allows you to rip it and try to cut corners,” Cockerill says. “The more serious defenses come around the greens, which have a lot of tilt and movement and play extremely fast.”
The green complexes are also protected by closely mown run-off areas that yield testy chips and pitches as recovery shots. One notable difference with the home of the Masters: While Augusta sits on rollicking land, with prominent elevation changes, the ground at Pelican, Cockerill says, is mostly “pancake-flat.”
4. There is no shortage of entertaining holes
The Match will use a modified 12-hole routing, played in the following order from the Pelican scorecard: 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 14, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18. At least five of those holes will stage special challenges (with proceeds going toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts), including a $1.1 million closest-to-the-hole challenge on the 3rd, and a $750,000 one-club-challenge on the 8th (which will play as the 4th hole in the Match), a dogleg-left par-4 with a partially blind second shot to a long, skinny green.
5. You might want to wager on an ace
There will also be a $2.5 million hole-in-one challenge on Pelican’s 12th hole, which will play as the 8th hole in the Match. At around 150 yards, playing over water to a green that angles away from the tee, this short par-3 draws frequent comparisons to the fabled 12th hole at Augusta. But it yields a higher percentage of holes-in-one. In the history of the Masters, there have been only three aces on the 12th. At the 2021 LPGA event at Pelican, three LPGA players aced the 12th.
6. If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it
Pelican is situated in the Tampa suburb of Belleair, a leafy area where club memberships do not come cheap. Prospective members best be ready to pony up!