TPC JASNA POLANA
Course Architect: Gary Player
Year Opened: June, 1998
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Slope: 144. Rating: 74.8
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 396 Yds 10 - Par 4 432 Yds
2 - Par 3 145 Yds 11 - Par 3 188 Yds
3 - Par 5 534 Yds 12 - Par 5 543 Yds
4 - Par 4 324 Yds 13 - Par 4 456 Yds
5 - Par 4 388 Yds 14 - Par 4 430 Yds
6 - Par 4 452 Yds 15 - Par 4 440 Yds
7 - Par 5 609 Yds 16 - Par 4 318 Yds
8 - Par 3 203 Yds 17 - Par 3 200 Yds
9 - Par 4 491 Yds 18 - Par 5 549 Yds
Par 36 3,542 Yds Par 36 3,556 Yds
Key Events Held: Champions Tour - Instinet Classic (2000-02),
Shell's Wonderful World of Golf (1999),
Gary Player Challenge (2001-03).
Awards Won: Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Systems by Audubon International,
Top 100 Golf Shops in America - by Golf World Business magazine,
Golf Digest/Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
(GCSAA) Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards.
HISTORY: In Polish it means bright meadow. In golf, Jasna Polana means
beautiful golf course.
Originally, TPC Jasna Polana was the country home of John Seward Johnson of
Johnson & Johnson fame. Yes, the same company that produces BAND-AIDs,
Listerine and all those baby care products. Johnson was one of the sons of
Robert Wood Johnson, co-founder of Johnson & Johnson.
While still married to his second wife, J. Seward had an illicit affair with
his Polish immigrant cook/chambermaid Barbara Piasecka. Although the age
difference was 42 years, the duo married just a week following his divorce
wife number two, and Johnson for many years enjoyed the 230-acre estate until
his death of prostate cancer in 1983 at the age of 87.
The current Mrs. Johnson enjoyed her new lifestyle and enlisted world-renowned
architect Wallace K. Harrison to design a home fit for a king ... and queen.
Harrison, who was the lead architect for the United Nations headquarters, not
to mention Rockefeller Center and the Metropolitan Opera House, fashioned one
of the most elite residences in the country. Four years and $30 million later,
the Jasna Polana's 46,000-square foot mansion was complete. Not only did the
estate include lavish furnishings, it included 32 toilets, 15 fireplaces and
two cellars, one for storing art, the other for 10,000 bottles of wine.
Belgian and Flemish tapestries adorn the entrance, along with antique flooring
and marble mantlepieces.
A bitter battle ensued following Mr. Johnson's death between Piasecka Johnson
and the children. J. Seward had left his entire $500 million fortune to his
wife, changing his will one month before his passing and leaving his six
children from his previous marriages nothing. Three years and 200 lawyers
later, an out-of-court settlement was reached, but Mrs. Johnson was awarded
$350 million and the Jasna Polana estate.
As the years went by, Mrs. Johnson's time at Jasna Polana began to dwindle, as
she began spending more time abroad in her native Europe. With that in mind,
her nephew, Christopher Piasecki convinced his aunt to turn her legendary
estate into a private golf and social club.
Thirteen years after J. Seward's passing, plans were authorized to build a
monumental golf course on the elegant grounds, and none other than Gary Player
was commissioned to design the layout.
Player, nicknamed the "Black Knight," has won 164 times around the globe, in
an amazing career that's spanned five decades. The nine-time major champion
has also designed more than 300 courses around the world, including such
standout layouts as Blair Atholl, Leopard Creek and The Links at Fancourt (all
in his native South Africa), as well as Taiheiyo Club (Japan), Geneva National
(Wisconsin) and The Wolverine at Grand Traverse Resort (Michigan).
Not only was the lavish property turned into a golf course, but the main
residence was transformed into a clubhouse and restaurant.
Just one year after opening, Hale Irwin and Tom Watson squared off in Shell's
Wonderful World of Golf. Irwin, the all-time winner on the senior circuit
battled Watson, who had just turned 50 a month earlier, but it was Watson who
prevailed in front of several hundred people.
For three seasons (2000-02), TPC Jasna Polana played host to the PGA's
Champions Tour. Gil Morgan enjoyed great success, as he captured the first two
tournaments at Jasna Polana and then finished 15th in the final year of the
In 2000, Morgan led the final 13 holes of the event, as he set a tournament
scoring mark of 199 to defeat Bruce Fleisher and Bob Murphy by four shots. For
the week, Morgan made birdie on the par-5s 10 of the 12 times he played them
during the tournament. It should be noted that Arnold Palmer competed in his
1,000th official Tour event that week, tying for 64th.
Morgan set a new course record the next season, as he carded an opening round
of 63, leading from start to finish for his 20th career Champions Tour title.
After a bogey on the 15th hole during the final round dropped him into a tie
for the lead, Morgan bounced back with birdies on 16 and 18 to secure the win.
It was Isao Aoki's turn in 2002, as he came from two shots back to win for the
ninth time on the elder circuit. Trailing Jim Thorpe heading into the final
round, Aoki birdied four of his last seven holes to defeat John Jacobs by four
shots. Aoki was the only player in the field to shoot three rounds in the 60s
(69-67-66). Course designer Player carded rounds of 72-72-76 to tie for 45th.
For the week, the course played to a scoring average of 73.139, making it one
of the hardest courses on Tour that year.
Maintained and operated by the PGA Tour, the course and its grounds have
continued the tradition that the Johnson family brought to the region.
Beautiful, majestic and exquisite are words that certainly come to mind.
REVIEW: The opening hole at Jasna Polana is a simple, dogleg left par four.
Just enough to whet your appetite. Avoid the fairway bunkers on the right and
you'll have just a short iron to a long and narrow putting surface. Sloping
from back to front, you must be dead-on target if you're to hit the green.
Miss right and you'll find a deep bunker that sits well below the putting
surface, making for an almost impossible up and down. Left and you'll find a
chipping area and mounding that won't allow you to get it close.
The beauty of the course really begins on the second. Only 145 yards from the
tips, this par three plays downhill towards a kidney-shaped green with a spine
in the center. Bunkers right and deep and a stream that wraps around from the
front towards the right sees plenty of action. Pick the right stick or a
three-putt could hamper your efforts.
One of the several signature holes, the third is a beautiful par five of only
534 yards. However, you'll need to bang two big hits to get home in two, as
the hole plays uphill after the tee shot. Bending to the left, the third
requires a drawing tee ball that must bypass a pair of fairway bunkers. The
eye candy is the creek/waterfall on the right side from 150 yards in, that
front the putting surface. To keep you honest, the rolling fairway to the
left, for us shorter hitters, is accessible, but don't forget the stream to
the right. Even with a successful layup, your approach will be from an awkward
lie. The green is the longest on the course at 45 paces and with a back-right
flag, watch out! A seven never looks good on the scorecard.
The fourth is a risk-reward par four of just 324 yards. Fairly straight off
the tee and playing slightly downhill, you'll be tempted to launch a blast in
an effort to reach the green. One small problem, or should I say several?
Large, sand-splashed bunkers pinch the landing area to a point where just 10
paces of opening remain in front of the green. The smart play would be with a
fairway metal off the tee, leaving a wedge to another back-to-front sloping
green. With five gaping bunkers in full view, take the high road and make
birdie the old fashioned way.
Don't underestimate the length of the fifth. The 388 yards on the scorecard
does not show that this slight dogleg right par four plays uphill from tee to
green. The corner is guarded by sand, while the left side features tall trees
that frame the hole beautifully. The green is quite long and undulating with
three traps protecting the narrow surface. Another back-right flag can add a
few gray hairs to the scalp.
The sixth is the most difficult hole on the course. At 452 yards, this rugged
dogleg right par four requires a big tee shot just to reach the fairway. Not
only that, it must steer clear of the mounding and bunkers to the right. Even
with a successful tee ball, a medium to long iron will remain to the smallest
green on the front side. Just 28 paces in depth, the putting surface is wide
and tight, requiring a pinpoint approach. Not the easiest thing in the world
with a four-iron. Miss short or left and you'll end up in the beach and long,
well, let's just say you'll have a better chance at getting a deer tick than
A chance to get a shot back, albeit a small chance, awaits at the seventh. The
longest hole on the course, this par five stretches to 609 yards, although it
plays downhill from the fairway. A large landing area is quite enticing, but
just make sure you miss the guarding fairway bunkers, otherwise you'll have no
choice, but to lay well back of your intended target. Trees protect the entire
left side, as the hole bends towards the left. The putting surface, which sits
well below the fairway, is expansive, but can be negotiated into a birdie. If
the pin is tucked away in the front-right corner behind the bunker, don't get
cute, even with a sand wedge. Play towards the center and leave yourself 15-20
feet, otherwise you'll short-side yourself into a bogey...or worse. When Gil
Morgan carded his course-record 63 in 2001, he made a double-eagle on seven,
holing a three-iron from 256 yards out.
The par-three eighth is another signature hole at Jasna Polana. Beautifully
landscaped with a pond, a stream and a stone bridge, this gem will certainly
get your attention when you reach for a long iron. At 203 yards, it's the
longest of the quartet and plays every bit of its yardage. The bailout area to
the left sees plenty of action, as the stream to the right comes surprisingly
close to the green. Any shot long will carry down a hill and into the woods,
or if you're lucky, into the back bunker, so another accurate stroke is
required. Small solace that the putting surface is the easiest on the course.
I personally have a love-hate relationship with the ninth hole. Don't get me
wrong, it's a great hole. I just can't seem to make better than six. First of
all, it's 491 yards and a par four. Second, it plays uphill off the tee over a
ravine to a semi-blind fairway. Third, I can't seem to stay clear of the
aiming bunker fronting the left portion of the fairway. Even if you negotiate
all of the above, you'll still have a long iron or fairway metal towards the
downhill setting green. Bunkers left and right, not to mention thick rough
guard the long putting surface. I think I need to pick the right tees!
The back nine opens with another wonderful hole, the uphill, par four 10th.
From a chute of trees, your tee shot is played over a crossing bunker to the
fairway, that's straddled by bunkers on both sides of the landing area. A
medium to long iron awaits to the elevated green, that's just 28 paces in
depth. A false front will repel balls down the fairway and any shot left might
fall off into a chipping swale. The putting surface can be had, but only if
your distance control is spot on.
Number 11 plays as a downhill par three of 188 yards. A fairly simple hole
with little trouble, so this can be a real chance to take advantage. A few
pointers here, take one less club, avoid the bunker on the right and attack
the smallest green on the course. Piece of cake, right?
At 543 yards, the par-five 12th is a real birdie opportunity. Yes, the tee
shot is uphill, but the fairway is very generous, as long as you avoid the
sand down the right. The big hitters can certainly get home in two, but for us
mere mortals, just a long iron or fairway metal to the wide open approach
area, will leave a flip wedge to a well guarded green. This time, just 27
paces in length, so any shot close could result in birdie.
The 13th is one of the longest par fours on the course, stretching to 456
yards from the gold tees. Bunkers cover both flanks of the landing area, so
not only is length an issue, but accuracy as well. A medium to long iron will
be needed to reach one of the longest greens on the back nine, not to mention
one of the narrowest. A chipping area over the bunker to the right sits well
below the green. Tame this beast and you might post a low score.
With an offset tee box, the 14th needs a little bit of thought as to where to
place your tee shot. The fairway is appealing with plenty of room, so let
loose. The trio of traps down the right must be avoided, as they possess big
lips to carry. A medium iron, at most should remain to a very receptive green,
with a pair of horseshoe bunkers on the right. Slightly elevated, so adjust
your approach for your best shot at three.
The final four holes at TPC Jasna Polana are as good as they get. First up is
the downhill, dogleg left par-four 15th. Of the last four, this is the most
difficult of the quartet. The tee shot is pivotal, as it must move from right
to left, avoiding sand right, trees left and a forced carry over a natural
area. The approach should be with a mid to short iron to a two-tiered green
fronted by sand. A back-left pin placement, with trees left and rear will
certainly place the best players on edge.
In the 16th, Player created a wonderful, risk-reward par four of just 318
yards. With a lake on the right, bunkers to the left and a sliver of a green
to shoot out, it's the ultimate gamble. If you choose to lay back, no problem,
as the fairway is generous for your iron or fairway metal, but you'll need
pinpoint control with your approach, as the green, although very long, is very
tight with plenty of sand playing havoc. One of the easiest holes on the
course and certainly one of the most entertaining.
In contrast, the par three 17th is not so easy, but very thrilling. Similar in
length to the eighth, this beauty is played over a lake to a wide, split-level
putting surface. The green features a bunker in front and rear, mounding and
chipping areas to the left and behind and a roller coaster surface. A back-
right pin will bring the lake into play and when the wind is up, you better
play left. The green is just 26 paces in depth, but twice that in width, so
missing on the wrong part will result in a three-putt. Need I say more?
If you thought the 17th was thrill ride, wait to your reach the par-five 18th.
It's 549 yards of downhill run and fun. Bending to the left, you must hit the
fairway off the tee to take advantage of the sloped landing area, which will
propel your shot towards a plateau that gives the player the best chance of
getting home in two. Cutting through the fairway around the 100-yard mark is a
stream that comes into play, especially if you're laying up. The safer play is
to the right, leaving an uphill pitch to steeped putting surface, while
towards the left you are left with a shorter approach on a much more level
lie. Either way, you'll have a difficult time getting it close, as the green
slopes hard from back to front and plays uphill. To get home, you'll have to
hit your best three-metal to splice the trio of traps guarding the promised
land. Who said golf's easy?
FINAL WORD: It's hard to say this, but the beautiful estate and grounds might
actually overshadow the golf course. Having said that, you can imagine how
spectacular the property must be, because the Gary Player-designed course is
First and foremost, the course is meticulous. From tee to green and everything
in between, TPC Jasna Polana is wonderfully manicured. Cascading waterfalls,
streams, ponds and beautiful gardens ... this course has plenty of eye candy.
As far as the golf course goes, it's a real challenge. Almost 7,100 yards from
the tips, it features a robust slope of 144 and a rating of 74.8. The key here
is playing the correct set of markers, otherwise, you'll be in for a long
The Player tees are reasonable at 6,535, but the most enjoyable set might be a
mix of the middle and Player markers. Reaching just 6,281 yards, it boasts a
couple of par 5s under 500 yards, six par 4s under 400 yards and four very
reasonable par 3s under 165 yards in length.
An interesting aspect of the course are the greens. The front nine possess
very large putting surfaces, ranging from 28 to 40 paces in depth, while the
back nine greens feature six surfaces 30 yards or less. Every complex is
unique, with plenty of undulation and of course, plenty of speed. Like most
courses, above the hole is death.
There are a wide variety of holes at Jasna Polana from the back markers. From
several dogleg lefts and rights, to a couple of reachable par 4s, a few risk-
reward par 5s and four outstanding par 3s.
Although a very private club, the staff are far from stuffy. In fact, they are
so accommodating that you'll feel like your one of the members.
Speaking of which, the club has several membership choices, from corporate and
charter options to social enrollment. Each comes with a hefty price tag. The
golf corporate rate can be as high as $95,000 initiation to a social
membership of just $12,000. With either choice, you'll have to pony up
additional annual dues. As they say, membership has its privileges.
It has been documented by Forbes that Mrs. Johnson's net worth now exceeds
$2.5 billion, but the philanthropist, who can travel anywhere in the world,
still returns home to her treasured Jasna Polana from time to time.
And why not, TPC Jasna Polana is a beauty, heaven on earth.