The PLAYERS Championship—Five Legends of the Island Green 17th

The PLAYERS Championship has arguably the best field in golf every year. But it also has one of the most discussed holes—the island green 17th. Short and devilish, we dig into some of the stories and legends that make this hole so significant.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Widely recognized as the unofficial fifth major, the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is one of the biggest tournaments of each season. A significant portion of Sawgrass’ fame and allure can be traced back to the Par 3, 17th. With the pin often perched precariously on the undulating island green, the topography of the 17th is a challenge for any golfer. Add thousands of fans lining the gallery, each expecting to see the 17th claim another victim, and you’ve got one of the most brutal tee shots in the sport.

Ahead of March 9th and the start of the PLAYERS Championship, we’re looking at the five coolest – and perhaps strangest – things you might not have known about the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

Man Plans, The Golf Gods Laugh

 An island green was never the plan for the 17th. The original design was to be a simple par-3, surrounded only minimally by a water hazard. As fate would have it, the sand within the soil at the 17th was needed elsewhere, leaving a large crater in its place. Alice Dye, co-designer of the Stadium Course along with her husband Pete, remarked; “Why not make it an island green?” The rest, as they say, is history.

Harder than it Looks. Seriously?

Officially listed at 137 yards, it takes merely a wedge for most tour pros to reach the island green. If it were all about the distance, the 17th would likely be looked at as one of the easier holes on tour and a terrific opportunity to make birdie. Yet, considering the hole’s scoring average of 3.23 in PLAYERS competition – nearly a quarter of a stroke above par – things can evidently unravel as the world’s best stare down the barrel of the most infamous par 3 in golf.

The lack of green length (78 feet), demands backspin for a ball hitting the green to stay on. 30 handicaps and tour pros alike struggle with distance control on this hole, with most water-bound tee shots finding the green first before trickling off the wooden bulkheads and making a splash. In the pressure of the moment, some of the world’s best simply shank their tee shots, much to the amusement of the raucous gallery. I guess it should come as no surprise that 100,000-120,000 balls are pulled from the water surrounding the island green each year.

The Handicap Number is… What??

14. According to the official scorecard, the infamous 17th is the Stadium Course’s 5th-easiest hole. While that may speak to the hole’s lack of length, coupled with the intense demands of TPC Sawgrass (rated at 76.7 from the traditional back tees), its difficult to digest the 17th being recognized as one of the easier holes on the golf course.

The results at 17 from PLAYERS to PLAYERS indeed tell a different story. Historically, about 7% of the PLAYERS field makes a double bogey or worse on the 17th – by far the highest percentage at TPC Sawgrass. Since 2003, there have been only three tournaments where less than 30 balls found the murky depths between Thursday and Sunday. Round 3 alone last year saw 29 balls find the water, with a cumulative score to par of 66 over. +66, from a group of 70 of the world’s best. Handicap number of 14. Hmm.

Often Imitated, Never Duplicated

Arguably the most recognizable golf hole in the world, the 17th at TPC Sawgrass has drawn a handful of real-life duplicates that allow the everyday golfer a crack at the island green.

25 miles south of TPC Sawgrass lies the town St. Augustine, home of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The museum grounds feature a full-length replica of the 17th, allowing visitors three shots at the green.

Wooden Sticks Golf Club, north of Toronto, ON, boasts eight replicas of famous holes, including #12 and #13 at Augusta National (Amen Corner) and #1 and #18 at the Old Course at St. Andrews, amongst others. Of course, such a facility couldn’t bear to leave out the famed 17th.

One of golf’s most passionate fans has taken the obsession with the Stadium Course’s island green to another level. Sports blogger, Uncle Chaps stumbled on a property listing in the Chicago Suburbs with its very own island green in the backyard.

Golf fans never fail to impress.

The Aces

While making a hole-in-one amid any competitive competition must be a surreal feeling, it’s got to be especially momentous on the 17th.

Only ten aces have been recorded at #17 in PLAYERS Championship history, most recently accomplished by Shane Lowry in round 3 of the 2022 tournament. The veteran Lowry has made a handful of hole-in-ones in his career – including at the 16th at Augusta National – yet his reaction at #17 demonstrated emotions are just different at the island green.

In the first round of the 1999 PLAYERS, Fred Couples made an elusive hole-in-three at 17. After his first attempt splashed down short of the green, Couples re-teed and slam dunked one on the fly. Couples took two shots, neither of which ever touched the green, yet he still walked away with a par. All a part of the island green experience.

We’re all rooting for another golfer to join the hole in one (or hole in three) club at the 17th in the 2023 PLAYERS.

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