No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass: Love it or hate it?

by   |   May 6, 2013
17th at Sawgrass

By the numbers, No. 17 on The Players Stadium at TPC Sawgrass would rank as one of the least remarkable holes on the PGA Tour.

It measures just 130 yards and is one of the largest greens on the golf course —  a combination that would ordinarily invite a barrage of birdies at most tour stops.

Except The Players Championship isn’t most Tour stops, and No. 17 isn’t any ordinary hole.

Over the years, the notorious island green has taken countless dreams of winning the Tour’s richest prize and buried them in a watery grave. It’s for that reason that No. 17, which requires nothing more than a straightforward wedge, has the uncanny ability to haunt the world’s best players before they even set foot on the first tee.

For proof, during NBC’s coverage of The Players, notice how many times it replays someone sneaking a glimpse of the island while standing in the 16th fairway.

Combine the mind games of No. 17 with the spectator-friendly design of TPC Sawgrass’ The Stadium Course and what you have is perhaps the best theater in all of golf.

Click here to read about the full day GolfWRX Managing Editor Zak Kozuchowski spent at No. 17 last year during the tournament.

Every fan can surely agree that the atmosphere surrounding the 17th on Sunday at The Players is one of the most dramatic and raucous in the game. Where many of us disagree, however, is our opinion of the hole itself.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the island green: love and hate. The lovers defend the 17th as a pure test of golf. Execute a relatively easy shot, or pay the ultimate price. Plain and simple.

The haters, on the other hand, decry the island green as a tacky abomination, and curse Pete Dye’s sick sense of humor. They argue a significant number of golfers are defeated before they even arrive, a fate that seems contrary to the spirit of this beautiful game.

I’ve been fortunate to tee it up on the 17th three times, and managed to find dry land — plus Old Man Par — on every occasion. Despite this string of good luck, however, I would have to align myself as a hater.

Yes, I love the drama that the 17th brings to Sunday at The Players, but the purist in me firmly believes that a truly great hole gives the golfer multiple ways to make par. With an island green, there’s only one.

But I’m just a lowly weekend warrior with a laptop. What do you think?

About

D.J. Jones is a lifelong golfer, thanks to the good fortune of growing up as the grandson of a professional. He plays to a 6 handicap when he’s not too busy pursuing his other great passion – travel. Tag along with his golf and travel adventures on his blog, The World of Deej.

14 Comments

  1. 8thehardway

    May 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    From the pgatour website

    No. 17 has yielded 518 three-putts or worse since 1992, the second most of any non-major hole on the PGA TOUR

    least/most water balls
    29 (2003, 2010) / 93 (2007)

    I guess it comes down to how you like your adrenaline. For me it’s a matter of balance; No. 17 places too much emphasis on one hole and isn’t in keeping with the rest of the layout.

    As a matter of balance, 17 forces ; were the course out of balance

  2. Gary Lee

    May 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    The 17th is a great finishing hole for a tornament. I played it once and birdied it.

  3. Dudley

    May 8, 2013 at 11:32 am

    From an architecture standpoint, I really do not see what is great about the #17th hole at TPC. A green in the middle of a lake….what is so genius about that? In golf terms, I guess it comes under the category of going to a auto race to see a wreck….watching PGA golf pros hit their ball into the water. A sign of the times…good for TV golf…..but there are 17 other holes and some of them are great architecture….#17 is not one of them….

  4. David

    May 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    It’s exiting of course, but its a bad hole.

    Up and downs after missing a green can be just as thrilling if not more.

  5. Puddin

    May 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Anyone have the stat for “in the water” vs. “on the green”? Pros or amateurs? I played there once in a company outing and 1 out 10 hit the green that day out of 40 players. Curious to know over the years what the Pros percentage is.

  6. Chris

    May 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    D.J. fun article.

    #17 is the defining hole on this course and I love the drama. If I were lucky enough to play TPC Sawgrass 17 would be on my mind all day and it would also be the first thing I would tell everyone about after my round.

    Golf IS a complete head game, especially at the Pro level. We’ve all weak wristed chips, choked on short puts and have holes that own us before the round even starts. Being able to overcome and produce when our mind is trying to hold us back is one of the best parts of golf.

    In the modern game it’s seems a stretch for anyone to be a purist anymore. Short putter vs Long putter, GPS vs Walking yardages, over sized drivers, super charged “premium balls,” Wedge grove size etc.

    Technology allows all of us to potentially play better, the emotional aspect is what keeps us all in check.

    • D.J. - The World of Deej

      May 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      Definitely a very good point Chris. And you’re 100% right…#17 is one giant mind game…

  7. Steve

    May 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with it. If it was like a 180 yard par-3, then I’d have an issue. But these guys should be able to hit this large green from 130 the heavy majority of the time. I understand wanting more than 1 way to make par, but it’s 130 yards. If it were a 130 yard par-3 with no water, it would be the easiest par-3 on tour. With the island, it tests the nerves of the greatest players in the world. I think it’s fun.

    And I don’t really think a “slight mishit” would take away par. If you go at the middle of the green, putting it in the water is a pretty large mishit for one of these guys with a wedge in their hands…

    • Steve

      May 6, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      Obviously strong wind/gusts can make a huge difference with this as well though. I still like it though.

      • D.J.

        May 7, 2013 at 8:57 am

        You’re right, Steve. It takes a pretty big miss by these guys to put it in the water. But for the average amateur, that margin for error is a whole lot smaller…

        • Steve

          May 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm

          You’re absolutely right. I was just looking at it from the pro perspective. For amateurs, the margin of error is much much smaller and would make this hole a heck of a lot more difficult. I still think it’s fun though. It’s a unique challenge that most courses don’t have, so I enjoy it.

    • Harry

      May 9, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Exactly, this talk of purest is silly IMO. Even for a 10 hcap this is one of the easiest holes on the course….the only real test is mental which is the ultate test in golf 16 & 18 are much tougher holes which force you to shape either your tee shot or approach, 17 only requires you not to choke which is a demand on every hole anyway so where is this fuss coming from? I just don’t get it guys….I have played sawgrass 3 times and love the course am 2 for 3 hitting 17 green but have neverade par on 16 or 18….17 is only hard when there’s something on the line which is what a good closing hole should be! You “purest s” need to examine what that term really means…

  8. Troy Vayanos

    May 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I can see the positives and negatives with this hole. The drama and excitement it brings to a golf tournament is a positive. However, from a purist point of view it can extremely unforgiving and potential ruin a players chances of victory. A slightly miss-hit shot gives the players no chance of still getting up and down for par.

    • D.J.

      May 7, 2013 at 8:48 am

      I agree with you Troy. With the exception of that little pot bunker, there is no saving par after a miss hit. Well, unless you do like Freddy and hole it out from the tee after dunking the first in the water…

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