Famous 17th at Sawgrass can strike fear into even the world’s best

The island green Par 3 came about by accident during the design of the Stadium Course

A general view of the 17th hole during the third round of The Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Photo: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A general view of the 17th hole during the third round of The Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Photo: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

 

For a hole that came about by accident as much as by design, the Par 3 17th at TPC Sawgrass has earned its reputation as one of the most fearsome in golf. It’s not as pretty as, say, the 12th at Augusta National; nor naturally raw as, say, the 15th at Portmarnock. But it is the signature hole at the home of The Players, and a fitting legacy to its designed Pete Dye, who passed away in January.

This is the first time since Dye’s death – at the age of 94 – that the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament, with its bumped-up purse now reaching a gargantuan $15 million, will test the mettle and shot-making of the elite field without the man himself looking on.

The hole itself evolved during the construction of the course on what was swampland (the terrain was so poor that PGA commissioner Deane Beman bought the 415 acres for one dollar). As it happened, Dye – and his team, which included his wife Alice – needed truckloads of sand during building work and that area around what would be the 17th proved to be the great provider.

The more sand that was excavated, the greater the size of the hole that was left . . . . and, ultimately, the only way to fill it up was with water.

So, it became the lake that runs down the right of the Par 5 16th and the expanse of water from the 17th tee to the island green. While Dye originally wanted the hole to be 165 yards in length, he settled on a shorter hole – 136 yards – that, when the wind blows, has the potential to put fear in the hearts of the most solid citizens.

The record high score is the 12 recorded by Bob Tway, who put four balls into the water during the third round of the tournament in 2005. On finding the green with his fifth shot, Tway proceeded to three-putt to find an ignominious place in golfing statistics.

Dye was a designer who wasn’t afraid to take a chance and, although he brought his creativity and design prowess all around the globe, it is Sawgrass and especially the 17th hole that he is best remembered for.

In the run-up to this year’s tournament, Jon Rahm observed of the hole: “You can’t escape it. If you’re going to be brave, you need to hit a great shot. There’s no way around it. It’s a great, great design of a golf hole when the best players in the world are struggling with a pitching wedge in their hands . . . . I think you can’t pretend to go your whole career without messing up on that hole, it’s going to happen.”

And that, in a nutshell, is what makes the 17th hole one of the best in the game. Just let the wind blow . . . . hard!

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