Is there anything more exciting in golf than playing to an island green?
There are many famous island greens on golf courses around the world. There are some that are almost “island” with just a strip of earth not much wider than a path to the green.
One of the tournaments that I always love to watch is the PGA Players Championship. It will be played from March 10-15, 2016 at the TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. TPC Sawgrass has two individual courses, the Stadium Course and the Valley Course, but the Stadium Course is where their island green is located, and it may be one of the most eagerly watched holes in professional golf.
The Stadium Cource at TPC Sawgrass
The Stadium Course was designed in 1980 by noted golf course architects Pete and Alice Dye, and is known as one of the most difficult golf courses in the world. The par-3, 137-yard 17th, known as the “Island Green”, is an extremely difficult hole. As a rule, the TV cameras cover all the players hitting to this green as it is so exciting to watch. There is one medium-sized bunker tucked into the right corner of the green, and water, water everywhere! There is usually a bit of wind (sometimes more than just a bit) to make club selection anything but easy. This is one place it is nice to NOT have the honour, as it helps to see what the elements do to the ball for the other players in the grouping!
On Sunday, everyone knows the hole for that green will be cut just over the bunker, a tough placement for target golf. A favourite shot of mine is one that Sergio Garcia made to about 5 feet from the pin. We have seen balls short of the green, long over the green and way off to the side of the green, all ending up in the water. I think must be a full-time job for the divers to collect the balls that end up on the bottom of lake.
8th Hole, Island Nine – The Willows
The first island green golf hole that I played was at the Willows Golf & Country Club in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the 8th hole on the Island Nine. What a thrill it was to hit my pitching wedge to the middle of the green, first try. Oh, and by the way, don’t have breakfast before you arrive at the course. Stop at the snack shack for my favourite: made while you wait “Denver” style eggs in a croissant. So yummy!
Couer d’Alene, Idaho
One of the most beautiful golf courses I have played is the golf course at Couer d’Alene, Idaho. Tucked in the high desert with pine trees, the course has a floating green which they are able to move around with a boat, so they can position it close to the tee box or further out into the lake. The day my niece, Deborah Rowbotham, and I played there, the green was 150 yards from the tee. I had to hit a 3-wood to carry that far, but I hit the railways ties that form the sides of the green instead, so my ball went into the water. A boat takes you out to the green so you can finish your hole.
We didn’t know it when we booked our tee time but the green fees at Couer d’Alene included a personal caddy for the two of us. His name was Josh, a nice looking young man who had worked the job all summer and knew the course well. The caddies wear white coveralls, just like the professional caddies at The Masters, and it was the first time I’d ever had a professional caddy on my golf bag. Josh was super helpful and fun to be with too. We want to go back to play that course again as it was quite smoky from a forest fire the day we played.
Island greens are, perhaps, the most exciting holes you can play in a round of golf. Have you played a course with an island green? Tell me about your experience!