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The 11 greatest island greens in the world

June 27, 2019

Sure, TPC Sawgrass is home to golf’s greatest do-or-die target, but sampling a similar test is right around the corner (depending where you live). Love them or hate them, island greens get the blood pumping every time. Here’s a look at the ultimate version, the 17th at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium course, plus 10 others that mimic the drama, if not the fame, of Pete Dye’s original.

TPC Sawgrass (Stadium), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
17th Hole, 137 yards, par 3

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There isn’t a par-3 anywhere that induces sweaty palms and an accelerated heart rate better than the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. It’s only a 9-iron from the tips, but to hit and hold its apple-shaped green requires perfect distance and trajectory — and maybe a little help from above.

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Ocean Course, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
9th Hole, 157 yards, par 3

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Pete and Alice Dye first encountered the granddaddy of island greens in 1946 and it was this memory that triggered the creation of their Sawgrass hole just minutes away. A generous bailout area makes it less fearful than its successor, though it might have been just as infamous, had World War II not cancelled the 1939 Ryder Cup that was scheduled here.

PGA West, La Quinta, Calif.
17th Hole, 168 yards, par 3

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Pete Dye was skeptical about replicating his Sawgrass island green in the desert, but colleagues, the developers and PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman convinced him otherwise. Backdropped by mountains, the hole differs from its Florida cousin in that it’s lined with rocks, rather than railroad ties, it’s longer by 30 yards and its green is significantly larger.

Coeur d’Alene Resort, Cour d’Alene, Idaho
14th hole, 218 yards, par 3

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Coeur d’Alene’s enchanting 14th beckons with a 15,000-square-foot green framed by red geraniums, two bunkers, a few conifers — and is completely encircled by one of North America’s most beautiful lakes. No strips of land here, just a floating island green that’s reachable only by a six-passenger boat. Hit the green and two-putt for par and you earn an award certificate on the ride back.

Apple Tree Resort, Yakima, Wash.
17th Hole, 180 yards, par 3

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Winding its way through a Washington Delicious apple orchard, this aptly named layout waits until the 17th to reveal the best of the bunch. This sweet one-shotter plays to an apple-shaped green guarded back-left by a bunker that resembles a leaf. The entire green complex connects to dry land via a stem in the form of a 50-foot walk bridge.

TPC Scottsdale (Stadium), Scottsdale, Ariz.
15th Hole, 558 yards, par 5

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Architects Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish were best known for their drivable par-4s, but at the TPC Scottsdale, they dished out their version of an island green on a par-5. Choose the proper tees and it’s reachable by most, but with water in play on every shot, it’s a 3 or 7 kind of a hole. Says 2002 PGA Champ Rich Beem, “It has been one of the best risk/reward holes we play.”

Amata Spring Country Club, Chonburi, Thailand,
17th Hole, 145 yards, par 3

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Asia’s first floating island green is the product of the Lee Schmidt-Brian Curley design team, both of whom once worked for Pete Dye. Fortunately, Sergio Garcia handled this hole better in winning the 2013 Thailand Golf Championship than he did the TPC Sawgrass version that same year, when he splashed twice in an unsuccessful bit to beat Tiger Woods.

Turnberry Isle Resort (Soffer), Aventura, Fla.
18th Hole, 571 yards, par 5

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One of the most elusive targets in golf is the home green at America’s Turnberry, the product of a Raymond Floyd redesign in 2006. Flanking bunkers, a skinny, mounded fairway and a deafening waterfall offer beauty and menace along the way, but you’ll need both Floyd’s touch and steely concentration to hit and hold this small, wavy green.

Bro Hof Slott Golf Club (Stadium), Stockholm, Sweden
17th Hole, 150 yards, par 3

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This island green design from Robert Trent Jones II serves as the most-buzzed about spot whenever the course staged Euro Tour’s Nordea Scandinavian Masters. (The event last came to Bro Hof Slott in ’16.) When the wind howls, the hole can be among the toughest on earth.

Grand Cypress Golf Club (East), Orlando, Fla.
5th Hole, 153 yards, par 3

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Jack Nicklaus apprenticed as an architect with Pete Dye, so it’s no surprise that he popped out a few island greens of his own, including this early version (1986), which features tongues of turf protruding into the water front and left, and a trio of bunkers right and back.

Punta Mita Pacifico Golf Course, Punta Mita, Mexico
Hole 3B, 194 yards, par 3

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This optional par three, known as “Tail of the Whale,” scores points for not only its jaw-dropping views of the Sierra Madre Mountains, but also its unique element of adventure. After striking their tee shots onto dry land, golfers travel to and from the green via dinghy. It claims to be the only island green in the world where the Pacific Ocean functions as the water hazard.

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