Any of us who have seen a lot of golf on television (or have experience with the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series video games) are undoubtedly familiar with the Island Green on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. But there is much more to this suburban Jacksonville golf course than the par three seventeenth. Opened in 1980, the course was not originally popular with professional golfers, but the tweaks that designer Pete Dye made shortly after made the course much more playable.
The course is still regarded as one of the most difficult in the world. It was the first of several Tournament Players Clubs (TPC) built in that era. The TPC is a chain of private and public golf courses operated by the PGA Tour with the objective to have these courses host tour events. This way the PGA Tour can avoid sharing the proceeds of the events with outside course owners.
But the first was TPC at Sawgrass stadium course. The Players Championship is now played there annually, and due to its prestige and highest purse of any golf tournament has become regarded by some as the “fifth major”. The great thing about this course as well as the other TPC courses around the country, the regular golfer can play them.
When we think of the Stadium Course at Sawgrass, is what will probably immediately come to mind is the Island Green. It is technically a peninsula, but there isn’t much to shoot at except a green 78 feet wide and maybe half as deep. From about 132 yards for the pros that is a decent sized target, but it is one of the most talked-about holes on the PGA tour. Mix in some wind that at times can be unpredictable and practically no bailout area, and it has every golfer’s attention. In 2007 a record fifty balls landed in the water on this hole in one round. And fans love it, as NBC puts eleven cameras on it during the tournament.
Perhaps the most famous, and bizarre incident in the holes history occurred in the 1998 Players Championship. Golfer Steve Lowery successfully hit his ball on the green. A seagull swooped down and, after a few attempts finally picked up is ball in his bill, carried it over water and dropped it. If you are curious as to how this is ruled, according to Rule 18-1 of the Rules of Golf, a bird is deemed an “outside agency”, and considering Lawry’s shot was from off the green he was allowed to place the ball at the spot the bird commandeered it.