News & Opinion

An island of strength or weakness?

2013 The Players Championship  Final Round
12 MAY 13 Tiger Woods looks on as Memphis native Casey Wittenberg putts from the fringe on 17 during Sundays Final Round at The Players Championship at TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (photo: kenneth e.dennis /

John Hawkins and Mike Purkey land on different sides of the debate regarding TPC Sawgrass’ iconic par-3 17th hole

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Is the island-green, par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass a joke or a gem?

Hawk’s take: Does one trespass the boundaries of reason when suggesting that it’s both? A huge part of the hole’s allure, for the lack of a better word, comes from its gimmicky nature. It’s a complete contrivance, courtesy of the late architect Pete Dye, and not an especially creative one, although the 17th has long served as a source of identity for the Players Championship, a tournament that adores every ounce of attention it can get.

In adherence with that mentality, No. 17 might be the most overrated hole on the planet. When something is made unique by design, it tends to evoke criticism or ridicule, but the little par 3 has succeeded in its primary mission: to generate interest and fan excitement. It’s an average hole, at best, nothing more than a pitching wedge for most tour pros nowadays, but its extremely penal demeanor leads to a certain amount of manufactured drama, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Do or Dye. With a nod to its creator, who passed away two months ago, the 17th at Sawgrass is the most famous ride on a golf course that bears a striking resemblance to an amusement park. The fact that it has elicited so much notice over the years makes it a job well done, but a gem? I would classify it as ornate costume jewelry.

Purk’s take: If the island-green hole at TPC Sawgrass were No. 4 on the scorecard, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And the fact that it’s the 17th hole makes the argument very simple, that it’s the wrong hole at the wrong time in the wrong place.

The Players Championship, which wants so desperately to be the fifth major – or at least thought of as the fifth – lowers its standing and perception in the world of championship golf by contributing to the outcome with little more than a gimmick. Can you imagine any of the four majors being so influenced by such a hole? If you were to insert the 17th into any other major venue at the same spot, that course would be laughed out of majorhood.

You’ll hear all weekend that the 17th is one of the most famous par-3 holes in all of golf. Infamous is more appropriate. When it was being built, the late, great Pete Dye excavated all of the sand around the green site and wondered how to replace the crater. His wife, Alice, suggested just to fill it with water.

Pete listened. It wasn’t his only mistake at the Stadium Course. But it sticks out like an island.

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