The Island Green in Golf: What It Is, Where to Find Them

The island green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass

"Island green" is a term golfers use for a putting green that is surrounded by water. Island greens are not common in golf course design, but they are more common than they used to be. The reason is the popularity — the notoriety — of the island green at TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship.

In this article, we'll explain a little bit more about the characteristics of island greens, plus list where you can play some of golf's best-known island greens.

The island green on No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass (pictured above) was not the first island green in golf, but by virtue of the very high-profile tournament played there, it is the best-known. TPC Sawgrass' island green was designed by Pete and Alice Dye. But another course in the same town as TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, has an island green that dates to the 1940s.

This green design goes back much earlier, though. There was an island green on the original (no long existing) course at Baltusrol in the first decade of the 1900s, for example.

Island greens are most commonly found on par-3 holes (most commonly, ones that play short from the non-championship tees), although they are sometimes seen on other types of holes, too. Island greens on par-5 holes are next-most-common, giving most golfers a chance to play short approach shots into them. The majority of island greens are large, too, in terms of the green complex's square footage. This gives golfers, especially higher handicappers, a better chance of not losing a ball in the water. Having sand or rough around some (or even all) of an island green's perimeter is one way to help golfers by stopping some shots from rolling off into water.

Geography buffs will know that an island is a piece of land completely surrounded by water — encircled at all points by water. Some island greens in golf are not completely surrounded; some, including No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, have a narrow stretch of land connecting the green to its fairway (thereby providing access to the green). Technically, those aren't islands, they're peninsulas. But "island green" sounds a lot cooler than "peninsular green."

And some island greens really are true islands, completely surrounded by water, with only a footbridge or bridge that accommodates riding carts providing access to the green. Even rarer is the island green that is connected in no way, not even by bridge, to any other part of the golf course. For example, the 14th hole at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course in Idaho is a mobile, floating green that can be repositioned each day, and is reached by water taxi (golfers are ferried to the green).

Examples of Island Greens Around the World

Where will you find island greens? All over the world, although most (so far) are in the United States. As noted above, they are more common than they used to be thanks to the notoriety of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. That also explains why so many of the island greens listed below are the 17th holes on their respective golf courses.

If a golf course has an island green, it is most-common for it to come late in the round. That provides greater drama, and potentially very consequential scoring swings.

This list just includes a few of the best-known or most-highly regarded island greens. There are many more out there.

  • No. 17, Apple Tree Resort in Yakima, Washington. Par-3, 180 yards.
  • No. 17, Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. Par-5, 512 yards. Hole dates to 1922 and is believed to be the first island green on a par-5 hole.
  • No. 12, The Club at Olde Cypress in Naples, Florida. Par-3, 120 yards.
  • No. 14, Coeur d'Alene Resort in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Par-3, 218 yards.
  • No. 11, The Creek at Locust Valley in Locust Valley, New York. Par-3, 132 yards. Another one that dates to the early 1900s.
  • No. 18, Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. Par-5, 525 yards.
  • No. 5, East Course at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. Par-3, 153 yards.
  • No. 15, East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Par-3, 213 yards. This hole dates to the 1910s.
  • No. 15, English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans, Louisiana. Par-5, 505 yards.
  • No. 17, The Links at Perry Cabin in St. Andrews, Maryland. Par-3, 119 yards.
  • No. 15, Man O'War GOlf Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Par-3, 126 yards.
  • No. 9, Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Par-3, 157 yards. This one pre-dates its more-famous neighbor by decades.
  • No. 3B, Pacifico Course at Punta Mita Golf Club in Punta Mita, Mexico. Par-3, 194 yards. There is green No. 3 at this course, and then there's No. 3B, a green sitting on an outcropping in the Pacific Ocean. Golfers can play 3B if the surf is quiet enough to allow a water taxi to take them to the green.
  • No. 17, PGA West in La Quinta, California. Par-3, 168 yards.
  • No. 18, Shackamaxon Golf & Country Club in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Par-4, 370 yards.
  • No. 18, Soffer Course at Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura, Florida. Par-5, 571 yards.
  • No. 17, Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Par-3, 137 yards.
  • No. 15, Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona. Par-5, 558 yards.
  • No. 7, Stone Harbor Golf Club in Cape May Court House, New Jersey. Par-3, 140 yards.
  • No. 13, Tournament Course at Woodlands Country Club in The Woodlands, Texas. Par-5, 508 yards.
  • No. 11, TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee. Par-3, 165 yards.
  • No. 13, Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Par-4, 355 yards.
  • No. 16, Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, Connecticut. Par-4, 408 yards. The course dates to 1896, but there is some debate whether the island green is original to that time.
  • No. 15, Wolf Course at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. Par-3, 138 yards.
  • No. 17, Rancho San Lucas Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. Par-3, 148 yards.
  • No. 10, Golf Club Kildare, Palmerstown House Estate in Johnstown, County Kildare, Ireland. Par-3, 179 yards.
  • No. 15, Albatros Course at Le Golf National in Guyancourt, France. Par-4, 373 yards.
  • No. 17, Stadium Course at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club in Stockholm, Sweden. Par-3, 150 yards.
  • No. 17, Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburri, Thailand. Par-3, 145 yards.

Photo credit: "File:TPC Sawgrass 17.jpg" by Craig ONeal is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .

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