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Move over TPC Sawgrass. Here are golf’s best island greens

March 12, 2024

Contrary to what golf fans might think, TPC Sawgrass' 17th hole was not Pete Dye's brain child. In fact, it wasn’t even his idea (originally) to incorporate the peninsula concept at TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole. The suggestion came from Dye’s wife and design partner, Alice—and since the first Players Championship held at the Stadium course in 1982, the one-shotter has become one of golf’s most well-known holes.

The island green isn’t a revered “template” like the famous Redan, Biarritz or other designs brought over from iconic Scottish links designs. It was, however, likely first conceived by a Scotsman, George Low, the longtime club pro at Baltusrol Golf Club, who supposedly had the idea ahead of the 1904 U.S. Amateur to create an island green on a par 4 on the club’s now-defunct Old course (on the site of the current-day 16th hole of the Lower). Not surprisingly, the hole confounded competitors, and after the 1915 U.S. Open, and it was eventually abandoned.

Thankfully for us, initial complaints of TPC Sawgrass and the 17th hole have not only led to an acceptance but also hundreds of iterations of the concept at courses around the world. There are dozens of deserving entries left off this list, so we’ve tried to keep this as a collection of both lesser-known island greens and also important island greens in golf history.

Ponte Vedra (Fla.) Inn & Club (Ocean), ninth hole

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LC Lambrecht/Courtesy of the club

TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole is not the only island green in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and it also wasn't the first. Some 60 years earlier, Herbert Strong’s Ocean course at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club opened with the island-green par-3 ninth hole. After TPC Sawgrass was constructed, Alice Dye admitted she was influenced by Strong's creation here in recommending the island green to her husband, as Alice had played the Ocean course a number of times in competitions.

Private
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club: Ocean
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, United States
The Ocean Course might have a much different reputation in the world of golf had it hosted the Ryder Cup, which it was scheduled to do in 1939 before it was cancelled due to World War II. Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s Ocean course—though a bit of a misnomer since there are no ocean views—is a unique and creative routing with high shot options and impeccable conditioning. This is a very demanding test with the wind being very prevalent. The greens are somewhat forgiving, as if they were too demanding with the potential weather conditions, this would be nearly impossible to score. An absolute gem and must play.
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PGA West (Stadium), La Quinta, Calif., 17th hole

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Just like TPC Sawgrass when it first opened, PGA West received a healthy amount of criticism from tour pros—so much that the PGA Tour event in Palm Springs moved from Dye’s creation in La Quinta for some time. Now it’s back at the Stadium course, and also just like TPC Sawgrass, the 17th hole at PGA West’s Stadium course has developed a reputation for (fairly) testing the pros down the stretch.

Public
PGA West: Stadium Course
La Quinta, CA, United States
Originally private, the Stadium Course (the original 18 at PGA West) was among the rota of courses for the old Bob Hope Desert Classic until some pros, objecting to its difficulty, petitioned to remove it. (It’s now back.) It's Pete Dye at his rambunctious best, with a finish mimicking his later design at TPC Sawgrass: a gambling par-5 16th (called San Andreas Fault), a short par-3 17th to an island green and an intimidating par-4 18th with water all the way to the green. Though hideous in its difficulty and aesthetics by 1980s standards (it was can't miss television when it hosted the 1987 Skins Game), it's matured into a noble piece of architecture that represents the tail end of Dye's extreme middle phase.
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The Links at Perry Cabin, St. Andrews, Md., 17th hole

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Joann Dost

Before Dye's tragic decline due to dementia, the final design he oversaw from start to finish was the overhaul of an existing course to build his own layout at The Links at Perry Cabin. Fittingly, some of Dye’s most famous holes were incorporated into this routing, and the 17th hole is a near replica of his Sawgrass creation.

Public
Links At Perry Cabin
Saint Michaels, MD, United States
3.7
43 Panelists

From Golf Digest Architecture Emeritus Ron Whitten: In 2015, when Pete Dye started work on Links at Perry Cabin, he had no idea that soon after his approval of the contours of its last green, he’d be forced into involuntary retirement by the cruelest aspect of the aging process, the dissipation of one’s memory. His fans should know that the 93-year-old Hall of Famer remains creative to the end.

 

Though he has routed 18s in northern Florida and Indiana that others are now building, this is his final full design, from start to finish. It opened last year and is accessible to guests of The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Md., about an hour outside Annapolis. Assisted by his younger son, P.B., Pete transformed a low-profile 1971 collaboration with brother Roy, replacing it with a far more dynamic creation.

 

Read Whitten’s entire review here.

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The Creek, Locust Valley, N.Y., 11th hole (opening photo)

C.B. Macdonald is widely considered the father of American golf course architecture, bringing many classic design templates from the best courses of the British Isles to the States. In designing the 11th hole at The Creek, not only did he incorporate a classic Biarritz-style putting surface as he often did, but he and partner Seth Raynor built the green on an island—creating perhaps one of the most underrated putting complexes in the "MacRaynor" portfolio.

Private
The Creek
Locust Valley, NY, United States
When it was conceived in the early 1920s, The Creek was considered “The Million Dollar Club” because of the wealth of its exclusive membership. The line that writer Royal Cortissoz wrote upon its 1923 opening remains true today: “The distinctive character of this course lies in its range.” It opens with holes framed by trees, mainly lindens that line the entry drive, then moves onto a bluff that overlooks Long Island Sound. At the turn, holes play adjacent to the shore, offering fresh takes on two of C.B. Macdonald’s most exciting template holes. The 10th, a dogleg along the sea, is his version of the Leven (of Lundin Links in Scotland), while the 11th is not just a Biarritz green, but an island Biarritz green. Other Macdonald favorites are also at The Creek, including the Eden, Redan and Short.
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Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Resort G. Cse., 14th hole

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Quicksilver Studios

One of the more unique experiences in golf can be found in Coeur d’Alene, where golfers hit their tee shot to a large island-green target at the 14th, which is moved back and forth remotely by the resort each day. Then golfers hop aboard a ferry, which transports them to putt out. The hole is located right out back the clubhouse, creating a fun scene at this course, designed by Scott Miller, a former Jack Nicklaus associate.

Coeur D'Alene Golf Club
Public
Coeur D'Alene Golf Club
Coeur D Alene, ID
Coeur D'Alene Golf Club is one of the best courses in Idaho. Discover our experts reviews and where The Idaho Club ranks in our rankings
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Cherry Hills Country Club, Cherry Hills Village, Colo., 17th hole

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Evan Schiller

The island green concept is incorporated into a par 5 at Cherry Hills, the iconic William Flynn and Howard Toomey design perhaps most known for its opening hole, driven by Arnold Palmer in the final round of the 1960 U.S. Open.

Private
Cherry Hills Country Club
Englewood, CO, United States
4.6
166 Panelists
When Cherry Hills opened in the early 1920s, it was a ground-breaking design, with the nation’s first par-5 island green and closing back-to-back par 5s, although in championships the 18th is played as a par 4. In the 1960 U.S. Open, winner Arnold Palmer popularized the idea of a drivable par 4 by going for the first green in every round. Curiously, when Palmer and partner Ed Seay remodeled Cherry Hills in 1976, they lengthened the first hole so no player could duplicate Arnie’s feat. Nearly 40 years later, modern equipment has once again made the first hole reachable from the tee. A decade's worth of renovation and individual feature restoration by Tom Doak and Eric Iverson of Renaissance Golf have primed Cherry Hills for the next phase of its illustrious tournament history, which began with the 2023 U.S. Amateur.
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East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, 15th hole

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Chris Condon/PGA Tour/Getty Images

If Baltusrol was the site of the first island green in the U.S., East Lake might've had the second. Before Donald Ross and Bobby Jones redesigned the course in the 1910s, Tom Bendelow (architect of Medinah No. 3 among others) incorporated an island green into his design of the club's old par-5 seventh hole. When Ross rerouted the course, he decided to make the green a target for a par 3 (on the old front nine, which is now the back nine today for the Tour Championship). Given that Baltusrol's hole no longer exists, this very well may be the oldest island green still in use today. 

East Lake Golf Club
Private
East Lake Golf Club
Atlanta, GA, United States
Tom Bendelow actually laid out the original course at East Lake, back when it was known as Atlanta Athletic Club, and that was the layout upon which Stewart Maiden taught the game to the now-legendary Bobby Jones. Donald Ross basically built a new course on the same spot in 1915, which remained untouched until changes were made before the 1963 Ryder Cup. When Atlanta Athletic moved to the suburbs in the late 1960s, the intown East Lake location fell on hard financial times until being rescued in the 1990s by businessman Tom Cousins, who made it a sterling fusion of corporate and inner-city involvement. Rees Jones redesigned most holes beginning in the mid-90s, making the course more reflective of his views of championship golf. After the PGA Tour reversed the nines for the 2016 Tour Championship (flipping the unpopular par-3 finish into the ninth hole), the club made the new routing permanent for regular play. East Lake will undergo another major renovation following the 2023 Tour Championship, this time by Andrew Green, who will highlight the Donald Ross heritage.
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Eagle Eye G. Cse, Bath, Mich., 17th hole

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Dave Lee Photography

Longtime Dye associate Chris Lutzke called up his mentor when designing Eagle Eye to seek Dye’s opinion on his new creation. Pete and Alice thought the island-green concept could work, so much so that the exact dimensions were lasered and built exactly to the specs of TPC Sawgrass as it existed when the course opened in 2003—a proper touch at this layout, one of the top-10 public courses in golf-rich Michigan.

Eagle Eye Golf & Banquet Center: Eagle Eye
Public
Eagle Eye Golf & Banquet Center: Eagle Eye
East Lansing, MI, United States
4.3
41 Panelists
Chris Lutzke and Pete Dye collaborated on designing this links-style layout that has previously been ranked among our 100 Greatest Public. The course has many signature Dye elements, including steep greenside drop-offs, tiny pot bunkers and an island-green 17th, which closely mimics the famed original at TPC Sawgrass.
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Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort (Wolf), 15th hole

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Dye utilized the island template at the Wolf, one of three layouts of his at this resort located about 30 minutes off the Las Vegas Strip.

Public
Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort: Wolf
Las Vegas, NV
3.7
47 Panelists
You would never know you’re less than 30 miles from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip at this Pete Dye design, surrounded by barren desert and jagged peaks. In typical Dye fashion, there are plenty of risk-reward holes, including the split fairways at the par-5 sixth and the par-4 17th. The island green at the par-3 15th closely resembles Dye’s signature 17th at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course.
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Stone Harbor G.C., Cape May Court House, N.J., seventh hole

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Courtesy of the club

Originally designed by Desmond Muirhead, described by Golf Digest as one of the most innovative designers of our time, this hole has been transformed over the years. Intimidating, teeth-shaped bunkers once flanked either side of a football-shape green, but redesigns over the years have enlarged the green and made this target slightly less daunting, though it now plays longer than it once did.

Mission Hills Country Club (Tournament), Rancho Mirage, Calif., 18th hole

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David Cannon/Getty Images

Muirhead also designed the Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, which has hosted the first women’s major of the year, now the Chevron Championship, since the event started in 1972. The closing hole is a par 5 with an iconic approach to an island green, which now features grandstands behind the green, taking away a bit of the intimidation of hitting the approach to this par 5 with the tournament on the line. This year's Chevron will be the last time it's played at Mission Hills, with the tournament moving to a still-to-be-named Houston-area course in 2023.

The Club at Olde Cypress, Naples, Fla., 12th hole

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Courtesy of the club

One of Pete’s sons, P.B., has developed his own reputation in the design world. And he describes how the 12th hole at Olde Cypress came to be:

“At the time the developer needed a solution for the drainage and pumping from the surrounding agricultural fields,” P.B. told us. “So, I said, ‘Why don’t we build an island green.’ We moved a tremendous amount of earth up and down, not side to side, on that hole. Looking out at all those rock boulders from the tee box, it’s a sight to see. It’s one of the only holes of its kind that I know of.”

Man O’War, Myrtle Beach, 15th hole

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Golf Tourism Solutions

If you’re a fan of island greens, book Man O’War for your next Myrtle trip. Back-to-back holes offer island greens: The 14th is a short-range par 4 and the above is a short par 3 (about 125 yards) playing to a 48-yard wide, 65-yard deep green. The facility boasts itself as the only course with back-to-back island greens in America. Plus, it also has an “island hole” with water surrounding the fairway and green.

Public
Man O' War Golf Club
Myrtle Beach, SC
Water is the defining feature at Man O’ War, coming into play on nearly every hole. The Myrtle Beach layout features back-to-back island greens, including at the par-3 15th, which we ranked among golf’s best island greens. First, the 14th is a relatively short par 4 where the second shot plays over water. The par-3 15th is short—only about 125 yards—and plays to a 48-yard wide, 65-yard-deep island green. What’s more, there’s also an “island hole,” where water surrounds the fairway and green.
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Mission Inn Resort & Club (El Campeón), Howey-in-the-hills, Fla., 16th hole

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Russell Kirk

One of Florida’s oldest courses, El Campeón opened in 1917 and has kept its reputation as one of the tougher courses in state. Though not long, the par-4 16th does demand precision on your tee shot and approach with water surrounding the fairway and fronting the green. A moat of bunkers flanks the green on the back side, saving golfers with long approaches from a wet second shot.

Public
Mission Inn Resort & Club: El Campeon
Howey In The Hills, FL
Mission Inn Resort offers two courses which have hosted numerous amateur and professional events, including PGA Tour Latinoamerica Q school. The El Campeón course opened in 1917, making it one of the oldest courses in the area. The course is situated on steep hills with elevation changes of over 85 feet, and water is in play on most holes.
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Secession Golf Club, Beaufort, S.C., 17th hole

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Jon Cavalier

Though Bruce Devlin ended up getting the job at Secession, Pete and P.B. Dye had originally done a routing for the club before a dispute ended their relationship. The Dyes’ influence is certainly still on property, and the par-3 17th hole is almost straight out of their playbook, with an island green surrounded by bulkheads. Several holes at the ultra-private Secession actually sit on an island, and the 17th hole can be a true test, particularly when the winds pick up.

Private
Secession Golf Club
Beaufort, SC
Pete Dye and his son P.B. did the early routing of Secession, but when they left in a dispute with the developer, Bruce Devlin, a PGA Tour veteran who’d previously designed courses with Robert von Hagge, stepped in and finished something much in keeping with the then-prevailing Dye philosophy of low profile architecture. Greens were set at ground grade, protected by low humps and pot bunkers with vertical stacked-sod faces. Still, Devlin invariably left open the fronts of greens for running approach shots. The site itself is a peninsula in marsh, with several holes on individual islands. Secession demands a complete game, both aerial and ground, particularly in steady ocean breezes.
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Punta Mita Golf Club (Pacifico), Mexico, Hole 3B

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Photo by Jim Mandeville/The Nicklaus Companies

One of the most interesting greensites in the world is the optional green at Pacifico's par-3 third hole—with a green built out of an island outcropping 180 yards from the Pacific shore. The hole is weather-permitting: The green’s accessible only by amphibious vehicle, and the surf is too choppy at times to go back and forth—so there is another, landlocked hole to play.

Apple Tree Resort, Yakima, Wash., 17th hole

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Sitting on a 100-plus-year apple orchard about two hours from Seattle, Apple Tree provides an idyllic setting open to the public. The island-green 17th hole is pretty inviting, too—with nine sets of tee boxes and a putting surface measuring nearly 10,000 square feet and, yes, shaped like an apple.

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