The Loop

What it's like to take a crack at TPC Sawgrass' "other" island green

May 12, 2016

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- If you come to the Players this week, you'll undoubtedly spend some time at TPC Sawgrass' 17th hole. But while you're on the grounds, you may as well take a crack at the "other" island green on the property.

A shrunken replica of golf's most famous par 3 (102 yards shorter, to be exact) is in the Stadium Village, which sits near the 18th green. And fans can play it by taking part in the PwC First Tee Challenge.


Why wouldn't you? Just look at that thing:


It's just begging people to give it a try. And so is the fact that you get two balls for free. Although for a $5 donation to The First Tee, you get a third attempt. And for $20, you get an all-day pass.

Sounds fun, right? Even big names like Tim Tebow and Anthony Kim have given mini-17 a shot:


Unfortunately, there were no AK sightings on Thursday, but there was just a short line when I passed by, so I signed up and hopped in line. Did I mention there are prizes? A sleeve of Bridgestone golf balls if you hit the green. A $100 in Bridgestone bucks if you hole the shot. So has anyone made it?

"We've had four already this morning," a volunteer says. I check my watch to see it's not yet 11 a.m. This must be easy, I think as I remember hearing about colleague Geoff Shackelford pulling it off a few years ago.

"We've seen one bounce off the roof and go in," he continues. "There are all different ways to make it."

OK, so it's not exactly the same as the real thing. I don't recall Rickie Fowler banking a shot off the ceiling during his Sunday birdie binge on the hole last year.

Still, it feels like the real thing. As I get closer in line, the jitters set in. "Ohhhh, Inside the ropes," another volunteer says reading my press pass. Great. Even more pressure.

Finally, it's my turn. My heart starts to race as I plunk my three balls down, take a quick practice swing, and fire:


Splash. I caught that one fatter than Jordan Spieth on No. 12 at the Masters. Attempt No. 2? The same watery fate. Why did I subject myself to such public humiliation?

Down to my last ball, the pressure was really on. But this time, I make clean contact.


Maybe too clean. The ball hits the green and I panic as it hops toward the water on the left before stopping on the fringe. "That counts!" a voice behind me says. And here's the proof:


OK, I can breathe now.