Some purists might find the idea of an “island green” a little on the contrived side when it comes to golf course architecture, but for almost everyone else, a do or die approach shot or tee shot on a par 3 with an island green is as exciting as it gets!
Often it is a single hole that stands out most in the memory when golfers look back fondly at their favourite golf courses, and it’s probably fair to say holes featuring island greens regularly fall into the “signature hole” category. Of course, “island greens” are mostly not really on islands in the strictest sense of the word, but surrounded by water and with narrow walkways often being the only bit of land connecting the greens to the main body of land the courses in question are set upon, we’ll let that slide.
With that in mind we thought we’d take a look at 10 of the best island greens in golf, some of which you’ll surely be aware of, but others too that perhaps aren’t yet on your radar…
1) TPC Sawgrass, Stadium Course – Hole 17 (USA)
2) Coeur d’Alene – Hole 14 (USA)
3) Punta Mita, Pacifico Course – Hole 3B (Mexico)
4) Blue Canyon CC, Canyon Course – Hole 14 (Thailand)
5) Mission Hills Faldo Course – Hole 16 (China)
6) TPC Scottsdale, Stadium Course – Hole 15 – (USA)
7) Lofoten Links – Hole 2 (Norway)
8) Sueno Dunes Course – Hole 18 (Turkey)
9) PGA West, Stadium Course – Hole 17 (USA)
10) Bro Hof Slott, Stadium Course – Hole 17 (Sweden)
TPC Sawgrass, Stadium Course – Hole 17
It would almost be rude to kick this list off with any other hole than the most famous of all the island greens in golf: the par 3 17th at TPC Sawgrass. The annual host of The Players Championship is undoubtedly one of the most famous golf courses in the world and there’s an argument that could be made that its signature hole is the most famous in all of golf.
The 17th at Sawgrass may only measure 137 yards and during The Players Championship it often plays even shorter than that, but it has the ability to strike fear into even the world’s best players, thanks in large part to the wind that swirls around the green. You might only need a 9 iron or a wedge to reach the putting surface, but a watery grave is a certainty for anything other than a well-struck shot!
Coeur d’Alene – Hole 14
How do you top the island green on the 17th hole at Sawgrass? Well, the famous course in Jacksonville features a narrow walkway that takes players to the green, so why not build a hole where the green is only accessible by boat?! Better still, why not build a par 3 green only accessible by boat that is also able to move via a giant pulley system? This is exactly what awaits golfers visiting the amazing Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.
The par 3 14th green here was built on a huge barge and sits just off the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The hole is truly spectacular and thanks to a series of underwater cables, the green can be moved so that the hole can measure anything from a mildly intimidating flick with a wedge right up to an unfathomable 275 yards! Be sure to pack plenty of floating golf balls if you want to make it off this tee before sundown!
Punta Mita, Pacifico Course – Hole 3B
Also known as the ‘Tail of the Whale’, this stunning par 3 may not be the most well-known of holes but it is easily good enough to make it onto this list! The tee shot is played from just off a white sandy beach out to the green that sits on a rocky outcrop connected to the land by the thinnest sliver of land imaginable.
Only accessible via a six-wheeled amphibious golf cart at low tide, this is the only natural island green in the world today. At the very least taking a dip to find a lost ball here is altogether more appealing than in the murky, alligator and snapping turtle-infested water surrounding the 17th at Sawgrass!
Blue Canyon CC, Canyon Course – Hole 14
The Blue Canyon Country Club in Phuket is the premier golf resort on the island and perhaps in the whole of Thailand. It boasts two fantastic courses; the Lakes and the Canyon. The Canyon is the tougher of the two and as such it was picked to host the Johnnie Walker Classic in 1994; a tournament where a young Tiger Woods was one of the main attractions.
The entire course is a beauty but arriving on the 14th tee brings a sense of excitement that only an island green par 3 can muster. With a yardage just shy of 200 yards from the back tees and a significant elevation change this hole is a really tough nut to crack; throw in the vibrant tropical flowers and a bit of sunshine and this is surely one of the finest par 3s in the world today.
Mission Hills, Faldo Course – Hole 16
Mission Hills in China may just have a rightful claim to be the best golf resort in the world. Set in a magical setting in Shenzhen, the resort not only boasts multiple world-class clubhouses and a mind-boggling array of facilities but no less than twelve championship golf courses as well.
The courses were designed by leading architects and legendary players including the likes of Jumbo Ozaki, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Greg Norman and Sir Nick Faldo. Faldo’s course boasts the only island green in the region and it is every bit as spectacular as the others on this list. This hole is very much like the more famous 17th at Sawgrass, albeit in a much more spectacular setting, and is just one of many highlights to be found at Mission Hills.
TPC Scottsdale, Stadium Course – Hole 15
While most island greens come on par 3 holes, the 15th on the stunning Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale is a par 5 with just such a green. Unusually, this isn’t the most famous hole on the golf course, which of course comes at the par 3 16th; one of the most notorious holes on the PGA Tour calendar. The Waste Management Open’s 16th hole is completely encircled by fans and is known as “The Loudest Hole in Golf”.
An intimidating prospect indeed, so it’s just as well that despite featuring a green completely surrounded by water, the par 5 15th offers up a good birdie chance for golfers of all abilities…subject to their choice of tees of course! 2002 PGA Championship winner and Sky Sports commentator Rich Beem says, “It has been one of the best risk/reward holes we play.”
Lofoten Links – Hole 2
OK, so we’re playing it a little fast and loose with the term “island green” on this one, but when you look at the photo of this incredible par 3, we’re sure you’ll forgive us! The 2nd green at Lofoten Links in Norway may as well be an island green because let’s be honest; if you don’t hit the putting surface with your tee shot, you’re more than likely gonna lose your golf ball!
Lofoten Links is one of the most beautiful and unique golf courses in the world, where at certain times of the year you can play golf around the clock when the sun doesn’t go down in the Arctic Circle, and even under the Northern Lights if you’re lucky! The par 3 2nd is one of many incredibly beautiful holes here and while it only measures a little over 150 yards from the back tees, this semi-island green demands the most accurate of tee shots.
Sueno Dunes Course – Hole 18
The Sueno Golf Resort in Turkey is one of the best in the Belek region, with two 18 hole golf courses right on the doorstep of an all-inclusive hotel. Both the Pines and the Dunes Courses weave their way through forests of mature umbrella pines and while water hazards are commonplace throughout all 36 holes, it is certainly most prominent on the par 4 18th hole on the Dunes Course.
This challenging par 4 measures around 400 yards from the back tees so it’s not overly long, but once in play off the tee, golfers must strike their approach shots straight and true in order to find the island green safely. How do you make an island green more intimidating? Place it within view of the countless golfers enjoying a drink or two on the clubhouse terrace having already finished their rounds. If you’re playing this course, we hope you like an audience!
PGA West, Stadium Course – Hole 17
Another 17th hole, another par 3, and another Pete Dye design. You’d be forgiven for thinking that legendary designer Pete Dye was simply up to his old tricks at PGA West when he designed the Stadium Course and another island green par 3, but fearing both the original and duplicate holes would lose their “uniqueness”, he was actually quite reluctant to bow to requests from PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, and PGA West’s developers Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser.
After eventually agreeing, Dye made sure that while the two holes were aesthetically similar, the challenge presented to the golfer was very different indeed. He named the penultimate hole here “Alcatraz” and it’s easy to see why considering how hard it is to escape with a par. This demanding par 3 is 30 yards longer than the 17th at Sawgrass and the green is bordered with boulders, making it fit perfectly into its desert surroundings.
Bro Hof Slott, Stadium Course – Hole 17
The Stadium Course at Bro How Slott in Sweden is one of the most spectacular courses to have been opened for play in Europe this side of the turn of the millennium. We’d advise visiting golfers not to take the course on from the back tees, where it stretches to almost 8,000 yards in length, but regardless of which tee position you choose to play from, the equation is simple at the par 3 17th. (What is it with “Stadium Courses”, 17th holes, and island greens??)
From the back tees this par 3 measures 164 yards and while it doesn’t feature a single bunker unless your tee shot somehow manages to end up sitting on the narrow concrete walkway to the green, nothing but a purely struck iron shot onto the putting surface will suffice here.