Contrary to what golf fans might think, Pete Dye didn’t invent the island green. In fact, incorporating the peninsula concept into TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole wasn’t even his idea (originally). The suggestion came from Dye’s wife and design partner Alice – and since the Players Championship venue opened in 1980, the one-shotter has become one of golf’s most iconic holes.
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The island green is not a revered ‘template’ like the famous Redan, Biarritz or other designs borrowed from iconic Scottish Links designs. However, it was probably first conceived by a Scot, George Low, the longtime club pro at Baltusrol Golf Club, who is said to have conceived the idea before the 1904 US amateur of creating an island green on a par 4 at the now defunct club to create Old Course (on the site of the current 16th hole of the Lower). Not surprisingly, the hole confused competitors and was eventually abandoned after the 1915 US Open.
Luckily for us, initial complaints from TPC Sawgrass and the 17th hole have led not only to acceptance, but to hundreds of iterations of the concept on golf courses around the world. There are dozens of deserving entries on this list, so we’ve tried to keep this as a collection of both lesser-known island greens and important island greens in golfing history.
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Ponte Vedra (Fla.) Inn & Club (Ocean), ninth hole
LC Lambrecht/Courtesy of the association
TPC Sawgrass’s 17th hole isn’t the only island green at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, nor was it the first. About 60 years earlier, Herbert Strong’s Ocean Course at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club opened with a par 3 ninth hole on an island green. After TPC Sawgrass was built, Alice Dye admitted that she was influenced by Strong’s creation here when recommending the island green to her husband, as Alice had played the ocean course in competitions a number of times.
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PGA West (stadium), La Quinta, California, 17th hole
Like TPC Sawgrass when it opened, PGA West received a healthy dose of criticism from tour professionals—so much that the Palm Springs PGA Tour event was temporarily removed from Dye’s La Quinta creation. Now it’s back on the field, and like TPC Sawgrass, PGA West’s field 17th hole has earned a reputation for (pretty) testing the pros all the way.
The links at Perry Cabin, St. Andrews, Md., 17th hole
Before Dye’s tragic downfall due to dementia, the last design he oversaw from start to finish was an overhaul of an existing course to build his own layout at The Links at Perry Cabin. Fittingly, some of Dye’s most famous holes have been incorporated into this route and the 17th hole is a near replica of his Sawgrass creation.
The Creek, Locust Valley, NY, 11th Hole (opening photo)
Widely regarded as the father of American golf course architecture, CB Macdonald brought many classic designs from the finest courses in the British Isles to the States. When designing the 11th hole at The Creek, he not only integrated a classic Biarritz-style putting surface, as is so often the case, but together with his partner Seth Raynor built the green on an island, making it perhaps one of the most underestimated putting complexes in the world created “MacRaynor” portfolio.
Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Resort G. Cse., 14th hole
One of the most unique golfing experiences can be found at Coeur d’Alene, where golfers tee off to a large island green target on the 14th that is remotely shuttled back and forth by the resort each day. Then, golfers board a ferry that takes them to the putt. Located just behind the clubhouse, the hole creates a fun scene on this course designed by Scott Miller, a former Jack Nicklaus employee.
Cherry Hills Country Club, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado, 17th hole
The island green concept is incorporated into a par 5 at Cherry Hills, the iconic design of William Flynn and Howard Toomey, perhaps best known for its opening hole, played by Arnold Palmer in the final round of the 1960 US Open.
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Eagle Eye G. Cse, Bath, Mich., 17th hole
Longtime Dye collaborator Chris Lutzke called his mentor while he was designing Eagle Eye to get 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 to exact specifications by TPC Sawgrass as it existed when the course opened in 2003 – a right touch on this layout , one of the top 10 public golf courses in golf-rich Michigan.
Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort (Wolf), 15th hole
Dye used the island template in The Wolf, one of three layouts he created at this resort, located about 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.
Stone Harbor GC, Cape May Court House, NJ, seventh hole
Originally designed by Desmond Muirfield and described by Golf Digest as one of the most innovative designers of our time, this hole has been transformed over the years. Intimidating, tooth-shaped bunkers once flanked either side of a football-shaped green, but redesigns over the years have enlarged the green, making this target a little less intimidating, although it now plays longer than it used to.
Mission Hills Country Club (Tournament), Rancho Mirage, California, 18th hole
David Cannon/Getty Images
Muirfield 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 began in 1972. The final hole is a par 5 with an iconic approach to an island green that now features grandstands behind the green which takes a little of the intimidation of hitting the approach to this par 5 with the tournament on the line. This year’s Chevron will be played at Mission Hills for the last time, with the 2023 tournament moving to a yet-to-be-named Houston-area venue.
The Club at Olde Cypress, Naples, Florida, 12th hole
One of Pete’s sons, PB, has carved his own reputation in the design world. And he describes how the 12th hole at Olde Cypress came about:
“Back then, the developer needed a solution for draining and pumping the surrounding agricultural fields,” PB tells us. “So I said, ‘Why don’t we build an island site?’ We moved an enormous amount of earth up and down this hole, not sideways. Looking at all the boulders from the tee is a sight to behold. It is one of the few holes of this type that I know of.”
Man O’War, Myrtle Beach, 15th hole
If you’re a fan of island veggies, book Man O’War for your next Myrtle trip. Back-to-back holes feature island greens: the 14th is a short par 4 and the top one is a short par 3 (approximately 125 yards) playing on a 48 yard wide, 65 yard deep green. The course boasts of being the only course with consecutive island greens in America. It also has an “island hole” with water surrounding the fairway and green.
Mission Inn Resort & Club (El Campeon), Howey-in-the-hills, Florida, 16th hole
One of Florida’s oldest golf courses, El Campeón opened in 1917 and has maintained its reputation as one of the toughest golf courses in the state. Although not long, the par 4 of 16 requires precision on your tee shot and approach as water surrounds the fairway and fronts the green. A moat of bunkers flanks the back green and protects long approach golfers from a wet second shot.
Secession Golf Club, Beaufort, SC, 17th hole
Although Bruce Devlin eventually got the job at the Secession, Pete and PB Dye had originally routed for the club before a falling out ended their relationship. The Dyes influence is certainly still on the property and the par 3 17th hole is almost straight out of their playbook, with an island green surrounded by Scots. Several holes at the ultra-private Secession are actually on an island, and the 17th hole can be a real test, especially when the wind picks up.
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita (Pacifico), Mexico, Hole 3B
Photo by Jim Mandeville/The Nicklaus Companies
One of the most interesting green sites in the world is the optional green on Pacifico’s par 3 third hole – featuring a green constructed from an island that emerges 180 yards from the Pacific coast. The hole is weather dependent: the green is only accessible by amphibious vehicles and the surf is sometimes too choppy to walk back and forth – so there’s another landlocked hole to play at.
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Apple Tree Resort, Yakima, Washington, 17th hole
Located on a 100+ year old apple orchard about two hours from Seattle, Apple Tree offers an idyllic setting that is open to the public. The island green 17th hole is also quite inviting – with nine sets of tee boxes and a putting surface that measures almost 10,000 square feet and is, yes, shaped like an apple.
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