How do amateurs play the 17th at Sawgrass? One word: Reload!

Friday May 13th, 2016
Trevor Johnston Illustration

When the world's best golfers tackle the Stadium Course's 17th hole at the Players Championship each May, history has taught us what to expect: a gurgle here and there, a handful of hollow thwacks as wayward tee shots ricochet off the railroad ties, but mostly a bunch of ho-hum two-putt pars; the average score during last year's Players: 3.095. Less closely analyzed is what happens on this hole every other week of the year, when the pros are gone and golfers like you stand over one of the game's most daunting short shots. In pursuit of cold, hard data, a few years back we spent a typical Saturday at the 17th hole to monitor every swing, shank and kerplunk with the same laser-guided technology employed by the stat heads on the PGA Tour. The result? It wasn't pretty.

48.53% TEE SHOTS IN WATER

Trevor Johnston Illustration

DUNK CONTEST: A closer look at the stats

112 — Yardage from the middle tees
15.5 — Average handicap
2 — Number of topped tee shots that didn't reach the water
4 — Longest run of consecutive pars
6 — Longest run of consecutive tee shots that found the water
10 — Longest run of consecutive bogeys or worse
33 — Handicap of one of the only two players who made birdie
1 — Number of golfers who stiffed it to 3 feet–and missed the putt

AMATEURS VS. PROS

*The above graph shows how amateurs played the 17th during one day in 2011 compared to how the pros played it during all four rounds of the 2015 Players Championship.

DIGGING DEEPER

ABOUT THIS STUDY
We collected our data on Feb. 19, 2011, an idyllic Saturday at Sawgrass with very little wind, clear skies and a high temperature of 78 degrees. The hole was cut near the middle of the green, on the top tier, and the tee shot played 25 yards shorter than the listed hole yardage. In short, scoring conditions were favorable. Every shot was mapped by the PGA Tour's exclusive ShotLink tracking system.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN