The best island greens in golf

April 21, 2017

Ever since the Players Championship debuted at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, golfers have been thrilled and chilled by the sight of the Stadium course’s ultimate water torture: the island green at 17. Love them or loathe them, island greens will get your blood pumping. If you can’t resist their devilish allure, here are three of the game’s most magnificently challenging island greens. (Plus: great ways to kick back after you’ve tamed them!)

TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)

Hole 17, 137 yards, par 3

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

In all of golf, there isn’t a par 3 that more consistently induces cold sweats. Pete Dye’s most famous design (conceived with significant input from his wife, Alice) requires only a short iron from the tips. But to hit and hold its undulating, wind-buffeted, apple-shaped green requires perfect distance and trajectory—and, as you’ll see at this month’s Players Championship, a little help from the island-green gods.

What a round costs: $495

The other 17 holes: Dye’s imaginatively conceived track has anointed winners including Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and this year’s defending Players champ, Jason Day. For drama, shotmaking variety and memorable individual holes that demand a blend of power and finesse, Sawgrass has few equals. New for 2017 are a handful of renovated holes, most notably the 12th, which has been transformed into a drivable par 4.

Top area attraction: Serious fans of golf history will not want to pass up a visit to the World Golf Hall of Fame, in St. Augustine, about 30 minutes south of TPC. Class of “17 inductees includes Davis Love III, Lorena Ochoa and Ian Woosnam.

Le Golf National (Albatros)

Hole 18, 492 yards, par 4/5

Guyancourt, France

Arguably the toughest island green in tournament golf will get its close-up at the 2018 Ryder Cup near Paris. For mortals, No. 18 at Le Golf National (Albatros) is a challenging par 5, while the game’s best will play it as a white-knuckle par 4. A strip of turf connects the green to LGN’s second island green, at 15. These two treacherous holes will surely lead to a chorus of “Sacré bleu!” from both sides.

What a round costs: $185

The other 17 holes: Home to the French Open since 1991, this bold, brutal layout an hour south of Paris challenges elite players with its 7,300-yard length, stadium-style hillsides and water hazard–lined holes. Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Retief Goosen are among the U.S. Open winners who’ve triumphed here.

Top area attraction: Versailles, just 20 minutes north of the course, is the preserved 1680s palace that was home to King Louis XIV. The baroque gardens, Hall of Mirrors and Grand Trianon are iconic monuments to royal life.

Bro Hof Slott Golf Club (Stadium)

Hole 17, 150 yards, par 3

Bro, Sweden

When he captured the 2016 Nordea Masters, Euro-comer Matthew Fitzpatrick didn’t seem too cowed by this island green. Yet when the wind turns nasty—as it did in the final round of the same event, in 2011—the hole can be among the toughest on earth. Native son Alexander Noren shot a 77 that day and still won by seven.

What a round costs: $169–$282

The other 17 holes: This 2007 Robert Trent Jones II design in Bro, 25 miles northwest of Stockholm, stretches to nearly 8,000 yards. Sprawling bunkers, lakes (it sits atop a huge fjord) and gallery areas make this a potential Ryder Cup site.

Top area attraction: Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town) dates to medieval times and blends the perfect mix of historical and modern touches. Not to be missed along its cobblestone streets are the Royal Palace (where King Carl XVI Gustaf resides), the Nobel Museum and the Stockholm Cathedral.