Is Sawgrass' 17th the most riveting in golf?

Updated: March 20, 2006, 12:32 PM ET World

The Germans call it "schadenfreude." Though there is no literal English translation, it roughly means "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune."

It is the closest description for the giddy glee most gallery members will feel when watching tee shots at the 17th hole on TPC-Sawgrass' Stadium Course plummet from the sky and drop into the water that surrounds the peninsula green.

We can guarantee there will be plenty of attentive fans around the course's most famous hole come Thursday. But is it the most riveting in professional golf? Ron Sirak and Bob Harig debate that question in this week's edition of Alternate Shot.

Is No. 17 at Sawgrass the most riveting hole in professional golf?

Like it or not, the 17th at Sawgrass is nothing if not riveting.

First off, it is an island green. Now, a lot of purists dislike the hole exactly for that reason, the thinking being that a great golf hole has options in the way it can be played. On No. 17, you pretty much have only two options: Be on the green or be in the water.

And while that might be unsatisfying to some, it is not a bad thing to have on one hole in one tournament once a year. The design levied here by Pete Dye is enormously compelling, but what completes the intriguing nature of No. 17 is that it is No. 17.

Not only does the island green come on the next-to-last hole, it also comes between the risk/reward par-5 16th hole and the deliciously dangerous 18th hole. This is one of the greatest stretches of golf where literally a 5-stroke deficit can be wiped out in a three-hole stretch. Where else in all of golf do you see a professional's knees knocking with a short iron in his hand than on No. 17 at Sawgrass?

Say what you will about No. 17, but this is one of the safest bets in the game: Come Sunday afternoon in The Players Championship, the outcome of the tournament will be in the balance when several players come to No. 17.

What can be more riveting than that?

-- Ron Sirak
Golf World


For all of it's infamy, the par-3 17th at the TPC-Sawgrass is really a pretty simple hole for a professional golfer.

It is usually an 8-iron or 9-iron shot to a huge green. Unless the wind blows or the pressure turns the hands to mush, it is an easy par. From time to time, circumstances turn the hole into a circus, but it is hardly the most riveting hole in professional golf.

In fact, there are a good number of players who feel the hole is not right for such a prestigious tournament as The Players Championship, because there is no chance to recover from a mistake. If it's in the water, it's a double bogey. And if the greens get rock hard and the wind howls, things can get ridiculous.

Two more riveting examples exist on the back nine at Augusta National. The 12th and 16th holes are the sight of much more drama. Both offer risk and reward, and both are far more difficult targets to hit.

It is especially true at the 12th. At 155 yards, it always makes players nervous, no matter what point in the tournament. The narrowness of the green coupled with the slope into Rae's Creek in front of it makes missing the green short very scary. But missing long is no bargain, either, as it presents a very scary chip back to the pin, with the water lurking on the other side.

And here is a telling statistic: No. 12 ranks as the second-most difficult hole in Masters history and has never played under par for any of the previous 69 tournaments.

-- Bob Harig

Subscribe to:
Golf Digest
Golf DigestGolf for WomenGolf World