Architect Herbert Bertram Strong, if he were still around, would hopefully take it as a compliment that I had played three island par 3s elsewhere in Florida before finally tackling his masterpiece.
You see, it was Strong – not Pete Dye – who gave birth to the island hole, in 1928 at the Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. Decades before TPC Sawgrass’ famed 17th on the Stadium Course, arguably the most famous hole in golf, the Ocean Course had a sink-or-swim par 3.
There have been many imitators in Florida and beyond, but there’s only one original.
Strong’s island hole is the 144-yard par-3 ninth on the Ocean Course, similar in design to the course’s other 17 holes. There is plenty of slope on an elevated green, allowing for some tough pin positions, and multiple deep bunkers waiting to catch errant shots. There are also some chipping areas that catch near-misses.
The difference, though, is that really errant shots are destined to be wet. Short, long and right is water, and left is a cart bridge and more water.
In 1980, Alice Dye played it while her husband was down the street laying out TPC Sawgrass. Alice enjoyed it and told Pete that it would be an intriguing addition to his course, and the most famous copy of the Ocean Course’s ninth hole was born.
Elsewhere in Florida, Grand Cypress’ East Course in Orlando has an island hole, as does Tom Watson’s Hammock Beach Conservatory Course in Palm Coast – just to name two. There are others in Florida, and all across the country.
I bet Herbert Bertram Strong would approve. You know what they say about imitation.
If you go
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club
200 Ponte Vedra Boulevard