The notorious 17th hole on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai
The notorious 17th hole on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

A short par-three. It is the 17th hole and you are vying for the lead. Grab a wedge and pop it on the dancefloor. Easy.

That is the theory, but trying to put that into practice has seen the demise of many a golf professional over the years at TPC Sawgrass’ infamous 17th island hole.

Only this week, more players seemed to find water than green in horrendous conditions at the Players Championship in Florida.

During such torrid weather, Shane Lowry stood alone as he aced the hole while pretty much all others succumbed, calling it “unhittable”.

The Irish golfer became only the 10th player to record a hole in one on the 17th in the tournament’s 47-year history.

The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass
The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass Image Credit: AFP

The hole is notorious for swallowing up players’ tee shots in the water surrounding the green. Amid tough, windy and sometimes wintry weather conditions, 14 shots were hit into the water on Sunday during the completion of the second round alone — the competition is still ongoing even though we are well past the expected Sunday finish.

To give some perspective, if you get the chance, take a look online at Fred Couples’ majestic performance on the hole back in 1999 — and that was just for a par.

Closer to home, the Jumeirah Golf Estates’ signature 17th was inspired by the notorious Sawgrass monster. Both holes are simple on paper, but in reality they are entirely different beasts.

“While, thankfully, I have never had to experience the 17th at Sawgrass is such conditions, we have our own torment here at the Earth Course,” Stephen Hubner, Jumeirah Golf Estates Director of Golf, explained to Gulf News. “Greg Norman designed the whole course and of course the 17th here is often likened to the infamous hole at Sawgrass. Both are surrounded by water on all sides and — apart from that mental factor playing on your mind of getting wet — holes like this are tricky for a number of other reasons.

“It sounds easy as it can play as short as 93 yards from the front tees, but on a championship day, that goes back to 195 yards and, with a tricky pin position, it can be next to impossible to break par. This factors into a lot of golfers’ heads and they end up playing safe rather than risk getting into the water.

“We have four different tees at the 17th and they all play very differently. The one factor in all of them is the water and it can be very easy to find it.

“Standing over your ball — even though it looks short — it is such an intimidating hole and can play as long as 215 yards. That is no pitch and putt.

“We also have trees all along the left hand side of the tee with really narrows the perspective and any errant shots will be punished.”

So what happens to all those balls that are never recovered by the players?

“From time to time, divers come in to clear out the water,” says Hubner. “They are a private company and I am sure they have a big collection.”

Despite the tough finish to the ‘Golden Mile’ at the Earth Course, most players who have played the 17th on the Earth Course at the DP World Tour Championship have nothing but positive things to say about the challenge.

“Every player is in the same boat when it comes to holes like this,” Hubner says. “A lot of the guys give nothing but great feedback. They love the course — especially 15 to 18, where anything can happen and make of break a round. Only a few months ago, Rory McIlroy came a cropper over the final few holes at the DP World Tour championship just when he looked like winning, only to get swallowed up by Collin Morikawa. It can be a ruthless game, regardless of how good you are.”

Hubner admits that he himself — still a professional golfer despite not playing as often as he used to — has had a painful experience on the 17th at JGE.

“I am still playing but not so much over the past 10 years,” he says. “I recall playing in the PGA Championships here — we had one round on the Earth Course and one on at Dubai Creek. During the first round I was actually leading on two-under as we got to the 17th. The pin was at the front of the green and I just lost the plot. I shanked my shot, pinged it off a garden wall and found some mulch. I walked all the way up, discovered I could not play or take a drop and had to go all the way back and take three off the tee, before I three putted. To make matters worse I took a nine on the last to drop from two-under to five-over.”

So next time you see a golfer line up a simple wedge to an island green, bear in mind the agony that lies just ahead.

Grab a wedge and pop it on the dancefloor. Easy?