The Other 17 Rebels


I just wasnt sure who else to call, the man said.
And I wasnt sure how to answer. Its not every day in golf journalism that you get a call from the National Labor Relations Board.
Strangest organization application Ive ever received, the confused man said. Why would 17 golf holes want to unionize?
Let me have your name again, I said, and tell me about the application.
Bureaucrat. Byron T. Bureaucrat, my caller said. And it reads like this: We, the other 17 holes at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, hereby petition the NLRB for an election to organize a labor union and to begin collective bargaining to secure equal rights to those enjoyed by the 17th hole, also known as the Island Green.
Oh, I understand, I said. Theyre just jealous of all the popularity enjoyed by the one par-3 everyone loves to hate and hates to love.
Mr. Bureaucrat was still a bit at sea, so I explained in detail.
Never has one golf course ' a very good golf course, as a whole ' been so entirely defined by one hole. No grass between tee and green, just acres of all-too-penetrable water. It reduces the best players in the world to hit-and-hope, gut-check fear, all strategy out the window. Most of the time theyre looking to damage a hole with birdies. On this one, theyre deliriously happy to leave with par, sometimes bogey.
And yet people cant get enough of this hole. Its photographed more than Britney Spears outside a liquor store. You can see it played live on the Internet. The spectator mounds and hospitality chalets all around it are jammed with fans. Golfers dream of playing the hole, knowing full well that if it drives the pros crazy, it will likely shred a recreational players ego like last months credit card bill.
Theres simply no mindshare left for the other 17 holes. And theyve had enough.
Take the 16th. What a par-5, huh? Ask Fred Funk, whose massive 3-iron helped him set up a popular win. Drive it left center, but not too far left, or youll be blocked out by a big tree. The green looks tiny from the fairway, and the same pond that defines 17 is to the right.
How about the opener? No. 1 is a simple enough par-4, but the cross bunker that covers most of the right side can give you some pause right out of the gate. No. 6 is a gorgeous short par-4 with an elevated green framed by tall palms. But the 3-wood tee shot has to get under an overhanging oak limb, and the landing area isnt all that wide.
No. 9? Freaky-tough par 5; hardly anyone gets there in two and the green is smaller than your checking account the day before payday. No. 7 is all the par-4 you can eat at 440-plus yards, and if you flare your approach right, theres a set of hungry bunkers waiting.
And then theres No. 18. One of the most testing finishing holes in golf, tempting you to go left center of the fairway to set up a long second ' but how about all that water down the left side? Huh? Ask Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and a dozen other pros whose death move is left. Go too far right to bail out, though, and the approach is too long to allow any sort of accuracy.
So its no surprise that all these holes want what No. 17 has. The respect. The love. The PR. The juice.
Mr. Bureaucrat considered, then told me he was going to grant the application. He had enjoyed our discussion, he said, but he had to move on to the next application. He read some of the particulars to me: It was from eastern Georgia. Seems the 17 applicants were annoyed with someone named No. 12.
I quickly pleaded another engagement and hung up.