PGA Tour estimates that between 100,000 to 120,000 golf balls wind up in the water here every year. The 17th hole and green are surrounded by water on most sides. This makes this place one of the most infamous water hazards in all of the sports of golf around the world.
TPC Sawgrass is the PGA Tour’s home course. It hosts The Players Championship. That’s the crown-jewel tournament for the PGA.
Pete and Alice Dye designed The Players Stadium Course with the intention of hosting the tournament. It’s famous for the 17th hole among active golfers and those who watch on TV.
The 17th hole is a par-3. The green is actually an island, and it derails the ambitions of some of the best golfers in the world hoping to win The Players. While everyone tries to get their first ball over the water and on the green, many wind up putting balls into the water.
Some of them even wind up putting multiple balls in the water before hitting the green successfully. In golf, every ball lost into the water counts as a stroke. On top of the embarrassment of launching a ball into the water, every golfer that does it winds up adding another point to their score in a game where low scores win.
If 100,000 or more balls in the water sound like a lot because of professional players, then you should know that pros aren’t the only ones that play the course. When it’s not hosting PGA activities, amateurs can also play the course. This is something many golfers love doing since they get to play the same fairways and greens that their idols on TV do.
Given the Florida location of TPC Sawgrass, golfing happens here all year long. There can be multiple players putting balls in the water here all day, every day. Many amateur players who see and remember what the 17th hole looks like on television find out for themselves the personal experience of actually playing it.
The PGA Tour doesn’t provide public data on how many rounds are actually played on this course on a yearly basis. However, based on anecdotal data for the number of players here each year, the average player is likely losing three or four golf balls in the water on this hole alone. That’s just an average, however.
Many players get to the green without losing a single ball. On the other hand, some players wind up using a whole box of balls. If they run out of balls in their golf bag, they might wind up forfeiting the match. Then again, amateur players might also borrow balls from people they are playing with. They might also pack extra that day knowing what is ahead of them.
The averages would probably be higher if it weren’t for the pros. While water balls happen at the pro tour event, pro players are less likely to do it. The Thursday rounds of The Players Championship are when most of the balls going into the water will happen. As the better players advance into the second round, there aren’t as many balls going into the water. The weekend round sees the fewest water hits.
The actual number of golf balls in the water may never be known. Some get buried under sand and sediment at the bottom. Others might even get eaten by snakes and alligators.
The professionals responsible for retrieving golf balls from this water hazard have encountered both animals in the water there. They routinely carry a gator knife to defend themselves, although reportedly none have ever needed to use one.
In one day, a retrieval specialist might come back with as many as 2,000 golf balls. Those that can be salvaged and cleaned get put back into circulation. Many are sold to driving ranges, but better ones might be sold on an actual golf course.