The Flower Hole: Robert Trent Jones, Jr’s Mona Lisa at SentryWorld

Deeming it his “Mona Lisa,” the par three 16th at SentryWorld is one of the most recognizable and unique golf holes in the world, and one of the most celebrated in the storied career of famed course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

Over 30,000 flowers are planted around the Flower Hole every year – always differently designed with updated colorways and annuals for each season.

But how did this beautiful, wonderfully aromatic golf hole come about?

The story goes that when then Chairman of Sentry Insurance, John Joanis, was originally working with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and his team on the course design at SentryWorld, they wanted to make sure every par three was exciting and offered charm.

When they came to the sixteenth, there was something missing. The hole lacked that certain je ne sais quoi to make it truly memorable.

One of their original ideas was to create an island hole. Joanis was not excited about that, though, and Trent Jones, Jr., who had recently been to France, came up with the idea of creating an “Ocean of flowers” (similar to the seas of tulip beds he’d enjoyed in Europe). He worked up a sketch, Joanis loved it and the Flower Hole was born.

The Flower Hole has since become an iconic hole in golf, and the foremost feature most golf enthusiasts recall about SentryWorld. Trent Jones, Jr., in fact, called this hole “Very possibly his Mona Lisa.”

Although the play of the Flower Hole has not changed over the years – they preserved its heritage throughout multiple significant course renovations – thousands more petunias, zinnias and begonias have been added over time to bring the total count to around 33,000 flowers.

Unlike a true water feature, this ocean of flowers is not only more beautiful than the average pond but also provides more relief. The “Chairman’s Rule” is in effect at all times providing a free drop if hit in to the flowers. Enter them to find your ball or hit from inside a flower bed and risk losing golfing privileges at SentryWorld for life.

I’ve always wanted to photograph the Flower Hole and finally had the opportunity to on Thursday during their US Senior Open media day. It was everything I wanted it to be, with the flowers in full bloom and absolutely perfect weather. The only thing that would have been better is if I’d had the opportunity to shoot it during the golden hour at sunrise or sunset.

I’ll be able to do just that Tuesday when I revisit with videographers Jeff Bertch (Instagram: @linkslandphoto), Kyle Walton (Instagram: @kylecwalton) and my buddy Scott as part of the WSGA’s “Wisconsin Captured” initiative.

Wisconsin Captured will feature some of the state’s top golf content creators playing and “Doing their creative thing” at the state’s top 10 courses according to Golf Digest, which include:

  1. Whistling Straits, Straits course (#3)
  2. Erin Hills (#9)
  3. Blackwolf Run, River course (#16)
  4. Sand Valley, Sand Valley course (#18)
  5. Sand Valley, Mammoth Dunes course (#29)
  6. Whistling Straits, Irish course (#47)
  7. SentryWorld (#50)
  8. Lawsonia, Links course (#68)
  9. Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys course (#74)
  10. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms (#91)

I have been assigned as Content Creator for both SentryWorld (on Tuesday 7/19/22) and The Bull at Pinehurst Farms (on Wednesday 7/27/22), and hope to join for several others especially for the opportunity to take drone photography at them.

The project is an homage to our state’s top golf courses by its top creatives, and replaces the “WSGA Internship” initiative that had Patrick Koenig touring Wisconsin last year, playing 76 courses in 50 days (I was able to join him for the Club at Lac La Belle, Kenosha Country Club & The Pond and North Hills Country Club).

I’m honored to be a part of this project and look forward to getting to know other talented content creators along the way. The list – if you’re on Instagram you’ll want to give them all a follow – includes:

  • Keith Lally (Instagram: @thesweetspotgolf)
  • Dylan Bloch (Instagram: @dylangolfs)
  • Jerry Rossi (Instagram: @putt4dough24)
  • Michael Lindeke: (Instagram: @beautifulgolfcourses)
  • Drew Westphal (Instagram: @everydaydrew)
  • Jason John Jahnke (Instagram: @jasonjohnjahnke)
  • Clark Willard (Instagram: @hickoryrevival)

2023 Updates:

More on the Wisconsin Captured project, including links to all the posts, can be found here:

SentryWorld has also been re-reviewed since 2021, by Brian Murphy ahead of the 2023 US Senior Open, and features plenty more beautiful images of the world-famous Flower Hole:

My interview with Mark Rolfing prior to the start of the 2023 US Senior Open at SentryWorld:

I’m really excited to get back to SentryWorld, a course I’ve come to love over the years, and hope to improve on the photos and video Troy and I got last week.

Speaking of which, I have also updated the photography in my 2021 review of SentryWorld, which you can view here:

While I’m looking forward to Tuesday, SentryWorld is most excited for the end of June 2023, which will see the U.S. Senior Open played on-site. Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and others will be tested well at this RTJ II gem, and the action should be riveting to watch on TV and will I’m sure feature the Flower Hole prominently.

The Flower Hole 16th at SentryWorld

So stay tuned for lots more great SentryWorld material coming soon, especially on my Instagram account and YouTube channel.

The Flower Hole, along with the 17th, 18th, The Inn at SentryWorld and massive clubhouse

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