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Note the wind and look for a 15-wood

It's right there when you walk into the River Ridge Golf Club clubhouse _ a large picture of a majestic island hole that immediately begs this thought:

Why do they have a picture of the No. 17 hole at Sawgrass?

You ask. They tell you. It's not Sawgrass. It's River Ridge No. 4.

And you find that exciting. You're going to play that hole _ an island green. You can't wait.

"It's our signature hole," said Russ Christy, the general manager. "It's a unique characteristic of our course. If they don't remember the name of the course, they remember it as the course with the island hole.

"We have that picture here in the clubhouse. It brings a lot of people here."

If you want a signature hole that people will remember, then this is how you do it: Stick a green in the middle of a pond.

The thought of playing such a unique hole _ the picture is stunning _ can make the three holes before it an afterthought.

River Ridge is the only course in the area that features such a hole. That alone means the course is a memorable play. Christy says that people come to play the course just so they can get a crack at the island. Built in 1985 and designed by Ron Garl, the No. 4 is not one of a kind, but it was close to being the first of its kind in Florida.

"It's a selling point," Christy said. "We get people out here who just want to get to that hole. It's so unique. The only one I've seen is Sawgrass. And I believe ours was first. It was one of the first in the state."

The beauty and rarity of the hole gives way to its toughness once you step onto the tee box. Do you play wedge? 9-iron? How about a 7? Or for the retirees who can be seen on the course every morning, why not a 7-wood?

True story: The last hole-in-one on No. 4 came in June by a fella named Claude Witt. He used a 15-wood.

A 15-wood.

"It's like a sand wedge," Christy said.

Of course, the club you choose to play from any of the tee boxes _ at 60, 95 and 108 yards _will depend mainly on the wind. The green is 3,800 square feet, and there is 15 feet around it, so you have to be precise. The wind can make that impossible.

Christy says there are few good days where the wind is concerned.

"It is seldom at your back, almost never," he said. "If it's blowing or swirling, it is a tough hole. Usually, there's always a crosswind or it's in your face."

If it's in your face, take an 8-iron. If there's a crosswind, take a minute to pray.

"Man, it's really tough when it is a crosswind," Christy said. "Then you hit a good shot up into the air, and the wind will take that right away."

Into the drink. The green isn't particularly tiny, but the pressure of having no margin for error makes the pond a popular landing area.

"We get a lot of comments about that hole," Christy said.

As well they should. It alone makes River Ridge, a smaller executive course that can be overlooked by the avid golfer, an enjoyable play.

Better yet, it leaves a lasting memory. And for those who play three times a week, 52 weeks a year, those memories can sometimes be in short supply.

RIVER RIDGE: NO. 4

PAR: 3.

HANDICAP: 7.

DISTANCES: Red tees: 60 yards; White tees: 95 yards; Blue tees: 108 yards.

THE SKINNY: If the wind is in your face, use an 8-iron. If there is a crosswind, just hope for the best.

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