The 9 Hardest Golf Holes in America
According to golf course architect Rees Jones
Golf course architect Rees Jones has created or redesigned roughly 150 courses around the world—most notably, his resuscitation of the Bethpage Black Course, which hosted the 2009 U.S. Open. We asked Jones to lay out for us the nine holes that force a player to make some seriously difficult choices. “They’re all holes where you can play one way to make par and just get on with your round,” Jones explains, “or if you need to make up ground, you can take some calculated risks to make birdie.” So read on, and good luck! And if you’re an avid golfer, don’t miss these 5 Clever Tricks That Will Boost Your Golf Game.
13th hole, 510-yard, par 5; Augusta National Golf Club; Augusta, Georgia
To have any shot of reaching the green in two, you need to hit a long drive that draws around the sharp dogleg left. But even more than the strategy, what makes this hole so great is the way it fits the landscape so perfectly. The fairway pitches the same way you’re trying to hit the ball (right to left), and Rae’s Creek is used to maximum effect. And those azaleas behind the green are beautiful.
14th hole, 148-yard, par 3; Maidstone Golf Club; East Hampton, New York
The tee for this hole sits on a high dune and plays across a valley to a green that sits atop another dune with the Atlantic Ocean curling in behind it. A bunker ferociously guards the front of the green. Besides being one of the prettiest settings imaginable, what makes this old links-style hole so interesting is that it changes from day to day—and sometimes hour to hour—depending on how the winds are blowing. And if you want to look stylish while you’re on the links, check out these 30 Timeless Style Upgrades.
18th hole, 576-yard, par 5; The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek; Johns Island, South Carolina
The green on this long par 5 is an island in the middle of a giant salt marsh that sits to the left of a long, straight fairway. If you’re long off the tee, you can try to reach it in two, but that requires a perfect second shot. You can lay up instead, but watch out for a group of trees than can block the green.
13th hole, 448-yard, par 4; Pine Valley Golf Club; Pine Valley, New Jersey
It’s said this was Ben Hogan‘s favorite hole at Pine Valley. The fairway bends left, so the tee shot here tempts you to hit up the left side to shorten the distance. If you fall for this siren’s song, the left-sloping fairway will funnel your ball into the rough, and trees will block the green. Instead, you must hit right, thereby making the hole play even longer than its marked yardage.
14th hole, 435-yard, par 4; Torrey Pines; South Course, La Jolla, California
Like many other well-designed putting surfaces, this one contains several mini-greens within a larger one, and it’s protected on three sides by two bunkers and a deep canyon. If your drive is at all less than ideal, you have to shoot for the lower, deeper middle of the green. From there, it’s a harrowing two-putt up onto the plateau, and bogey is never out of the picture.
5th hole, 442-yard, par 4; Pinehurst Resort Course #2; Pinehurst, North Carolina
You not only have to hit the green, which sits atop the fairway like a crown sloping forward on a king’s head, but you also have to hit the right part of it, as it pitches severely from back to front and to the left. If you leave yourself uphill of the pin, watch out, as the slightest overputt can send your ball cascading back down onto the fairway.
17th hole, 466-yard, par 4; Congressional Country Club; Blue Course, Bethesda, Maryland
Besides being a peninsula that sticks out in the water, the green is diagonal to the fairway, making it a shallow target. Adding insult to injury, it’s divided by a roll that effectively splits it into two separate, smaller putting surfaces. If you land on the wrong side of the bulge, birdie is out of the question, and par will be tough.
17th hole, 380-yard, par 4; The Country Club; Brookline, Massachusetts
A good example of how a hole doesn’t have to be long to be hard. It’s possible to cut the corner on this slight dogleg left with a driver. But if you go into the rough, you’re a goner, so most players play an iron off the tee. That leaves a reasonably long, uphill second into a small, multilevel green that makes it imperative to judge the distance well.
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4th hole, 197-yard, par 3; National Golf Links of America; Southampton, New York
A classic Redan hole (meaning a par 3 with a pitched diagonal green). This one pitches from right to left and has bunkers in front and back. The key to playing a Redan is landing the ball short of the flag and using the slope to get it close. The contour on this one is constant enough, however, that you can shoot at a back left pin placement if you need birdie. And for more on golf, read up on The 15 Celebrity Golfers Who Are Definitely Better Than You Are.
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This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2004 issue of Best Life.