This article first appeared on Golfshake.com in Sep 2016.
If you prefer golf courses where the walk is easy, the fairways are wide open and the greens are reasonably flat, then you should probably look away now. This golf course features the hardest holes on the main golfing tours and would probably have you putting the clubs away for some time after a round.
Hole 1: 18th at The Riviera Country Club
Distance: 475 yards
What better way to start your round than with one of the toughest final holes in the whole of golf? This hole plays at a staggering 475-yards off the black tees and is very much a two-shotter, if not more for an amateur golfer.
The main challenge on this hole is the intimidating semi-blind tee shot to a fairway hidden beyond a steep, Kikuyu-covered hillside. A long iron is then needed, if you manage to get a good drive away, to reach the bunker-free putting surface. The natural amphitheater beneath the clubhouse can prove quite daunting – especially with thousands of fans watching.
Hole 2: 5th at Bethpage Black
Distance: 478 yards
It is not often that you get to play a double dogleg par-4 in golf, but the 5th hole at Bethpage Black offers this exact rare treat. There isn’t really a safe way to play this hole, which isn’t really what you want to hear before taking on this monster; it can quite quickly become a card wrecker.
The fairway slopes left to right with a large bunker and trees awaiting any tee shot hit too far to the right. Although it will shorten the hole if you drive up the left hand side, it will also partially block the green and will then require you to hit a high draw with the ball slightly below your feet. Even if you do get the ball in play, the green is well protected and adds to the overall challenge of the hole.
Distance: 495 yards
We all know from several Open Championships and the Alfred Dunhill Links championship that the 17th hole at the Old Course St. Andrews is one of the toughest par 4’s in golf. During the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the famous ‘Road Hole’ had an average score of 4.48 and from tee to green this hole offers various problems.
The famous tee shot over the corner of the hotel is the first problem you will face, but the main difficulty comes at the approach: a long iron will be needed to find the spacious green that is guarded by a terrifying pot bunker and on the right hand side by the road and out of bounds – tough!
Hole 4: 14th at Royal Portrush
Distance: 210 yards
The first par-3 to feature on this course is often described as “Calamity Corner” so don’t expect a simple three at this hole. Playing up hill, this green is protected by a resilient Atlantic wind, thick rough on the left and a 75-foot deep ravine on the right where even more thick rough lies. The green is sat on a precipice with a 100-foot drop. Therefore, accurate and precise iron play is required here.
Hole 5: 4th at Pretoria Country Club
Distance: 511 yards
This brute of a hole features at the Tshwane Open and sees far more bogies than birdies. In fact, in 2015 there were just 29 birdies to 191 bogies or worse. The sheer distance of this hole is one of the key reasons as to why the average score was 4.49.
As well as being over 500 yards, there is a vicious right to left dogleg to think about tackling. Even the longest hitters on tour struggle on this hole with the worst score being an 8, demonstrating just how difficult this long hole is.
Hole 6: 6th Royal Melbourne
Distance: 428 yards
PGA of Australia
The 6th hole at Royal Melbourne really is a horror designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie. Off the tee, players must avoid a vast amount of bunkers. These bunkers are that deep and large that players often say they feel like they’re in the desert.
However, it doesn’t end there. Although a reasonably straightforward approach, the green is treacherous and if you aren’t on your game with the putter, you could come off with a large score. This is because the green slopes severely from back to front and players have even been know to putt their ball off the green completely and end up in one of the surrounding bunkers.
Hole 7: 18th at Carnoustie
Distance: 499 yards
The 18th hole at Carnoustie has seen many memorable moments during Open Championships and none more so than Jean van de Velde’s capitulation during the 1999 Championship. But what makes this hole so difficult?
Well, the burn is in play from just about everywhere on this hole until you reach the putting surface. Off the tee, the burn is in play down the right and left hand side and then for the approach, the burn sits just shy of the green. On top of avoiding the burn off the tee, you must also avoid the deep bunkers that sit on the right hand side of the fairway. This really is a tough way to end a round of golf.
Hole 8: 16th at Cypress Point
Distance: 219 yards
Although not on the PGA Tour circuit anymore, Cypress Point, AKA “The Sistine Chapel of Golf,” is a course that most of the players on the PGA Tour would choose to play if they had the choice, with the stand out hole being the par-3 16th.
You have two options off the tee: you can either go for the green by driving over the Pacific Ocean or layup on the fairway to the left. That’s right, some people choose to layup on this par 3. However, when you are on the tee at this hole it is hard not to be tempted to go for the tiny green in the distance.
Hole 9: 18th at Doral
Distance: 471 yards
This hole is definitely not one for the faint hearted and is a brutal way to finish the front nine of this course. The hole is often played into wind, which can make the tee shot difficult as you want to get the ball as far out there as you can while avoiding the large water hazard on the left and the trees on the right.
It doesn’t end there. For most of the pros, a good drive could leave anything between 180 and 220 yards to the green and must be played over water, while trying to avoid the five bunkers that guard the green. Are you sure you want to try the back nine? I wouldn’t blame you for calling it quits after this hole.
Hole 10: 15th at Royal County Down Golf Club
Distance: 468 yards
Although not even the longest par-4 on the course at Royal County Down, it did play as the most difficult hole on the course during the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation. There are many reasons why this hole had an average score of 4.52.
The 15th is a dogleg but that is only the start of your worries on this hole. The green is an upturned saucer and although it is unguarded by bunkers, the strong Irish wind makes it even more difficult to hit when it is blowing into your face.
Hole 11: 8th at Pebble Beach
Distance: 428 yards
The drive at this hole is blind but it must still be well placed if you are to reach this lengthy par 4 in two. Anything left will leave a tough long iron from the rough over a deep oceanic chasm; if your tee shot is too far to the right, you run the risk of your ball falling into the Pacific Ocean. If you do manage to get the perfect tee shot away, you still leave a long iron over the oceanic chasm, with the ocean coming into play all the way down the right hand side of this hole. To add, the green is surrounded by bunkers and the putting surface falls from back to front.
It takes a brave golfer to attack a right hand side pin on this hole and you often see golfers bail out left. However, the views from this hole are outstanding and are one of the key features that make this one of the most famous holes in the world.
Hole 12: 18th at Whistling Straits
Distance: 520 yards
The 18th hole at Whistling Straits is possibly one of the toughest finishing holes in golf due to its extreme length for a par 4. This hole has seen a lot of drama over the years, such as when Dustin Johnson somehow lost the 2010 PGA Championship. But just how do you play this hole?
Well for starters, most amateurs will have to play this hole as a three-shotter. A well-struck tee shot down the right hand side will leave a mid-to-long iron for the pros, and then they must use the downhill landing area to their advantage in order to hit the green. Alternatively, you can play down the left hand side, but that will leave an approach shot that demands at least 300-yards of carry over sand dunes and bunkers to reach the green. When the wind is swirling, this hole really is a tough one.
Hole 13: 17th at TPC Sawgrass
Distance: 137 yards
Arguably the most well known par-3 in the world, this hole really does test the nerve of the very best players. Despite only being 137 yards, the island green looks tiny from the tee and there are just two outcomes: you either safely find the putting surface, or you’ll ball ends up in the water – it’s as simple as that!
The well-positioned trees create an unpredictably hazardous, swirling wind and can often cause chaos when selecting a club on this hole. Over 100,000 balls a year are hit into the water at the 17th, which is a testament to the pure challenge this hole possesses.
Hole 14: 9th at Hong Kong Golf Club
Distance: 493 yards
During the USB Hong Kong Open there were just 19 birdies on this hole all week, whereas there were a staggering 186 bogies or worse. The hole is a dogleg left, with trees encroaching either side of the fairway to make for a very narrow landing area.
To add, the fairway is also almost 500 yards long, meaning you have to mix accuracy with distance in order to score well. To prove how difficult it is, Ryder Cup teammates Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter were seven over par on this hole during the 2015 USB Hong Kong Open.
Hole 15: 1st at Oakmont
Distance: 482 yards
If you haven’t warmed up properly at Oakmont then you will find out straight away off the first tee. The fairway is just 24 yards wide and any shot that is not accurate will find itself in one of the fairway bunkers. At least we’ve been nice and put this hole in the middle of your round, so there’s no excuse for missing the fairway right?
If you do find the fairway, you leave an uphill approach shot to a blind green that slopes from front to back, which in turn makes putting difficult if you do find the putting surface.
Hole 16: 18th at Le Golf National
Distance: 470 yards
This course hosted the 2018 Ryder Cup, where it demonstrated its difficulty to a global audience. Because there is water almost everywhere you look, this hole really tests the golfers nerve on every single shot. In fact, Graeme McDowell described this hole as: “One of the toughest par 4’s on the European Tour.”
A long drive is required to leave a short iron to the green, however anything too far left or long will end up wet, with anything too far right finding thick rough. Your approach is then played over water towards the thousands of awaiting fans in the grandstands and slopes that create quite the nerve-wracking amphitheater.
Hole 17: 2nd at Golf du Palais
Distance: 208 yards
The 16th hole on this course sees the first of back-to-back par 3’s, however they couldn’t be more contrasting. This hole requires exceptional precision off the tee, which is often hard to do with a long iron in hand, as steep run-offs and several bunkers surround the raised green.
During the 2015 Trophee Hassan II, the hole played an average 3.40 so if you do manage to make par here you should be extremely happy. Even when it isn’t windy, this hole is brutal.
Hole 18: 18th at Bay Hill
Distance: 458 yards
The 18th at Bay Hill is know as the “Devil’s Bathtub” because of the water that awaits in front of the green and around the right hand side. Year after year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard, this hole sees immense drama unfold as the professionals take on one of the toughest approaches on the tour.
The best drive is down the left hand side of the fairway to set up the best opportunity of hitting this tiny green. There is just 12 yards of green available as the putting surface wraps around the back of the pond. With the pin sitting front right near the water on a Sunday, it takes a brave golfer to go for the flag. A lot of golfers bail out into the bunker behind the green, however, this only leaves a slick down hill shot that can be difficult to hold on the green. If you make par you should run straight to the bar to celebrate.
If you’ve made it this far into the round, give yourself a pat on the back. No one is going to judge you at all if your score is triple figures. No doubt your legs will need a rest as this course would see you take on a whopping 7,450 yards of golf and that’s even with four par 3’s and no par 5’s. If you’re brave enough to take this on, your home course will most likely feel like a walk in the park afterwards.