It’s a combination of difficult approaches, challenging greens, and intimidating hazards as well as local knowledge, historic landscapes, the wild and wacky, and tee boxes that simply make you shutter. If I were to build the most challenging golf course by pulling from courses around the world… here is what it would look like to me.
Hole No. 1 – The first tee of The Old Course at St. Andrews. Sure the fairways are fairly flat and wide open and the green is somewhat tame but it’s what happens the moment your name is called. Stepping onto the tee box with the legendary R&A behind you can give even the most stoic of professional golfers a shiver. …not to mention there is a walking path about 70 yards down the fairway that some people care not to stop although the starter is blowing a warning whistle.
Hole No. 2 – 2nd hole at Coober Pedy Opal Fields GC. This is the world’s only golf course that has reciprocal play rights with St. Andrews golf so it seems fitting to go here next. If a completely grassless golf course isn’t enough, they offer night golf. For many, hitting it out of the bunkers is incredibly difficult but try playing an entire hole, let alone golf course, all on dirt. Well… here you go.
Hole No. 3 – Oakmont CC 3rd hole. Have you ever hit into a bunker? Yes, of course you have. Have you ever hit your second shot from the bunker to the same bunker? Maybe. Well, the old “Church Pews” bunkers on this hole can eat you alive! This fairway is lined with bunkers forcing you to have perfect accuracy down the middle.
Hole No. 4 – La Jenny Naturist Resort 4th hole. Well, what’s so tough about this standard golf course? For starters… you’re most likely nude. Yes, naked. This resort in France has a 6-hole course that welcomes its patrons to play in the buff. I don’t know about you but I’m fairly modest so the thought of playing golf in my birthday suit is a challenge in itself.
Hole No. 5 – 5th hole of Pinehurst No. 2. Up. Down. Up again. Could this hole give you any more extremes? Not only are you playing at the illustrious Pinehurst No. 2 but you’re having to handle some difficult lies. Get some practice in and read up on where that ball should go in your stance no matter what lie you’re on.
Hole No. 6 – 6th hole of Carnoustie. I’ll get to another tough hole on this course but “Hogan’s Alley” can fool the mind. Not only is the entire long left hand side of the narrow fairway fenced off and out of bounds calling for a perfectly straight drive but in the distance you can hear the artillery fire of the Scottish Royal Military firing range. Cross your fingers for no strays!
Hole No. 7 – Hole 7 of St. Andrews Old Course. Seems not so tough but… where in the heck do you go? If you don’t have a caddie with you it is plenty easy to get lost. Oh, also, make sure you stay alert. The 11th fairway and 7th fairway cross paths. Keep your head up and your eye down the 11th fairway before you cross or you’ll take a ball to the noggin.
Hole No. 8 – Pebble Beach 8th hole. I’ve never played at Pebble Beach but I can tell you that I have played it a fair amount of times on Wii golf and even digitally the 8th hole is a brute. This is the kind of hole that an extra sleeve, or two, of golf balls can be handy. The coastline hugs the fairway where you can find your ball rolling right into the drink.
Hole No. 9 – Panmunjom 9th hole. We’ve all hit a ball or two out of bounds and have sheepishly gone after it. I’m with you that I want that golf ball back but at Panmunjom you better stay put. This golf course located between North and South Korea in the DMZ is known as the most dangerous golf course in the world. Why? There are live minefields surrounding it! It’ll be tough to not chase your golf ball but trust me you should just let that one go.
Hole No. 10 – Belfry 10th hole. No other course has hosted as many Ryder Cups as this course so the thought of playing on one of the most prestigious golf stages is exhilarating! Standing on legendary ground is one thing but going for the green is another. Pack your fade.
Hole No. 11 – The 11th hole at Brickyard Crossing. This Indiana based golf course plays both around and inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway best known for the Indy 500. The 11th starts over a body of water but what’s harder than having to concentrate while standing over a clutch putt with a race car roaring passed you at crazy speeds? Clear the mechanism.
Hole No. 12 – Augusta National 12th hole. Welcome to “Amen Corner.” This hole is referred to by Jack Nicklaus as one of the hardest par 3’s in all of tournament golf. Tournament golf aside, during a friendly round you can find yourself distracted by the importance this golf course holds in the history of our game. Depending on pin placement you can find your ball in one of three spots – the pristine white bunkers, the pond up front, or in the woods behind.
Hole No. 13 – The 13th at Furnace Creek GC. This California golf course is located in Death Valley which boasts temperatures of up to 130 degrees. Yikes! Living dangerously you can take this on in the dead of summer. It’s tough as it is with a nice mild-tempered day but sweat dripping into your eyes, looming heat exhaustion, and killer sunburns can make this one of the toughest golf holes.
Hole No. 14 – Carnoustie 14th hole. One can argue that the 18th here is tougher and better known for taking down good ol’ Van de Velde but in my opinion something about the 14th and the two 10 feet deep bunkers hiding a hidden green behind them makes me think this one takes the cake.
Hole No. 15 – PGA National 15th hole. Oh, hello there “Bear Trap.” I understand golf is about precision but this is just darn difficult. Whether on approach you miss left or right you’re in trouble. Where are the gigantic greens that no matter where you land you’re safe?
Hole No. 16 – 16th of Cypress Point. You want to talk about water hazards? Well, this is it. This unbelievably beautiful golf hole can play with your mind thanks to the heavy crashes of the Pacific Ocean. Ya, that’s a massive water hazard! For those of us who still get shy with a small pond at our local club the sheer power the ocean can have over us is insurmountable. Good luck!
Hole No. 17 – 17th of TPC Sawgrass. Okay so we’ve just talked about water hazards but let’s kick it up a notch and add in an island green that even the pros have been known to lose a ball or two in. Need another challenge? Don’t forget this hole is famous for the winds that seem to show up out of nowhere to suck your golf ball back and into the blue.
Hole No. 18 – Riviera CC 18th hole. Uphill. Blind drive. Uphill. Blind approach. Either you’ve played here several times or you just have to close your eyes and go for it. The green is narrow which makes precision so important. …so if you’re wrapping up your amazing round of golf don’t let this 18th hole take you down. Confidence!
If you could add a hole or two, which would you include for the 18 toughest holes in golf?