Many people view golf as a luxury pastime, underestimating just how demanding a sport it can be. Anyone who has ever swung a club will know that it demands flexibility, stability, control and power, as well as strength and technique.
With holes that would give Rory McIlroy nightmares, we’ve profiled some of the most difficult courses from around the world.
Ko’olau Golf Club – Hawaii, USA
The United States Golf Association (USGA) uses slope ratings to indicate the relative difficulty of a golf course, and these range from 55 (very easy) to 155 (extremely difficult), with 113 considered standard. When Ko’olau first opened, officials gave the course a 162 rating, but the USGA wouldn’t accept this as it was above 155 so sent their own team out to Hawaii to provide an assessment. The result? An even higher slope rating of 172!
As a result of this, Ko’olau has since undergone a series of alterations to make it easier to play, and it now has a score of 152. With fairways surrounded by Hawaiian jungle, over 80 deep bunkers and six deep ravines, the course is still an absolute brute to play and leaves no chances of any recovery shots. Be warned: if you miss the fairways, your ball is lost.
Carnoustie Golf Links – Dundee, Scotland
Considered the graveyard of champions, Carnoustie Golf Links played so tough during the 1999 Open Championship that it reduced last-placed Sergio Garcia to tears as he picked up the wooden spoon instead of the Claret jug.
Universally considered the toughest course in Scotland, par-71 Carnoustie is riddled with fiendish bunkers, and plays much longer when the North Sea wind is up (FYI: it usually is). This difficulty has earned it the infamous nickname of “Car-nasty”.
PGA West Stadium Course – California, USA
Spread over 7,300 yards in the sweltering heat of the California desert, the PGA West Stadium Course delivers up an assault of immensely deep bunkers, and finishes with two of the toughest holes around. Par-3 Hole 17’s green lies adrift as an island, and is ominously nicknamed Alcatraz, while Hole 18 is also menacingly water-lined and has proved the undoing of many a tour pro.
This PGA West Stadium Course has long been known as the course that was too tough for the professionals. In 1987 it hosted the PGA tour’s CareerBuilder (generally considered one of the PGA Tour’s easier tournaments) and was so tough that golfers successfully petitioned for it to be removed as one of the following year’s host courses. This ban lasted until 2015.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Club – Yunnan, China
The longest golf course in the world, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Club is spread over a whopping 8,548 yards and home to the longest par-5 in the world, which measures in at 711 yards from the back tee.
Sitting 10,800 feet above sea level, golfers can actually use the thin air to their advantage and hit their shots around 20% further than usual. This is great in theory, but it also makes balls fly further left or right and even the best players struggle to break 80.
Bethpage State Park Black Course – New York, USA
Dating back to 1930, the designers of this course spared no thought for the average golfer. There’s even a sign by the first tee that reads “The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly-skilled golfers.” Want proof? When it hosted the US Open in 2002, only winner Tiger Woods broke par!
Unless you’re masochistic, you’ll find the combination of narrow fairways, tangly rough and huge sculptured bunkers a living nightmare to play and be desperate to get to the nineteenth hole.