Bunker shots, water hazards, downhill putts – golf sure can be scary! And in celebration of Halloween, we’ve gathered the scariest golf holes and shots in the world.
Most Intimidating Shots in the Game
1. Scariest Opening Hole
Golf Course: The Old Course at St. Andrews
The Hole: No. 1
The Stats: Par 4, 376 yards
The Scare: The outcome of the first hole can truly set the tone for the remainder of your round. Start with a birdie and you’ll feel confident for the front nine. Start with a double bogey and you may be calling for the beverage cart sooner than intended. And with a nickname like “Burn,” it doesn’t take long to see why the opening hole at the Old Course is one of the toughest in the game.
With a relatively wide fairway and an absence of bunkers, your first tee shot won’t be your most difficult. But, don’t mistake this hole for a pushover. Because the true challenge comes when you get to the green, guarded by a stone-walled creek and intense westerly winds.
2. Scariest Tee Shot
Golf Course: Mauna Kea Golf Course
The Hole: No. 3
The Stats: Par 3, 272 yards
The Scare: Disguised by its stunning lava rock formations and the turquoise waters of the Pacific, the third hole at Mauna Kea Golf Course is actually more beast than beauty. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the first par 3 of your round is known as one of the most famous and most difficult holes in the state of Hawaii.
At a whopping 272 yards, the length alone leaves golfers of all levels struggling to find the putting surface. And on an especially windy day, expect to be opening up a new sleeve of golf balls…or two.
3. Scariest Approach Shot
Golf Course: Pebble Beach Golf Links
The Hole: No. 8
The Stats: Par 4, 427 yards
The Scare: Jack Nicklaus once said the approach on the 8th at Pebble Beach is “the most magnificent second shot in golf.” Agree or not, the Golden Bear was certainly on to something. With a 200+ yard carry over water from a 100+ foot cliff, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars if you find yourself walking up to this green with a putter in hand.
4. Scariest Carry Over Water
Golf Course: The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
The Hole: No. 17
The Stats: Par 3, 137 yards
The Scare: It’s estimated that somewhere between 100,000-120,000 golf balls are dunked in the water surrounding the infamous island green every year – which equates to roughly half a million dollars worth of balls. While a great statistic for those in the diving business or those with a ball retriever, it also means that the 17th at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most difficult forced carries over water.
At just 137 yards, the par 3 is the shortest hole on the course. But it continues to challenge players of all levels. Most notably was Bob Tway who carded a record-setting 12 during the 2005 Players Championship.
5. Scariest Bunker Shot
Golf Course: Stadium Course at PGA West
The Hole: No. 16
The Stats: Par 5, 600 yards
The Scare: The Stadium Course at PGA West is largely regarded as one of the toughest in the game. And the 16th hole is no exception. Nicknamed the San Andreas, after the 750-mile potentially catastrophic fault line, the 16th features intense bunkering along the left side of the fairway.
While the bunkers should be avoided at all costs, none are more daunting than the 19-foot-deep greenside trench. That’s right – 19 feet! Needless to say, you’d be better off missing short, long, or right.
6. Scariest Putt
Golf Course: Augusta National Golf Club
The Hole: No. 15
The Stats: Par 5, 530 yards
The Scare: Traditionally one of the easier holes at Augusta National, there are a handful of ways to tackle the 15th. Go for it in two, lay it up and play it safe – no matter your decision, the true challenge lies on the putting green.
It starts with your approach. Catch it a little too heavy or with a little too much backspin, and your pin-high shot that initially appeared perfect will likely end up wet. So, you’re forced to aim for the back of the green which, in some cases, means putting back towards the pond. And thanks to an extreme back-to-front slope, a putt with a little too much gusto could send your ball right back into the water.
7. Scariest Dogleg
Golf Course: Old Course St. Andrews
The Hole: No. 17
The Stats: Par 4, 455 yards
The Scare: There are few holes in golf that generate more dropped shots than the 17th at St. Andrews. Dubbed the “Road Hole,” this difficult dogleg begins with an intimidating tee shot over the Old Course Hotel – formerly railway sheds. The second shot is equally as challenging with a narrow landing strip leading to a shallow green, only 16 yards in width.
But the reason many Opens have been won or lost on the 17th can be attributed to the Road Hole pot bunker defending the green from the front. And the road and limestone wall behind and to the right of the green make the ultimate combination for a double bogey…or worse.
8. Scariest Par 3
Golf Course: Augusta National Golf Club
The Hole: No. 12
The Stats: Par 3, 155 yards
The Scare: From the Hogan Bridge to Rae’s Creek, the 12th hole at Augusta is one of the most recognizable in the game. And at just 155 yards, the short par 3 certainly packs a punch.
Depending on the wind direction and severity, players can hit anything from a pitching wedge to a six iron. Add some strategically placed bunkers and thousands of onlooking fans into the mix and some movement on the leaderboard is almost guaranteed. Flashback to 2019 when water balls from Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, and Francesco Molinari on Sunday ultimately led to a Tiger Woods victory.
9. Scariest Par 4
Golf Course: Harbour Town Golf Links
Location: South Carolina
The Hole: No. 18
The Stats: Par 4, 472 yards
The Scare: While the 18th at Harbour Town has made our ranks as the scariest par 4, it starts off relatively easy. Pete Dye designed a wide fairway with ample landing room for your drive and the towering lighthouse makes the perfect target line.
But, it’s after your tee shot that your feet may start shaking in your spikes. A demanding approach shot requires a roughly 200-yard carry over the Calibogue Sound. Thinking about bailing to the right? Be prepared to tackle intense mounding – tough enough to test even the best wedge game.
10. Scariest Par 5
Golf Course: TPC Colorado
The Hole: No. 13
The Stats: Par 5, 773 yards
The Scare: The number 13 has arguably never been unluckier… At 773 yards, the par 5 13th at TPC Colorado is the longest hole in PGA TOUR-sanctioned history. Some bunkering along the fairway and around the green pose additional challenges, but distance is still the main obstacle on this par 5.
11. Scariest Closing Hole
Golf Course: Quail Hollow
Location: North Carolina
The Hole: No. 18
The Stats: Par 4, 494 yards
The Scare: The final three holes at Quail Hollow, otherwise referred to as “The Green Mile,” come to a dramatic and difficult close at the 18th – a monster par 4. Complete with a meandering stream up the left side of an already narrow fairway, players surely have their work cut out for them. And any thoughts of bailing to the right are curbed by both fairway and greenside bunkers.
12. Scariest 19th Hole
Golf Course: Payne’s Valley
The Hole: No. 19
The Stats: Par 3, 202 yards
The Scare: Bets will be settled, hands will be shaken, and fun will be had by all at the incredible 19th bonus hole at Payne’s Valley. Nicknamed the “Big Rock at Payne’s Valley,” the narrow, island green is surrounded by water and limestone rock formations creating an amphitheater-like atmosphere.
And with the clubhouse perched atop the rocks and a beautiful waterfall streaming down the side, the 19th is both scary, stunning, and truly unforgettable.
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