Most Difficult Course You've Played

I’ll give you my power rankings:

  1. Boston Golf Club, Hingham, MA. Some of the greens just aren’t receptive to approaches. Even for sticks. But I absolutely love the course and my only gripe is the average round takes 5 hours.
  2. The Shattuck, Jaffrey, NH. Quirky, tight, unconventional, full fledged target golf. It’s stupid. Example of a par 5: 8 iron off the tee, 3-5 wood carry over a marsh to a small-mid sized target. mid-short iron into green. No other way to play it. If you play the 6700 yard tee, its a rating/ slope of 75/147. Can dial it back to 6100 and you’re still left with 71/142.
  3. Spyglass. I’m not certain if it is THAT hard, it is definitely difficult, but I’ve happened to play atrociously every time I’ve pegged it there. Has always been after many days in a row of golf and late nights.

EDIT: Totally forgot about Doonbeg. Holy balls is that place a bear. I played it on a “calm” 20mph day. When the fan blows there, dead. I think the course record at the time was like -1, by Padraig Harrington. Maybe it was -2.

That shocks me to hear, I would think a walking only club so focused on golf would ensure rounds are quick.

For me, there are two that stick into my mind that were overly difficult:

Bethpage Black - a real fun experience, but it’s just so damn hard. being out of position on that course, there is no negotiation for recovery. Take your medicine and play for your bogeys.

George Fazio Course @ Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head - man, f*** that course. 7,000 in the thick low country air, tiny greens that are all tiered so even tinier sections, narrow fairways, enormous (non waste) bunkers, deceptive elevations. There’s a reason it’s the cheapest of the 3 at that resort…way too much manufactured difficulty for resort golf, or golf in general!

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The Ocean Course at Kiawah (79.7, 153)
Musgrove Mill GC (74.4, 153)

The Ocean Course stands alone, but a lot of people would already know about that track, so Musgrove earns honorable mention. It’s a very formidable Palmer design in Clinton, SC.

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Same. And I’ve played it many times, many formats, and usually with very good players. The reasoning:

  1. It’s just hard, especially on the greens. As you approach the greens, the hole slows down quite a bit.
  2. It’s rolling and meandering. Quite hilly. Also tough for caddies to get into ideal positions.
  3. Tee to Green proximity. Not the best. A few walks through the woods.

Hadley Wood in North London. It’s a MacKenzie course and I absolutely love playing there but every time I do it completely kills me. And it’s not just me. Everyone new struggles. I played it a few weeks ago with the Director of Golf at my home club who plays off 5 and he 3 putted 11 times!

Almenara in Spain. I hate that place. It’s just dumb. All the fairways are cambered into trouble and it’s so hot and dry there all year round even nailed drives cause lost balls.

The Marquess Course at Woburn near London has the harder greens I’ve ever putted on. Covered in slope.

Torrey South is just all round hard and long and dull.

Royal Portrush is one of my favourite courses in the world but it’s brutal. If you’re in trouble there’s little way back and if the weather gets in it’s horrendous.

Bethpage Black…see above

Royal Dornoch in 40mph winds…a little bit of my soul went flying out to sea with my golf ball(s)

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I think the RTJ Trail in Alabama has some extremely difficult course. The Judge Course in Pratville, Alabama is ranked the hardest, but all of the courses have tough greens and bunkers.

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Perhaps this was because of the conditions, but the hardest course I played was Waterville in Ireland. It was nasty. Windy, and not a nice wind. A cold, mean wind that blew rain everywhere into your clothes, bag, eyes, everything. The 10th hole is about 450 and it played directly into the wind, and I hit driver, 3 wood, 3 wood, 5 iron, 8 iron. It was one of the few times in my life that I stopped keeping score. So difficult to judge and you need a really good attitude in that stuff to enjoy it. I figured that out late in the round.

With good conditions, I would say Oak Hill East. Back to back 495 par 4s to finish is brutal. Only two pars 5’s, both unreachable with really tough layups. You need to be striking it to have a chance there.

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I’ve played a few courses that host tour events, but I didn’t play them all the way back. Muirfield Village was probably the toughest from where I played it, but somewhere like Erin Hills where they can stretch the length to over 8000 yards could end up being more difficult.

Greywalls golf course in Marquette, Michigan (a Mike DeVries design).

From the tips it’s only 6828, but the quirky minimalist layout is incredibly tough your first time around.

I’ve played there the first weekend in June for the last 5 years. I’ve yet to break 80 (as a 4-6 handicap).

Last year in particular it was near 70 degrees the day before my round at Greywalls. Heading to Marquette though the wind switched directions and was blowing off of Lake Superior. This meant the temperature was hovering around 40 (which isn’t exactly rare at that time of year) with winds gusting 25-30 mph.

Even when the weather isn’t making the course difficult, it’s an absolute blast to try to figure out lines and how to play the ground game around the absolutely incredible terrain. Holes 12-18 feel like a bit of a let down after the amazing front nine, but playing Greywalls is always one of the highlights of my golf year.

I played there one fall when I was a teenager. Never lost so many balls in my life. I’m pretty sure they used to run a promotion where they would give you a dozen balls with your greens fee in Sept-Oct.

I got to play Carnoustie a few years ago during a trip to the UK. First experience with true links golf. 30 mph winds, rain, every fairway littered with pot bunkers. It was the most frustrating and fulfilling round of golf I have ever played.

Have you played from the secret tee box on 6 at Greywalls?

Pinehurst #2. A wonderfully fair course, but I’ve never played a course where you’ve had to be so exactly precise. Smallest margin for error of any course I’ve ever played.

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Hidden tee box? I’m guessing that means no. I’m intrigued now though.

Yeh I’m a member at Hadley Wood, I feel your pain. I had 34 putts in the comp on Saturday and I felt like an absolute champ.

Just did a trip to Liverpool, played Hoylake (7000yds) and Southport and Ainsdale (6800yds) in sporting winds. As a pair those two battered me…and no-one ever talks about S&A, its all Birkdale and Formby and Royal Lytham love up there. S&A is amazing, but played so long and nothing waiting for the bad shot but long grass and heather.

But the answer to the question posed is Carnoustie.

I’m at Essendon up the road. We do a reciprocal thing every year where we get to play each other’s tracks. Always look forward to Hadley but Christ its frustrating!

Ah Essendon, lovely place.

Our scratch team won all their home matches by 10-2, 11-1 type margins this year. Which is great fun, but not very kind to visitors.

Lancs coast is obscene, and probably deserving of its own thread.

In answer to the question at hand:

  1. Any links course in real wind - special mentions to Muirfield and West Lancs

  2. TPC Sawgrass - small misses = big ejections.

  3. PGA national 3 days following the Honda - LOL.

  4. Either Bayonet or Blackhorse near Monterrey - can’t remember which we played, but it was silly hard.

  5. Albany - that this place is referred to as a silly season hit and giggle track shoes how good those guys are. Its long, very windy and the weird sponge grass is impossible to chip from.

PGA National is violent, especially in tournament conditions. Why would you subject yourself to that?

It was part of a week long boys trip across the pond - 2 nights in the Sawgrass Marriott and then a drive down the coast for 5 nights at PGA National; the full Florida golf experience*.

Although silly hard, it was good fun to play the Champion with all of the #infrastructure still up and a caddy. The two keys were playing from sensible tees (something around 6,500 from memory, although we did 15 and 17 from the back) and playing stableford. I have no interest in holing out for a 12.

In fact, I enjoyed the trip so much that on returning to Orlando airport from PGA National, I realised I left my passport at Sawgrass. The boys obviously left me to it, so I had a wonderful (birthday) night on my own in the Orlando airport Hiyatt and a $600 courier fee to bike my passport down from Ponte Vedra. Good times.

*Was less woke to GCA at this time - appreciate this does not necessarily represent golf in Florida and all of your rights remain fully reserved in this respect including but not limited to Streamsong/your local muni nothwithstanding a great time had by all etc…

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