Golf Digest editors picks

America's 50 Toughest Golf Courses

We've identified the most diabolical venues in the U.S.--the ones that torture and taunt us but keep us asking for more. How would you fare against these monsters?

Tobacco Road

Tobacco Road is "Pine Valley seen through a funhouse mirror." Here, the 10-foot flagstick at No. 13.

Dom Furore

March 2007

Editor's Note: Click here to see the 2011-2012 ranking of America's Toughest Golf Courses.

1. THE OCEAN COURSE
KIAWAH ISLAND / S.C. / 7,356 YARDS / PAR 72
Pete Dye, 81, has been torturing golfers for half his life, and the Ocean Course, strung along the Atlantic coastline with fairways and greens perched above sand, sea oats and sweetgrass, is perhaps his most Dye-abolical design. (Eight of our top 50 were created by the man they call the "Marquis de Sod.") The Ocean has the highest combination of Slope Rating (155) and Course Rating (79.6) in America, according to the U.S. Golf Association. With forced carries over marshes, endless waste bunkers and roll-resistant Bermuda grasses, the Ocean is a rare course that can bring tears and fears even to tour pros--it was dubbed Looney Dunes after multiple mishaps in the 1991 Ryder Cup. For the rest of us, it kicks sand in our face--literally when howling winds turn club covers into windsocks. Play it in the mornings when it's walking only. You can't cross the Rubicon in a golf cart.

2. THE INTERNATIONAL (THE PINES)
BOLTON / MASS. / 8,325 YARDS / PAR 73
It has pounded its chest as the longest golf course in the land since 1957, only once adding new back tees when someone dared to challenge its supremacy. The numbers are laughable: 8,325 yards, par 73, with a Course Rating of 80. The closing hole is 656 yards--and it's not even the longest par 5 on the course. There's also a par 6, the 715-yard fifth hole, and the par-3 seventh is 277 yards. Length isn't its only overindulgence: The fifth green is 91 yards long and takes more than an hour to mow, and the 11th, a modest 590-yard par 5, has 24 bunkers. If you plan to play it from the tips, be sure you have a three-day weekend.

3. KOOLAU GOLF CLUB
KANEOHE / OAHU / HAWAII / 7,310 YARDS / PAR 72
With parts of the course receiving 130 inches of rain a year, this is target golf at its soggiest. You won't need a caddie so much as a backcountry guide. The roughs are tropical rain forests, the hazards mostly uncharted ravines filled with jungle and undiscovered reptilian life forms. Typical of the course's unsubtle presentation, the 474-yard, par-4 18th features two long forced carries over canyons plus a 330-yard bunker off the tee and a 220-yard bunker to the green. Legend has it that the course record was once 63 ... lost balls. Koolau used to have a Slope Rating of 162, even though the maximum possible is 155.

4. PGA WEST (STADIUM COURSE)
LA QUINTA / CALIF. / 7,266 YARDS / PAR 72
Using moguls, pot bunkers and lumpy lies--a style he called his "grenade-attack look"--Pete Dye designed the Stadium Course to play mind games with the world's best players, and he won. In the late 1980s, PGA Tour players successfully petitioned for its removal from the Bob Hope Desert Chrysler Classic because it was too hard for them, the sissies. Relegated for years mostly as a video-game monster, PGA West has re-emerged as a Q school final exam for aspiring tour pros. With holes like the island-green 17th called Alcatraz, it's no wonder the late Jim Murray summed up PGA West with these words: "You need a camel, a canoe, a priest and a tourniquet to get through it."

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July 28, 2014

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