Sanderson Farms Championship

C.C. of Jackson

Pure joy

Bounces into fairway, spun wedges: The 15 most rewarding moments in golf, ranked

August 18, 2023


To many outsiders, it’s confusing why golfers continue to play such an infuriating game. A typical five-hour round at your local course is littered with club-slamming, profanity and self-loathing. Yet, we continue to show up at the first tee the next day. Why?

For all of golf’s maddening aspects, each round always has one small moment where everything goes right. A great day has two or three of these moments, but just one is enough to make us forget the other four hours of frustration. It’s the one you tell your buddies about—never mind the other stuff.

Which of these small victories is the best? Below is our highly scientific, definitive ranking of the most rewarding moments in golf, based on, well, our opinion.

15. You blow a birdie putt 10 feet past, but nail the comebacker

A roller coaster of emotions—hope, then self-loathing, followed by sweet relief.

14. The slow and stubborn foursome heads to the clubhouse after nine

Whether they’re done or just grabbing hot dogs and beers, who cares. After that three-hour front side, you’re gunning it to the 10th tee.

13. Your partner bails you out as you wait terrified over your four-foot slider


Jordan Siemens

You waste no time in picking up your coin.

12. You planned on bogey (or worse) at the last, but you finish with a birdie

The only thing that could ruin this moment is a television analyst telling you lunch will taste better now.

11. You skulled the chip, but the pin is there to save you

Clank. Equal doses of excitement and shame.

10. Your 7-iron is perfectly on line and actually lands the right distance

The dopamine spike is strong. We play an addicting game.

9. Your appoach lands 20 feet past the hole and spins back for a tap-in

Who cares if the greens were soft, there was a backstop, and it was your first shot with the new wedge—for a moment, you had the ball control of a tour pro.

8. You're stymied by a tree, but your heel is touching the cart path so you get free relief


Icon Sportswire

You take your club-length and drop in record time. What tree?

7. You irresponsibly go for the green from 200 with water short and flush the long iron pin high

A well struck 4-iron is a thrill that’s tough to match.

6. Your ball was bound for the houses, but a tree kicks you back in the fairway

The lumber saved your $5 ball, your score and your sanity.

5. With 15 feet to go, you know the putt is in

Science can’t explain it—some putts just have the look. The next five seconds as you watch it track and drop are about as good as this game gets.

4. Your fix-all swing thought works two days in a row

You found it, but you’re not naïve—you know that swing thoughts have a one-day life expectancy. When it works the next day, you wonder if you'll ever mishit another shot.

3. Stiffing an iron shot for a gimme while playing through

You play it cool and thank them, but inside, your ego has never been bigger.

2. Holing a 15-footer on the last to win your member-guest

When it falls in the center with perfect pace, your self-image as a golfer is forever changed.

1. You have a big breakthrough with a swing instructor, and your slice is now a baby draw

Ben Hogan cured his hook then won nine majors. Charles Barkley fixed his violent hitch. Breakthroughs happen at all levels. At each, they are golf’s most rewarding moments.