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10 Toughest Holes on the PGA Tour

| February 14, 2020 2:38 am PDT
Toughest Holes on PGA Tour

When it comes to following the season-long action on the PGA Tour, I tend to think I do a pretty good job. My wife might call me a bit geeky or a bit obsessed, but I just tell her it’s what I am passionate about.

When it comes to experiencing the hardest courses in the country and playing the most renowned golf clubs, I’ll be the first to tell you that in that sense, I grew up spoiled. As I have matured, I have learned to appreciate how lucky I am to have been able to travel the world playing prestigious golf courses.

As you ponder the following segments on this page, I want you to know that the information you are reading is coming from a genuine source.

Anyone can simply Google “the toughest holes on the PGA Tour” and get a synopsis.

But how would you like to read a guide about the 10 toughest holes on the PGA Tour from an author who is completely qualified to talk about the subject?

I have either played these holes in real life or have watched professionals struggle mightily on them time and time again. And believe me, I know exactly what they were going through.

As a former Division I collegiate golfer who follows the PGA Tour religiously, I know what a ridiculously tough golf hole is when I see one. Trust me when I tell you that the following holes are as brutal as it gets.

Let’s start diving in.

The 11th Hole at Augusta National

  • Where: Augusta, Georgia
  • Course: Augusta National Golf Club
  • Par: 4
  • Yardage: 505 yards

Everybody who watches golf knows about the 11th hole at Augusta National Golf Club and the difficulties it presents. But for which of the following reasons?

A) Because the drive is tough

B) Because the approach shot is daunting

C) Because the contour of the green is utterly treacherous

The answer is actually “D” — all of the above. Competitors in the Masters know that when they walk off the 10th green, it’s all about hanging on for dear life when they arrive on the next tee box. The best drives are the ones that are hit the straightest and furthest, as pine straws and mammoth-sized trees line both sides of this fairway.

The tee shot is just the beginning of the test because the second shot is as tough as any approach on the golf course. Miss it left, and it’s in the pond. Miss it right, and you are left with a precarious chip. At the 2018 Masters, “White Dogwood” played to exactly a 4.4 stroke average, easily making it the toughest of the week.

In fact, you and I made the same number of birdies at the 11th hole during Saturday’s 3rd round as the entire field combined! Not a single birdie was carded in that round, and only 13 birdies were made at 11 for the entire week, compared to 21 double bogies or worse!

Regarding the most famous shots, there have been plenty at the 11th hole at Augusta. However, none come close to Larry Mize’s chip-in at the 1987 Masters to beat Greg Norman in a playoff. Don’t remember or haven’t seen it?

Here it is, and it’s worth watching.

The 12th Hole at Torrey Pines (South Course)

If you gathered the members of the PGA Tour and asked them to name a hole during a that is perennially as tough as any they play all year long, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 12th hole at Torrey Pines received the most votes.

I am talking about #12 at the South Course at Torrey, the home of the Farmers Insurance Open and the 2008 U.S. Open. When it’s calm, this 505-yard hole from the back tees can somewhat be tolerated. However, if and when the prevailing wind is blowing off the Pacific Ocean and into the players’ faces, forget about calling this a difficult par 4. Making a “5” isn’t even a “gimme.”

I have actually played my fair share of rounds at this venue. I’ve played it early in the morning in November when the fog is overhanging and you get absolutely no roll. It might say it’s a par 4 on the scorecard, but it plays much more like a par 5.

The fairway is pinched around the landing area by two bunkers on the right and two bunkers on the left. If you smash a drive, you’ve got some sort of utility club or long iron into a back-to-front sloping green, and making a par is still problematic.

If your drive winds up anywhere but the fairway, you can forget about reaching the green in regulation. A missed fairway on 12 will result in a missed green, and more often than not, a bogey or worse. If you plug a ball in one of the sand traps, then a double or triple is most likely lurking.

When Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in the unforgettable 2008 U.S. Open, the 12th hole played to a whopping 4.585 stroke average and surrendered 29 double bogeys and seven triple bogies and higher.

Now you see why I made sure to include the 12th hole at Torrey Pines’ South Course as one of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour. I just haven’t seen many that are consistently this tough, no matter when you play it.

The 8th Hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links

If this was a catalog of the most scenic and gorgeous golf holes in the world, the 8th at Pebble Beach would have its own section. It just so happens that the hole is extremely hard as well.

Out of all the 500+ yard par 4s that the PGA Tour stops at throughout the year, you’ll see that I chose one that is less than 430 yards to be on this list.

The 8th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links is breathtakingly stunning, but it also happens to be a hole that can jump up and bite you in an instant, especially if you take your eye off the prize.

Every year in early February, the Tour makes its annual stop in Monterey, California, for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. We see golfers struggle with the 8th hole then, and we’ve seen them struggle when the U.S. Open has been contested at Pebble.

The main difficulty is the approach to the green, otherwise known as the “cliff shot.”

The ideal tee shot is something that travels around 240 yards and stays in the fairway. Then, players must shoot over a cliff and down to a tiny green, some 200 yards in the distance.

Any time you hit a shot that must carry over a portion of the Pacific Ocean, it’ll grab your attention.

Two perfect shots, and you have a chance at making a par. Anything less, and it can get out of hand quickly. The rough that surrounds the putting surface is tangled, and you won’t find an even lie. A double bogey is not at all out of the question.

The 18th Hole at TPC Sawgrass

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The 17th hole at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass might be the one that gets all the attention, and it’s understandable. But when you think about it, the “Island Green” is really just a teed-up pitching wedge for most players.

If they aren’t dealing with the pressure of the golf tournament, it’s really not that difficult of a shot. The same can’t be said for the finishing hole at the Stadium Course. The 18th hole is one of the most challenging shots on the PGA Tour.

Pete Dye didn’t do the players any favors while designing the final hole on the course that has hosted THE PLAYERS Championship every year since 1982. Measuring 462 yards, it’s actually not the length that is the biggest obstacle. It’s the fact that there is simply no room to bail out on either side.

This sharp dogleg left has a large lake running up the entire left side of the hole, so anything left of center is wet. But if you leave one out to the right, you will be lucky to have a shot to the green thanks to the overhanging limbs and vegetation.

Finding this fairway is about as hard as any on tour. Just ask eight-time PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon.

“No doubt about it. The hardest-driving golf hole I’ve ever played… I mean, we deal with water all the time, but at 18, it’s right on top of you. And there’s so much of it.”

That was his response when asked how hard the drive is at the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass, which should tell you everything you need to know about this tough PGA Tour hole.

The 17th Hole at PGA National Golf Club

The average golf fan might not agree with me that this hole qualifies as one of the most challenging ones on the PGA Tour, but that’s okay.

When you consider what a player feels standing on the 17th tee at PGA National on Sunday when trying to win the Honda Classic, there is no debating how tough this hole is.

The middle leg of the “Bear Trap” might not scare anyone away on the scorecard, but I promise you they’ll be nervous when they arrive.

PGA National GC is located in Palm Beach Gardens, and if you know anything about the weather in south Florida, you know it tends to blow. The tee is elevated, so the sense of hitting slightly downhill might cause a player to under-club.

However, anything short of the hole ends up in the water.

Missing it long would be okay, but there’s a large bunker looming, and the rough is sticky. If you can stripe a mid-iron and have good speed on your first putt, a par is very attainable. If you do anything other than hit a well-struck tee shot, then unfortunately, par will likely be out of the question.

No, I have never played in a Honda Classic, but Robert Allenby has played in multiple. When asked his thoughts about the Bear Trap, he had this to say.

“On Sunday when the pin is in the back right on No. 17, this is the hardest hole we play on TOUR.”

The 18th Hole at Bay Hill

The highlights and drama that have taken place on this hole alone are enough to start a collection of all-time great moments on the PGA Tour. Whether it was Robert Gamez holing out on the 72nd hole to beat Greg Norman at the 1990 Nestle Invitational or one of Tiger’s electrifying birdie putts, they all have one thing in common.

Those moments all took place at the 18th hole at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. Because it’s known for being the home of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, we tend to get spoiled and think the hole is easy with the highlights we have witnessed.

What we are missing is all the times a player misses the fairway and is forced to pitch out, generally resulting in a bogey or worse.

The fairway is actually somewhat generous, but you better hit it if you plan on reaching the green with your next shot. Some sort of high, left-to-right approach shot is needed if you want to have a reasonable look at birdie. Otherwise, running a ball up the front-left opening is a smart way to avoid making a big number.

At 460 yards or so, some players will opt for a 3 wood to ensure they keep it in the short grass. Stopping a ball on the green near the hole location when coming out of the rough is somewhere between implausible and impossible.

When players miss the fairway, the 18th hole at Bay Hill is one of the holes that they just have to take their medicine on.

Out of all the big numbers that have been made here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, we have seen a player make birdie to win the tournament. Tiger Woods heroically drained a 30-foot snake in 2008 to capture the title.

Then, the very next season in 2009 on the same hole, Tiger did this.

The 18th Hole at Riviera Country Club

If you are familiar with the Genesis Open early in the year at Riviera Country Club, then I don’t have to tell you how grueling the 18th hole can be. If you get caught watching Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson smash one 330 uphill and have a short iron approach, I understand if you don’t think this is that tough of a hole.

But have you seen what happens if a player pulls a tee shot that gets stuck on the side of the hill in the left rough? Do you know what a player’s scoring average is if they hit it right off the tee or miss the green long?

If you play the hole perfectly, then you can make a par and head into the clubhouse for a post-round cocktail. But if you get out of position on any of the shots, it’s going to be a nervous finish.

Essentially, the final hole at “Riv” asks you to split the middle of a severely left-to-right sloping fairway. Then you’ll need to fire your approach shot towards a green that appears sunken into a hill, mimicking an amphitheater-like setting.

There may not be any comedies or musicals playing, but I can promise you there will be plenty of drama. This tough PGA Tour hole has caused plenty of trouble for players over the years.

The 18th Hole at Quail Hollow Club

You saw it in the 2017 PGA Championship, and you see it every year at the Wells Fargo Championship in May. Quail Hollow Club is as lush and pure of a track as the PGA Tour members play all year long, and boy, is this place sweet. It’s a challenging but fair test for the players.

Legendary course architect Tom Fazio has come in and renovated the George Cobb creation, and what he has done to the culminating hole on the golf course is nothing short of spectacular. Check out this captivating two-minute video of highlights and comments from players that sums it up beautifully.

Perhaps the most memorable moment at this hole came in the first year of the tournament, back in 2003 when it was called the Wachovia Championship. As noted in the video above, David Toms arrived on the 72nd tee box with a commanding, six-stroke lead in the tournament. Despite taking him eight tantalizing shots to get the ball in the hole, he was able to hold on and win by two.

Anytime you finish with a quadruple bogey and still win the tournament, it’s a moment to remember. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last “snowman” made here, but I can guarantee you it’s the last time someone makes a quad and still wins the golf tournament.

The 11th Hole at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm

  • Where: Potomac, Maryland
  • Course: TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm
  • Par: 4
  • Yardage: 470 yards

The 11th hole at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm may not be as recognizable as some of the others on this list, but when you are talking about non-majors, golf holes don’t get much tougher than this one.

During the 2017 Quicken Loans National, the scoring average for the week was a mind-boggling 4.521! Only 51% of the field was able to make par, with a monstrous 36% of them making bogey. Throw in the fact that there were more double bogies and worse than there were birdies, and you’re talking about one arduous golf hole.

Speaking of the 11th hole at TPC Potomac, it’s a 470-yard beast of a par 4 that has a meandering creek that splits the two fairways. After players strike their tee shot, the next goal is to carry the ball across the hazard and onto the putting surface. If they fail to carry the mixture of creek and fescue grass, they’ll have to take a penalty drop and try again.

According to stroke average in 2017, the 11th hole at TPC Potomac played as the hardest hole on the PGA Tour.

That’s more than enough justification for a spot on my page of the toughest PGA Tour holes. Although, I should note that TPC Potomac was taken off the schedule in 2019. It was replaced by the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

The 16th Hole at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook

  • Where: Palm Harbor, Florida
  • Course: Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club – The Copperhead Course
  • Par: 4
  • Yardage: 475 yards

They don’t call the final three holes at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club “The Snake Pit” because they are easy holes. In fact, they might be the toughest finishing three-hole stretch in golf, and the 16th hole is the hardest of the trio. 

Nicknamed “Moccasin,” players must find the fairway if they intend to hit the green in regulation and walk out with a par. A large body of water extends from beginning to end, running up the entire right side and cutting back across the entry point to the green.

If you want to watch a flyover of one of the most consistently difficult holes on the PGA Tour, all you have to do is check out the video below.

The entire picture is painted in the minute-long clip above, and you should really check it out. Players have repeatedly struggled to make pars here, let alone birdies. Around a third of the field will record at least a “5” here, and it’s not because the hole is 475 yards long.

It’s because course designer Larry Packard brilliantly laid out the hole in a way that makes players think twice before pulling a club. It’s a hole that forces you to be creative, and it’s a hole that wreaks loads of havoc.

That’s more than enough in my book to be considered one of the ten toughest holes on the PGA Tour.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, if I were to have included U.S. Open and British Open venues, the list would have looked a bit different. However, my goal with this page was to look at a typical PGA Tour yearly schedule and pick out the ten toughest holes that stood out to me.

It’s no coincidence that many of the ones I selected were also amongst the hardest in relation to par, so I feel like I hit the nail on the head for the most part.

In addition to being an amazing sport to play, golf is also great to bet on. If you landed here hoping to read about some of the most challenging holes that PGA Tour players face on a yearly basis, I hope you found this guide amusing and informative.

If you want to shift gears and take a look at some of the most challenging golf courses in the world, I’ve got you covered. Go ahead and enjoy!

Michael Wynn

As a former Division I collegiate golfer, Michael Wynn loves writing about golf. He's also an expert in most of America's most popular sports, writing extensively for GamblingSites.com on football, basketball, and baseball.

Michael's a Las Vegas native and has been with the company since 2017.

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