Perhaps a steady diet of brutes is too much for most appetites, but most of us, when confronted with the occasional monster, relish the challenge. Here are the 10 hardest you can play in the United States, in alphabetical order.
Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge
18th hole, 441 yards, par 4
Architects: Dick Wilson/Arnold Palmer (1961)
$110-$215, 407-876-2429, bayhill.com
With the hole cut back-right on this banana-shaped green, Bay Hill's 18th might offer the nastiest approach in the business for the Average Joe. Miss it short and you're in the drink. Go long and a pucker-inducing downhill shot from sand, mounds or rough awaits to a green that slopes toward the water.
Doral Golf Resort & Spa (Blue Monster Course)
18th hole, 467 yards, par 4
Architect: Dick Wilson (1961)
$210-$295, 800-713-6725, doralresort.com
The alarming appearance of more water and sand than grass is terrifying enough. Toss in typical south Florida gusts and a green angled toward the lake and it's easy to see how the course earned its name.
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
13th hole 590 yards, par 5
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1949)
$100-$180, 843-449-5236, thedunesclub.net
Known as "Waterloo," this slicer's nightmare doglegs 110 degrees around alligator- (and golf ball) filled Lake Singleton, culminating in a very three-puttable, ridge-creased green.
Ko'olau Golf Club
Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii
18th hole, 476 yards, par 4
Architects: Dick Nugent and Jack Tuthill (1992)
$85-$135, 808-236-4653, koolaugolfclub.com
The hardest hole on possibly the nation's toughest course is a fitting, if merciless closer to an unrelenting round, thanks to lengthy forced carries over wide, jungle-strewn, 100-foot-deep ravines on both the drive and the approach.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, California
9th hole, 466 yards, par 4
Architects: Jack Neville and Douglas Grant (1919)
$475, 800-654-9300, pebblebeach.com
Not as spectacular as the 8th, nor as glorified as the 18th, the 9th at least earns the distinction as Pebble's meanest hole, as confirmed statistically yet again at the 2007 AT&T. A fairway that tilts left-to-right, toward the Pacific, makes for a long, awkward, frightening second shot.
PGA National Resort & Spa (Champion Course)
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
15th hole, 179 yards, par 3
Architects: Tom Fazio/Jack Nicklaus (1981/1990)
$230-$250, 561-627-1800, pgaresort.com
Length isn't the problem at this one-shotter that ushers you into "The Bear Trap" trio of holes. Instead, the scare factor soars because the slender green juts into a lake and a pot bunker lurks left so there's no bail-out. With the wind generally in your face, we can only offer Edward R. Murrow's advice: "Good night and good luck."
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Pebble Beach, California
1st hole, 595 yards, par 5
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1966)
$315, 800-654-9300, pebblebeach.com
Fog-enshrouded and library quiet, the silence on the first tee is disturbed only by golf balls echoing off the trees that pinch the fairway and by greenside groans from sad sacks who failed to cope with the downhill, sidehill lies and with the enormous, elevated green that's fortified by three classic sprawling Trent Jones bunkers.
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
17th hole, 137 yards, par 3
Architect: Pete Dye (1980)
$240-$350, 904-273-3230, tpcsawgrass.com
Golf's ultimate island hole remains golf's ultimate gut-check.
Whistling Straits Golf Club (Straits Course)
18th hole, 489 yards, par 4
Architect: Pete Dye (1997)
$357, 920-565-6050, destinationkohler.com
No hole better deserves its name, "Dyeabolical," than this sand-soaked, butt-kicking card-wrecker along Lake Michigan that demands a freakishly hard approach over Seven Mile Creek to a gigantic, cloverleaf-shaped putting surface.
Wolf Creek Golf Club
8th hole, 248 yards, par 3
Architect: Dennis Rider (2000)
$175, 866-252-4653, golfwolfcreek.com
If you're looking for a lucky break, head to Las Vegas, an hour away, because you won't find any on this hole, a jaw-dropping downhiller that shocks the system with an array of hazards, including a sandstone canyon wall backdropping the green and a gurgling stream fronting it.