They seem simple and unassuming, but these holes can ruin your round. I call them "The Aggravators." Be afraid. Be very afraid …
Spyglass Hill, Pebble Beach, Calif. — Hole No. 8, 399 yards, par 4
Spyglass features brutes such as the 595-yard 1st and the 476-yard par-4 16th, but No. 1 handicap honors go to its most maddening test, the 8th. The reverse-cambered design doglegs uphill to the left, but the left-to-right slope can send even a decent drive into the right rough. The damp air makes the sidehill approach play 20 yards longer than it looks, and a front-right bunker and dense pines further complicate matters.
Kapalua (Plantation), Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii — Hole No. 13, 407 yards, par 4
While the fairways are massive at this rolling 1991 Coore/Crenshaw design, the landing area at the 13th never seems roomy enough. The wind that's always in your face makes it hard to keep the ball down, and even the slightest slice spin will balloon your drive to the right, where jungle-like rough awaits. On this former pineapple plantation, even the slightest mis-hit will leave a sour taste on your scorecard.
Pinehurst (No.2), Pinehurst, N.C. — Hole No. 15, 206 yards, par 3
Does any hole look so easy but play so tough? From more reasonable tees, you face an innocent-looking 175 yards, with no water or front bunkers. But the domed surface that Coore/Crenshaw actually softened in 2011 still repels any less than perfect shot via false fronts and slippery sides. And a slender but hidden trough fronting the green gobbles up short shots. Instead of a mulligan, I ask for more aspirin.
Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, S.C. — Hole No. 9, 332 yards, par 4
This little head-scratcher tips out at 300 yards and change, doesn't have a drop of water, and features a pool-table-flat fairway. But with pines and the practice range to the left and more trees on the right, you always feel constricted off the tee, and your approach to the tiny, heart-shaped green must be surgically precise, thanks to the yawning bunker in front and the meanest little pot bunker this side of Scotland in back.
Black Mesa, La Mesilla, N.M. — Hole No. 16, 536 yards, par 5
From my 10-handicap tees of 480 yards, it would seem simple enough to bunt three shots up the hill and putt for birdie. I wish. This double-bogey-in-waiting demands a forced carry to a sliver of sloping fairway bracketed by rocky outcroppings. Stray too far left and you're in rattlesnake country, while steep falloffs and a ridge through the green make chipping and putting tough. No wonder this hole is aptly nicknamed "Stairway to Seven."
My Two Cents: Three TPC Courses You Can Play
From late April through mid-May, the PGA Tour visits three public-access TPC courses in four weeks: Louisiana, Sawgrass and Las Colinas. While I don't love every TPC design, the service and conditions are usually superb. Here are three more TPCs -— mostly private — that you can now play.
The TPC Treviso Bay ($100-$199; 239-331-2052, tpctrevisobay.com) in Naples, Fla. is an Arthur Hills/Hal Sutton creation that hosted the Champions Tour's 2009 Ace Classic. Near Seattle, the Jack Nicklaus-designed TPC Snoqualmie Ridge ($130-$160; 425-396-6000, tpcsr.com) is a longtime Champions Tour host that's now open to guests of the nearby Salish Lodge and Spa (salishlodge.com). Raleigh, N.C.'s TPC Wakefield Plantation can be accessed via the McConnell Golf Trail (package rates from $736; 919-608-3572, mcconnellgolftrail.com).