The 9 Most Difficult Courses in America

1 of 9 Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated

9. Spyglass Hill, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Blue tees: 6,960 yards, par 72; rating: 75.5, slope: 144
What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 95.

Writer Jim Murray once penned, "If it were human, Spyglass would have a knife in its teeth, a patch on its eye, a ring in its ear, tobacco in its beard and a blunderbuss in its hand." Elevated greens, sand dunes crowding the first five holes and towering pines hemming in the rest, plus heavy air, little roll and awkward, sidehill lies are among the obstacles.
2 of 9 Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated
8. Winged Foot (West), Mamaroneck, N.Y. Blue tees: 7,264 yards, par 72; rating: 76.1, slope 145 What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 95 1996 PGA Champion Mark Brooks summed up this Golden Age A.W. Tillinghast design this way: "There are probably six hard holes, six really hard holes and six impossible holes." Frighteningly contoured, pear-shaped greens, cavernous bunkers and a procession of rugged par-4s define the trouble here.
3 of 9 Rob Perry Photography
7. PGA West (TPC Stadium), La Quinta, Calif. Back tees: 7,300 yards, par 72; rating: 76.1, slope: 150 What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 95 Find out your own handicap in seconds. Technology has rendered the course the PGA Tour pros refused to go back to less dangerous than in its big-hair heyday, when it was the "it" course of the late 80s, but for less proficient ballstrikers, it's absolutely relentless in its assault of insanely deep bunkers, Vail ski-hill moguls and demanding carries over water and desert.
4 of 9 Fred Vuich/Sports Illustrated
6. Bethpage (Black), Farmingdale, N.Y. Championship tees: 7,366 yards, par 71; rating: 76.6, slope: 148 What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 96 All you really need to know about Bethpage Black's off-the-charts challenge is printed on a sign behind the first tee: WARNING-THE BLACK COURSE IS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT GOLF COURSE WHICH IS RECOMMENDED ONLY FOR HIGHLY SKILLED GOLFERS.
5 of 9 Fred Vuich/Sports Illustrated
5. TPC Sawgrass (PLAYERS Stadium), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The Players tees: 7,215 yards, par 72; rating: 76.8, slope: 155. What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 96 Find out your own handicap in seconds. The Marquis de Sod, Pete Dye, changed golf-course architecture for all time with this 1980 design of Deane Beman's vision. Though it's been softened since, today it remains a spectacular mix of serpentine waste bunkers, endless water hazards, grassy moguls and hollows and semi-blind shots.
6 of 9 Fred Vuich/Sports Illustrated
4. Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean), Kiawah Island, S.C. Back tees: 7,873 yards, par 72; rating: 79.2, slope: 155 What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 98 So tough was the wind-blown seaside track when it first opened that Ray Floyd speculated no one would break 80 if it were hosting a stroke-play event. Twice in the past 20 years, Dye has softened the layout, and it plays somewhat gentler in summer, but you'll still be whipsawed by the prospect of taking on tidal-marsh carries, scrub-topped coastal dunes and fiercely guarded, wildly undulating greens.
7 of 9 Brian Morgan
3. Pine Valley, Pine Valley, N.J. Championship tees: 7,057 yards, par 70; rating: 75.6, slope: 155 What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 95 Find out your own handicap in seconds. It was once said of the brutal uphill, par-3 fifth that "only God can make a 3." Newly lengthened and toughened in the past few years, Pine Valley demands formidable carries over sand and scrub on nearly every shot. There's plenty of width for the modern player and there's nothing unfair, but twitch just once and the nightmare begins.
8 of 9 Pete Fontaine/WireImage.com
2. Oakmont, Oakmont, Pa. Green tees: 7,255 yards, par 71; rating: 77.1, slope: 147 What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 96 No course on earth plays so viciously harder than it looks than Oakmont. No trees, no water, few forced carries and huge greens normally add up to a sea of red numbers for the game's best, but not here. Not with the ferocity of these greens (which they actually slow down for U.S. Opens), a lethal combination of speed, contour and firmness, plus brutal rough and more than 200 bunkers.
9 of 9 Fred Vuich/Sports Illustrated
1. Whistling Straits (Straits), Haven, Wisc. Black tees: 7,790 yards, par 72; rating: 77.2, slope: 152 What a 16 handicapper would shoot: 96 Find out your own handicap in seconds. Golf's version of a slaughterhouse. Witness Tom Watson's wind-whipped collapse at the 2007 U.S. Senior Open, when as the leader, he skied to a 43 on the back nine on his way to 78. Better yet, observe any 10- or 15-handicapper that misses any fairway or any green. More than 1,000 bunkers, Irish-style rough, and a collection of hideously awkward recovery shots await.