The 50 Best Holes In The U.S.

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50. The Olympic Club, San Francisco, Calif., No. 18, par-4: The decider in several U.S. Opens, notably in 1955, when Jack Fleck shocked Ben Hogan, this shortish uphill thrust demands a perfectly gauged approach to a mostly blind, narrow, vexing green. An amphitheater of grass and one of golf’s most formidable clubhouses make for a compelling backdrop.
2 of 50 Courtesy of Sebonack Golf Club
49. Sebonack Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y., No. 18, par-5: The remarkable 2006 design collaboration between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak yielded a bevy of world-class holes that beguiled competitors at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open. The long and winding closer that hugs the shoreline of Peconic Bay is an instant classic.
3 of 50 Courtesy of Betsy Austin
48. Linville Golf Club, Linville, N.C., No. 3, par-4: One of Donald Ross’ quieter gems is this 1924 creation in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an hour northeast of Asheville. Trout-filled Grandmother Creek affects play on 14 holes, including at this scenic, strategic 472-yarder, where it must be carried to find the green.
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47. Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Okla., No. 12, par-4: Another Ben Hogan favorite, the 449-yard 12th suggests a 3-wood off the tee, to a small, semi-blind landing area pinched by mature trees and wiry rough. A slightly raised green is protected by vast ovals of sand and a barely visible water hazard. Mastering right-to-left shots into left-to-right wind is key.
5 of 50 Aidan Bradley
46. Kapalua Resort (Plantation), Maui, Hawaii, No. 18, par-5: If you’ve ever wanted to reach a 663-yard par-5 in two, here’s your chance, thanks to this downhill-plunging Coore-Crenshaw creation that features a broad fairways slope and a speed slot into the green. Pacific panoramas add more icing to this distinctive cake, where it will take clever ground game prowess -- and avoiding the jungle that frames the fairway -- to post a red number.
6 of 50 John and Jeannine Henebry
45. Shadow Creek, North Las Vegas, Nev., No. 18, par-5: As modern risk/reward par-5s go, it’s tough to top Shadow Creek’s 18th for drama and variety. Carry the water twice and you can look at an eagle putt. Choose the three-shot route and there’s still liquid trouble, mitigated however by the calming presence of flowers, pine trees, waterfalls and mountains -- in the desert.
7 of 50 Scott Halleran / Getty Images
44. Congressional Country Club (Blue), Bethesda, Md., No. 17, par-4: Alternating between serving as the penultimate hole or the closer in tournaments hasn’t altered the status of this 523-yard downhiller as a classic. Ken Venturi claimed the 1964 U.S. Open here; Tom Lehman splashed away his chances at the 1997 U.S. Open with a pulled 6-iron.
8 of 50 Scott Ramsay / Yale Sports Publicity
43. The Course at Yale, New Haven, Ct., No. 9, par-3: Unforgettable is Yale’s 235-yard Biarritz, which features a 60-yard-long double plateau green that’s divided front to back by a five-foot-deep trench. Unfortunately, you can see every ripple from a tee box that’s elevated 60 feet above Greist Pond. Birdie Yale’s 9th and they’ll fit you for a Valedictorian cap and gown.
9 of 50 Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
42. Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, S.C., No. 18, par-4: Don’t let the wide fairway fool you. With OB stakes ands condos to the right, and Calibogue (pronounced Cali-bogey) Sound to the left, any wind at all turns this 472-yarder into a beast. The candy cane-striped lighthouse that backdrops the green is one of golf’s most iconic images.
10 of 50 John and Jeaninne Henebry
41. Black Diamond Ranch (Quarry), Lecanto, Fla., No. 15, par-4: It’s almost tough to pick a clear favorite from among Black Diamond’s five dramatic quarry holes, but this 371-yarder is tops. Between the strikingly handsome sand and water features and the rock ledge framing the green, it’s hard for the average golfer to fathom how Tom Fazio created such beauty from such inhospitable terrain.
11 of 50 Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
40. Maidstone Club, East Hampton, N.Y., No. 9, par-4: Among the most linksy holes in the U.S., Maidstone’s 9th begins with an elevated tee shot played to a valley fairway sheltered by dunes on both sides. A propped-up green buffeted by breezes from the adjacent Atlantic Ocean requires superior trajectory from anyone looking for a possible birdie putt.
12 of 50 Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
39. Friar’s Head, Baiting Hollow, N.Y., No. 14, par-5: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw transformed a Long Island potato farm to into a gourmet meal. The main course is the 14th, which climbs slowly from wooded dunes, ultimately reaching an elevated, heavily contoured green that’s nestled in among towering dune ridges.
13 of 50 Larry Lambrecht
38. Whistling Straits (Straits), Haven, Wisc., No. 17, par-3: Massive sand dunes and bunkers submerged 20 feet below the putting surface are only half the battle at this 223-yard brute. Yank it too hard and you’ll find Lake Michigan. Push it short or right and more tall, gnarly dunes will swallow your ball. Hit it straight -- or else.
14 of 50 Scott Nelson
37. Prairie Dunes Country Club, Hutchinson, Ks., No. 8, par-4: On a property walk-through in the mid-1930s, architect Perry Maxwell declared of Prairie Dunes, “There are 118 good golf holes out here. All I have to do is eliminate 100 of them. Good thing he kept the 8th. The 430-yarder dishes out four heaving ripples that cut across the fairway and bunkers edged with yucca plants, plus all the wind you can handle.
15 of 50 Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
36. Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga., No. 11, par-4: So risky is the approach to this long, pond-guarded downhiller that Ben Hogan once said, “If you ever see me on this green in two, you’ll know I missed my second shot.” Hogan preferred the safety zone short and right of the green. In recent years, the club has shifted the fairway closer to the creek on the left and added trees to the right, but it remains a standout.
16 of 50 Drew Hallowell / Getty Images
35. Merion Golf Club (East), Ardmore, Pa., No. 11, par-4: Bobby Jones clinched the Grand Slam on this 367-yard hole in 1930. For most, however, it’s a twisted little scorecard wrecker, thanks to a hubcap-sized green that’s propped up above the stone-studded waters of Baffling Brook.
17 of 50 Courtesy of Rob Babcock
34. Pasatiempo Golf Club, Santa Cruz, Calif., No. 16, par-4: Alister MacKenzie’s favorite hole starts off with a left-leaning fairway edged by a barranca, with OB and homes on the right. The approach is struck from a downhill, sidehill lie to an elevated, three-tier, scary fast green.
18 of 50 John Biever / SI
33. Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa., No. 3, par-4: Unsparing and honest in its examination of a golfer’s skill, Oakmont’s virtues are epitomized by the 428-yard 3rd. The infamous Church Pew bunkers await to the left, more bunkers and ligament-snapping rough to the right and at the end is a left-to-right tilting green that falls away both in front and in back.
19 of 50 Drew Hallowell / Getty Images
32. Merion Golf Club (East), Ardmore, Pa., No. 5, par-4: Daunting choices greet the golfer at the 504-yard 5th. Choose the flatter left side of the landing area and you risk pulling it into the creek. However, a right-side play leaves a hanging lie to a green that swings hard right to left. A “safe” approach to the right means either an impossible up and down chip or a near-certain three-putt.
20 of 50 Larry Lambrecht
31. Mauna Kea Golf Course, Big Island, Hawaii, No. 3, par-3: Robert Trent Jones’ single most dramatic hole is this gargantuan 272-yarder that asks for a smash across the pounding Pacific surf from an isolated tee box set into 5,000-year-old black lava rock.
21 of 50 Joann Dost
30. Spyglass Hill Golf Club, Pebble Beach, Calif., No. 4, par-4: One of Robert Trent Jones’ most memorable creations is this slight-on-distance, long on everything else 370-yard two-shotter. A fairway that slopes right to left toward the Pacific Ocean and a long diagonal green tucked into ice plant-flecked dunes force thoughtful tactics and execution.
22 of 50 James Lum / Baltusrol Golf Club
29. Baltusrol Golf Club (Lower), Springfield, N.J., No. 17, par-5: Not until John Daly blasted a 1-iron here at the 1993 U.S. Open had this hole ever been reached in two. Since that time, the club has stretched the hole from 630 yards to 650. Even so, there has been plenty of sand-oriented drama over the years revolving around A.W Tillinghast’s version of “Hell’s Half-Acre,” which interrupts the fairway around the 400-yard mark.
23 of 50 Mel Evans / Associated Press
28. Winged Foot Golf Club (West), Mamaroneck, N.Y.; No. 10, par-3: Thanks to a house poking through the trees behind the green, Ben Hogan called this 190-yard hole, “A 3-iron into some guy’s bedroom.” Steep-lipped bunkers that front an elevated, pear-shaped, topsy-turvy green made this A.W. Tillinghast’s signature hole.
24 of 50 Marvin E. Newman / Sports Illustrated
27. Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach, Fla., No. 6, par-4: Ben Hogan considered Seminole such a superb test, he would practice there for 30 straight days in his leadup to the Masters. He held particular affinity for the 6th, which he called “the best par-4 in the world.” Some of Donald Ross’ finest strategic bunkering and the relentless Atlantic breezes define this 388-yarder.
25 of 50 Wood Sabold
The cliff-top par-3 11th at Pacific Dunes.
26 of 50 Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
25. Pinehurst (No.2), Pinehurst, N.C., No. 5, par-4: A right-to-left fairway tilt at the 481-yard 5th suggests keeping the drive up the right side, but too far right and the ball will be well above your feet for the long, demanding second. The same vicious tilt at the throat of the green will repel all but the most skillfully judged approaches.
27 of 50 Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
24. Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio; No. 14, par-4: Jack Nicklaus’ supreme test of drive-and-pitch precision sports a challenging, if downhill tee shot, thanks to a creek that bisects the landing area at the 245-yard mark. Missing the slender, angled green short-right and you’re wet, but bail long-left and what remains is a terrifying downhill chip from bunkers or rough with water beyond.
28 of 50 Drew Hallowell / Getty Images
23. Merion Golf Club (East), Ardmore, Pa.,No. 16, par-4: Merion’s 428-yard quarry hole is as relevant now as it was 100 years ago, thanks to its gigantic, hellish pit of sand, rough and thorny shrubbery. Belt it more than 300 yards and you’re doomed. Miss the fairway and you face a 40-yard layup shot, for as Lee Trevino says, you don’t want to take on that quarry from a bad lie.
29 of 50 Evan Schiller
22. Bethpage State Park (Black), Farmingdale, N.Y., No. 5, par-4: The hardest water-less par-4 in America is likely to be found at this A.W. Tillinghast-designed muni, where a valley fairway, dense rough, a massive diagonal splash of sand and a green perched on a plateau 30 feet above the fairway conspire to wreak misery on all who make the climb.
30 of 50 Getty Images
21. National Golf Links of America, Southampton, N.Y., No. 4, par-3: C.B. Macdonald crafted a fistful of faithful homages to the greatest holes in the British Isles at the NGLA. A rare instance where the replica surpasses the original is NGLA’s example of a Redan, a more exacting, attractive version of the original at Scotland’s North Berwick.
31 of 50 Courtesy of Sue Drinker
20. Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club, Holyoke, Colo., No. 7, par-4: Tom Doak carved out one of the wildest, most inspired green complexes anywhere at this 335-yard hole in the prairies of northeastern Colorado. Carry a central fairway bunker and an exaggerated slope to the left will funnel shots towards the target, while a jagged bunker eats into the right side of the E-shaped putting surface.
32 of 50 Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
19. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y., No. 16, par-5: An S-shaped fairway forces thoughtful shotmaking, the better to avoid fescues and bunker clusters that influence the strategy inherent to this brilliant William Flynn design. The bold hitter can reach the green via a small gap between the fronting bunkers, but missing badly will yield 6s and 7s.
33 of 50 Wood Sabold
18. Bandon Dunes, Bandon, Ore., No. 16, par-4: Architect David McLay Kidd shaped the diagonal ridge in the field -- it wasn’t in the plans -- and created an astounding, option-laden test. A safe play to the lower fairway on the right leaves a semi-blind approach. The tougher tee shot to the upper left landing area leaves an easier approach. No matter which you choose, the Pacific Ocean will gobble up a wild slice.
34 of 50 Andy Lyons / Getty Images
17. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y., No. 11, par-3: Perhaps America’s finest uphill par 3 features a putting surface that slopes away from a player on all sides. Hit it short and a nest of less than kindly bunkers await.
35 of 50 Larry Lambrecht
16. Pine Valley Golf Club, Pine Valley, N.J., No. 15, par-5: The second of Pine Valley’s two par 5s squeezes players with a fairway that pitches left to right and that fiendishly grows more and more slender as it climbs to the green.
36 of 50 Courtesy of Gary W. Kellner / Dimpled Rock LLC
15. Crystal Downs Country Club, Frankfort, Mich., No. 8, par-5: America’s ultimate hidden gem dishes out one of the game’s great par-5s, a 550-yarder from Alister MacKenzie and Perry Maxwell that beguiled with a fairway that tilts in different directions in its uphill, ever narrower journey to the green.
37 of 50 Dick Durrance
14. Sand Hills, Mullen, Neb., No. 7, par-4: The most enticing hole on the top-ranked course built in the past 50 years, Sand Hills 285-yard 7th dares you to drive the green. Stopping you from even attempting such a feat is massive bunker that guards the front-left portion of an elevated green. (Pictured: Hole No. 3)
38 of 50 Russell Kirk
13. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y., No. 14, par-4: Hitting the valley fairway that turns gently to the right is the key to solving Shinny’s 14th, a task complicated by deep bunkers, ever-present wind and a hillside to the right. Few holes in golf fit the land so perfectly hand-in-glove as this stern, 449-yarder.
39 of 50 Larry Lambrecht
12. Pine Valley Golf Club, Pine Valley, N.J., No. 2, par-4: The quintessential shot of Pine Valley is of the 368-yard 2nd, with its striking view from the tee and its terror-inducing green perched atop a ledge and surrounded by sand. The wide fairway tempts one to blast away off the tee -- and pay a terrible price for straying.
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11. National Golf Links of America, Southampton, N.Y., No. 17, par-4: America’s earliest collection of all-star holes was established in 1911 by architect C.B. Macdonald near the eastern tip of Long Island. The Babe Ruth of these all-stars is this strategy-infused shortish par 4, with its magnificent view of Peconic Bay and windmill near the tee. With cross-bunkers aplenty, laying up left, center or right all are legitimate options -- as is driving the green if the wind is right.
41 of 50 Joann Dost
10. Cypress Point Club, Pebble Beach, Calif., No. 15, par-3: The beautiful little sister to the 16th, Cypress Point’s 15th stretches barely 140 yards, making it well within reach for virtually any class of golfer. Its ocean carry, gorgeous bunkers and mood-setting cypress trees form the prettiest package in golf.
42 of 50 Wood Sabold
9. Pacific Dunes, Bandon, Ore., No. 13, par-4: The youngest hole in our top 10 dates only to 2001, but this Tom Doak-crafted, 444-yarder looks like it’s been here 100 years thanks to its seamless integration into a jaw-dropping setting that features a giant natural dune, blowout bunkers and the Pacific Ocean.
43 of 50 Chris Condon / Getty Images
8. TPC Sawgrass (PLAYERS Stadium), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., No. 17, par-3: There isn’t a par-3 anywhere that induces sweaty palms and a bumped up heart rate than the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. It’s only 137 yards from the tips, but to hit and hold its apple-shaped island green requires perfect distance and trajectory.
44 of 50 Larry Lambrecht
7. Pine Valley Golf Club, Pine Valley, N.J., No. 13, par-4: The finest hole at the world’s top-ranked course is this 486-yard, dogleg left. The risky drive will flirt with nasty bunkers set into the left elbow, while the safe drive down the right will face an impossibly long second shot. Similar risks continue for the approach. Not hard to make 5, but a very tough 3 or 4.
45 of 50 Larry Lambrecht
6. Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Calif., No. 10, par-4: Jack Nicklaus once stated that this little 310-yard hole provides for more options than any short hole in the world. A hack can make birdie -- and the game’s greatest can make bogey or worse, thanks to a sliver of green isolated by perfectly placed bunkers, making club selection off the tee and the correct angle in of critical importance.
46 of 50 Joann Dost
5. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif., No. 18, par-5: Arcing to the left along Carmel Bay, Pebble’s 543-yard closer is a better hole than ever, because modern equipment allows many players the chance to reach in two. Tall Monterey pines, giant bunkers, OB stakes right and the crashing waves of the Pacific to the left are the hurdles.
47 of 50 Fred Vuich / Sports Illustrated
4. Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga., No. 12, par-3: “The most demanding par 3 in golf,” declares Jack Nicklaus of this 155-yarder with a slender green that’s set on a diagonal and fronted by Rae’s Creek. Just ask Tom Weiskopf, who made 13 here in the first round of the 1980 Masters.
48 of 50 Hans Deryk / Reuters
3. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif., No. 8, par-4: After a blind, uphill, layup drive, the reward is a second shot over a wave-splashed cove in the Pacific Ocean to s tiny green ringed with bunkers. Jack Nicklaus calls this the greatest approach shot to a par-4 in golf.
49 of 50 Getty Images
2. Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga., No. 13, par-5: Co-designer and Grand Slam winner Bobby Jones loved the concept of a par 4-and-a-half. No better version exists than this creek-guarded, risk/reward gem. At 510 yards, distance isn’t the issue. Striking two (or three) precise shots is paramount, the second from a sidehill lie. Its springtime backcloth of brilliant azaleas and four huge white sand bunkers comprise the most attractive framing in golf.
50 of 50 John and Jeannine Henebry
1. Cypress Point Club, Pebble Beach, Calif., No. 16, par-3: No golf hole in the United States dishes out beauty and brawn in such equally strong doses as this 231-yard stunner that calls for a 200-yard carry over the Pacific Ocean to reach the green. Bing Crosby and Jerry Pate are among the few with aces here. For most, merely getting to play the hole is cause for celebration.