Fret not those who stumble on Shinny's devilish 7th: The Belize tourism board wants to give you a free trip

Fret not those who stumble on Shinny’s devilish 7th: The Belize tourism board wants to give you a free trip

The water team douses the seventh green during the final round of the 2004 U. S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, June 20, 2004. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

Shinnecock Hills’s 7th hole is famously intractable. But golfers who are worried about a blow-up this week at the U.S. Open have at least one reason not to fear the terrifying par-3. 

Belize’s tourism board is offering a consolation prize to the competitor who shoots the worst score on No. 7: a five-day, all-expenses paid trip (with a guest) to the country’s Great Blue Hole, a submarine sinkhole known as one of the world’s best scuba diving destinations. They are calling it the Great Blue Hole Challenge

The brutal 7th stirred controversy in 2004, the last time that Shinnecock hosted the U.S. Open, for being virtually unplayable. The first two groups out on that Sunday in 2004 carded three triple bogeys and a bogey. ESPN reported at the time that Billy Mayfair, the lone player in the first two groups to make a bogey, made the sign of the cross as he attempted his second shot. Scores improved after the USGA decided to start watering the green in between groups. But golfers who had to do battle with the original setup were less than thrilled with that solution. Not a single player shot under par in the final round of the 2004 tournament, and only three managed birdies at the 7th. It played as the second-hardest par-3 on Tour that year.

Aside from the chance to snag a free Caribbean vacation, golfers who stumble on No. 7 this week can also take comfort that they are unlikely to come near the USGA record for highest score on a hole. That distinction belongs to Ray Ainsley, who recorded a 19 on the par-3 16th at the U.S. Open at Cherry Hill Country Club back in 1938.