The best hole I ever played: The shortest hole at Pine Tree Golf Club is also the most terrifying

February 8, 2020
Pine Tree Golf Club

Our knowledgeable crew of course raters have stuck pegs in the ground just about everywhere. But which holes stand out as the greatest they’ve ever played? We asked them, and they replied with love letters about their faves. This offering comes from GOLF Magazine rater Mike Policano.

Dick Wilson’s Pine Tree has a reputation of being a stern test, and it’s easy to see why. Playing 7,306 yards from the back tees, at sea level, in usually windy conditions and with elevated, angled greens well protected by many of the 125 bunkers — the course gives you nothing.

A player not acquainted with Pine Tree in Boynton Beach, Fla., may look at the scorecard to find birdie opportunities. When that perusal of the card comes to the middle of the back nine, the golfer may think they found it: the shortest of all of the par-3s, measuring a measly 158 yards from the back box. But while the 13th hole may look like birdie-land, it is anything but. From the members’ tees to a front pin, the shot required can be no more than 110 yards. From the back tees to a back flag, it might stretch to 170 yards. The narrow, long and angled green has plenty of square footage (5,388 feet of it, if you’re keeping score at home) but it is encapsulated by bunkering.

A view of the par-3 13th at Pine Tree from the tee.
Pine Tree Golf Club

But good luck aiming for the middle of the green — that’s the most difficult shot here. The green is only 10 yards wide at the center, and deep-faced bunkers fortress the entire front. No running the ball up here. As if that weren’t daunting enough, a massive back-to-front bunker waits for any shot that goes the slightest bit long. Bailout? Short is out; all bunkers. Left is out; more bunkers. OK, let’s go long and right. Now you are faced with picking the perfect line and chipping back downhill but into the grain. But if you’re good enough to execute that shot, you’re firing at the target in the first place.

Pine Tree's green is surrounded by trouble. Approach with care.
Pine Tree Golf Club

Once you’ve got the flat stick in your hand, it’s still no easy task. The putt from the front to the middle of the green breaks up the hill. The putt from the middle to the front is downhill but into the grain. And the putt from the middle to the back is uphill but quick since it’s downgrain. Where is my birdie?

Throw in the ever-present wind from various directions and a firm green, and this little hole wrecks havoc for everyone: from the ever-hopeful bogey golfer to Pine Tree members Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon and 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland. There’s a reason most office buildings and hotels don’t have a 13th floor. Golf courses don’t have that option. At Pine Tree, you’ve simply got to tough it out.

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