Punch Shot: What's the scariest hole in golf?

By Jason Sobel, Ryan LavnerOctober 31, 2014, 4:40 pm

Halloween is upon us, which means costumes, trick-or-treaters, pumpkin-spiced everything and spooky stories. That got us thinking about the scariest holes in golf. Our GolfChannel.com writers weigh in:


Let’s read the fine print very carefully: It’s not asking for the “best” hole or the “toughest” hole; it’s asking for the scariest one.

My first thought went to the peninsula green at TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole, but really, how scary is a hole that you can attack with a pitching wedge? My next thought went to the eighth hole at Pebble Beach, which Jack Nicklaus has called the “most intimidating second shot in golf,” but I still don’t know if I’d categorize it as scary.

No, for that honor we must travel to the Legend Golf and Safari Resort in South Africa, which features something called an “Extreme 19th” hole. It’s a 630-yard par-3 with a teebox 1,400 feet above the green that is only accessible by helicopter. Yes, you read that correctly: A 630-yard par-3. Photos from the tee make it look like you could fall off the edge of the earth with a clumsy swing.

I won’t admit that I’m scared of heights, but I will say that I’d rather swim from tee box to green at Sawgrass’ famous par-3, ducking the gators in that water, rather than take my chances 1,400 feet above the ground.


One of the great thrills of my otherwise ordinary golfing life was playing Augusta National the day after the 2012 Masters. Playing from the member tees but firing to the same hole locations as Bubba and Co. on Sunday, I grappled with many of the same tough questions: Why is it so difficult to breathe on the first tee? Is triple a good score on 11? Am I going to pinball this tee shot on 18?

And the most obvious question: What the heck am I going to do on 12?

Bar none, it’s the scariest hole in golf – 150 yards of pure terror, from the precision required on the tee shot to the deft touch on the greens.

The first player in our group caught a gust of wind, his ball hitting the bank short of the green and kicking back into Rae’s Creek. Double. The second guy flushed his shot over the back of the green, onto a downslope near the bunker, a spot so dead it might as well have come with a body bag. Triple.

Somehow, I sent a pitching wedge to the back of the green (and two-putted for par!), and there is no moment in golf quite like watching that tee shot fly through the air for what seems like an eternity. The nausea subsides eventually – just in time for the walk across the famed Hogan Bridge.


I don’t think it gets much scarier than the 16th hole at Cypress Point.

It combines all the factors that can make a player weak in the knees: long par-3, small margin for error, and, oh yeah, water. As in, the Pacific Ocean.

With winds whipping off the coastline and waves crashing at a player’s feet on the tee, the hazard separating green from tee can make it seem like you’re trying to hit Alcatraz from the Golden Gate Bridge. The cliffs also wrap around the back left of the green, just in case you thought there might be any semblance of a viable bailout area.

No. 16 at Cypress is also often discussed as one of the most scenic holes in all of golf, but as any married man can attest, sometimes beauty and fear can go hand-in-hand. 


The 12th hole at Augusta National may be the most mercurial in all of golf. That’s why it’s the scariest. That pocket of Amen Corner seems to have its own climate, and it drives players nuts. You’ve seen how club selection befuddles them, how it can be such maddening guesswork, with players scratching their heads seeing the flag on the 11th green blowing in one direction and the flag on the 12th green blowing in the opposite direction.

It’s a scary hole because invisible forces can inflict so much pain on perfectly good shots. A good swing, a flush strike, can be batted down into Rae’s Creek, or pushed into the azaleas, or whisked into trouble over the green. The fear is in the helplessness felt with a ball on its way to god knows what. 


While the line between what makes a golf hole demanding as opposed to scary is in the eye of the beholder, there are a few elements that clarify the transition.

Visual intimidation, a steep cost for lack of execution and proximity to the finish line all factor into the equation, and the 17th hole at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, has it all.

There may be more difficult tee shots in the game, but there is no more intimidating phrase in golf than, “Just aim at the ‘O’ in the Old Course Hotel sign.” The drive at the penultimate hole must begin out of bounds and aimed precisely at a wall that towers some three stories high.

If, and that’s a big if considering the width of the fairway, your drive safely finds the short grass and not, say, the Jigger Inn which looms just to the right of the hole, that’s when things really get scary.

Depending on the wind, players will have a mid- to short-iron into a narrow green with a road and a wall waiting if you go long. And the infamous Road Hole bunker – where many solid rounds have gone to die (see Duval, David, 2000 Open Championship) – awaits for those unfortunate enough to come up short.

It may not be the toughest hole in major championship golf, but it’s certainly the scariest.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.