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.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.