By Erik Matuszewski
Sometimes a golf hole just doesn’t fit our eye.
But that’s the beauty of golf, too: The playing field can be endlessly different, from design and difficulty to setting and strategy. It’s why two golfers in a foursome might love a particular hole while their two buddies lambaste it.
Here we take a look at 10 examples of polarizing par five holes, following up on lists of par threes and par fours that often yield similarly split opinions among golfers.
You’ll note this isn’t a numbered list, rather a subjective group of “love ’em or leave ’em” par fives. Take a look and then weigh in with any suggestions of your own.
6th hole – King’s North at Myrtle Beach National (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)
Nicknamed “The Gambler,” the sixth hole at King’s North is among the most visually striking holes you’ll come across, with an island fairway that offers a risk-filled shortcut to the green. It might just be one of the most photographed holes on the Grand Strand, particularly when it comes to aerial shots. The safer (and longer) play is well to the right to a fairway that doglegs left back toward the green, but the island fairway is the route to take—and the gamble—for an eagle chance.
15th hole – Cape Kidnappers (New Zealand)
There’s no question that this will be one of the most dramatic holes anyone will ever experience, built on fingers of the cliffs high above the ocean. It’s an absolute visual stunner, but the hole known as “Pirate’s Plank” offers little to no room for error with an island-like fairway that gets even tighter the closer you get to an infinity green perched as close to the cliffside as you can possibly get. When the wind is howling, as it often does, it can be a challenge just to keep your ball in play.
14th hole – Pawley’s Plantation Golf & Country Club (Pawley’s Island, S.C.)
Playing through a scenic saltwater marsh, the 14th hole at Pawley’s Plantation features a 200-year-old moss-draped live oak called “Jack’s Tree” smack in the middle of the fairway. The sprawling tree, which faces the house that Jack Nicklaus was once given for designing the course back in 1988, today frustratingly cuts off layup routes on the hole for some. When Nicklaus returned to celebrate the course’s 30-year anniversary several years ago, he joked at a dinner event about getting rid of the tree and elicited some applause when he suggested a copper nail would take care of the job.
14th hole – Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.)
The views are splendid along the coastal cliffs on this Pete Dye design that cost more than $250 million to build, but the 14th has more than its fair share of detractors. The short, uphill par five puts a premium on shotmaking with a narrow fairway lined by deep bunkers that pinch in drastically from the right side. Then things get more interesting, with a canyon cutting across the fairway about 140 yards from the green, and more bunkers that bite into the layup zone. Misses left can easily lead to a lost ball while a misfire to the right might end up OB in a beach parking lot.
3rd hole – Nabnasset Lake Country Club (Westford, Mass.)
The longest hole on this short nine-holer is listed at only 456 yards on the scorecard, but is a prime example of a “U”-shaped par five that has tee box and green separated by only about 200 yards or so as the crow flies. It’s not possible to play directly at the green, but cutting the corner is a definite option, and one that’s frequently pursued. Right-handers can go for a big banana slice over the trees, potentially putting you in position for a short iron approach…or in range of golfers teeing off on the adjacent 4th hole.
9th hole – The Golf Club at Stonelick Hills (Batavia, Ohio)
How about a par five with an island green? The 9th at Stonelick Hills, however, first challenges golfers with the decision of how much fairway they want to try to bite off the tee, with water hugging the left side of the fairway. After that, the question becomes whether to lay up to a wider second fairway or go for the 11,000-square-foot green behind the clubhouse. Regardless of that decision, the hole summary on the club’s website pretty much says it all in terms of what’s next: “You do not want to miss your approach left, right, short, or long.”
9th hole – Gallery Golf Club North Course (Marana, Ariz.)
Among the principles Bobby Jones discussed in designing Augusta National was that even the par fives should be reachable by two excellent shots. From the 725-yard back tees at Gallery’s North Course, that isn’t going to happen. The hole was among those featured several years ago in a LINKS list of “Untouchables,” or par fives that can’t be reached in two shots. After two perfect shots on a par five, most golfers would probably at least hope for the chance to putt for an eagle.
18th hole – Glen Abbey Golf Club (Oakville, Ontario, Canada)
The flip side of the unreachable par five is those that play too short to really be considered a legitimate three-shot hole. That’s certainly the case for most pros on the 524-yard 18th hole at Glen Abbey, which has been one of the easier closing holes on the PGA Tour. In some years there have been almost as many eagles as birdies. Some may argue that it should be turned into a par four, but with the water fronting the green and a number of sprawling fairway bunkers, it retains its risk-reward quality.
15th hole – Stillwater Country Club (Stillwater, Okla.)
Another example of an acute-angle par five, the 517-yard 15th doglegs right around a canyon and features an approach shot over a lake to a tightly guarded green. It’s a quirky hole that presents a variety of options, from those who try to play over part of the canyon and take a go at the green in two, to those who lay up off the tee and then are challenged to find a slightly hidden landing area. Boomerang par fives aren’t for everyone.
4th hole – Lost Marsh Golf Course (Hammond, Ind.)
Almost right on the Indiana-Illinois border, the 4th hole at Lost Marsh is definitely a unique par five, with essentially two peninsula fairways and a peninsula green. It’s a visually captivating hole, but needless to say, it has its share of critics. This is particularly among the higher handicappers, who are forced to keep it straight for three straight target golf-type shots as there’s nowhere to bail out.
Share more examples of par five holes that you consider polarizing, from well-known courses to the most obscure, in the comment section.