By Ryan Asselta
The par five. The one hole in golf where almost anything is possible. The longest holes on a course give golfers a chance to imagine the possibilities. A legitimate chance at birdie…or even that rare shot at an elusive eagle. But as many of us know, par fives can often show their teeth, generating double and triple bogeys and wrecking even the most consistent player’s scorecard.
With that in mind, the premise is simple: If you could create a nine-hole golf course composed of your top par fives in the world, what would it look like?
It’s the third and final edition to a series I call my “Dream Nine,” consisting of holes that I’ve played and others that I’ve only seen in my dreams (after creating layouts for my Dream Nine of par threes and par fours).
Remember…it’s MY personal dream nine. Take a look and ask yourself—what’s on yours?
Troon North, Monument Course: 3rd hole (564 yards)
We begin our Dream Nine with what feels like a trip back to prehistoric times. The first par five on the Monument course at Troon North affords golfers an enormous target off the tee—a massive boulder sitting dead smack in the middle of the fairway. Unable to move the giant piece of granite, designer Tom Weiskopf decided to leave it undisturbed, creating one of the most unique tee shots in the Arizona desert.
Place your drive on either side of that Flintstones-like hazard and you’ll have the green in your sights on the sharp dogleg right. Leave it too close to the boulder, and you’ll be punching-out back into play—like yours truly did during my visit to Troon North.
Bethpage State Park, Black Course: 4th hole (517 yards)
The first par five at “The Black” is a beast and has A.W. Tillinghast’s fingerprints all over it. The double dogleg plays tricks with your sight lines off the tee, where finding the fairway is paramount. The fairway is divided by a massive glacier bunker that golfers need to avoid at all cost. Once past there, you’re still not out of the woods, as your approach demands a blind shot into a green fronted by a large bunker, and a putting surface that slopes severely front-left to back-right.
Having run off the back of the green, my ball came to rest in the tightly mown chipping area which butts up against some gnarly rough. Anything is possible on this hole.
Augusta National Golf Club: 13th hole (510 yards)
Standing on the 13th tee at Augusta National is almost a religious experience. Looking out toward the area that surrounds the 12th tee box and the tall Georgia pines that line the 13th fairway, you realize you’re standing on a plot of land that 99 percent of golfers will never set foot on.
My experience playing Augusta in 2016 was nothing short of spectacular, despite a sloppy bogey on 13. After pushing my tee shot into the pines, I was confronted with a similar second shot to the one that Phil Mickelson faced during the 2010 Masters. I thought, “What would Phil do?” Of course, Lefty pulled off one of the most miraculous shots in Masters history, landing the green and two putting for birdie. Me? Well I went for it, only to hit a thin hybrid…which led to my ball rolling into Rae’s Creek. I guess if there’s one body of water in golf you’d be okay with being in, I’d found it.
Sebonack Golf Club: 18th hole (570 yards)
As scenic a finishing hole as you’ll see on the east coast, Sebonack’s 18th is a gem. As a whole, Sebonack, in my opinion, is the most underrated course among the layouts on the east end of Long Island. Legend has it that Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak originally planned for the 18th hole to be a long par four, but course owner Michael Pascucci insisted on finishing with a par five.
The hole, which sits atop a bluff along Great Peconic Bay, requires a tee shot up the left side along the water line. A solid drive is followed by a treacherous second shot over Sebonack’s coffin bunker, and then an approach that will undoubtedly ride the traditional Southampton breeze into the green.
Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club: 15th hole (455 yards)
Southern Pines, N.C.
From the moment you arrive at Mid Pines, it feels like you’ve taken a trip back to the 1920s. Strolling through the clubhouse and locker room, you get a sense you might bump into Donald Ross himself. I’ve never actually had the chance to play the Ross gem, but I caddied in two U.S. Kids World Championships for my son at the historic golf course. Like any looper, I’ve developed intricate knowledge of the layout.
The reachable-in-two 15th hole at Mid Pines demands extreme placement. Off the tee you need to ride the right side of the fairway in order to funnel your ball back to the middle. You’ll then need precise accuracy on either your lay-up or approach to a green that runs drastically back to front and right to left. Helps to have a good caddie on your bag!
National Golf Links of America: 18th hole (502 yards)
The first of my four “closers” for the Dream Nine comes on the east end of Long Island. The C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor masterpiece built in 1911 sits atop the Shinnecock hills overlooking Great Peconic Bay. I had the rare opportunity to play the National prior to the 2013 Walker Cup.
The 18th is anything and everything a finishing hole should be: challenging, fair, and memorable. Called “Home,” the hole plays much longer than its yardage, climbing back up the hill toward the historic clubhouse the entire way in. Three solid shots should leave you putting for birdie in the shadows of the club’s signature windmill with one of the most breathtaking views in golf.
Kingsbarns Golf Links: 12th hole (606 yards)
Located just seven miles southeast of St. Andrews, Kingsbarns is just a baby when it comes to golf in Scotland, opening for play in 2000. The 12th hole, named “Orrdeal” after the Orr family who originally owned the land, provides golfers with a breathtaking stroll along the coast of the North Sea.
A right-to-left ball flight off the tee to the right portion of a generous fairway will funnel your ball back to center. You’ll need perfect wind conditions to attempt going for the 65-yard long green in two. Even if you have the wind blowing at your back, golfers deal with the sea to the left and a greenside bunker and a dune complex that surrounds the extremely long and narrow green.
Pebble Beach Golf Links: 18th hole (543 yards)
Pebble Beach, Calif.
Arguably the most famous finishing hole in golf, the 18th at Pebble signifies the end of a round that many players have dreamed about their entire life. The hole, that to date I’ve only played in my dreams, is one that I feel like I know exactly how to navigate having watched many AT&T Pro-Ams and U.S. Opens at Pebble over the years.
Set along the crashing waves of the Pacific, a tee shot left of center will avoid the Cypress tree strategically rooted up the right side, allowing golfers to try and get home in two. The approach into 18 is protected by a quartet of trouble. Water way left, green-side bunkers left and right, and a 70-foot Monterey Cypress tree guarding the front right approach. Simply iconic.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua: 18th hole (663 yards)
We wrap up our Dream Nine with one of my all-time favorite finishing holes. The 18th at Kapalua is traditionally seen by golfers on television in January during the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but you truly don’t get a feel for the hole’s breathtaking elevation until you stand on the tee box.
The 18th fairway is huge and inviting, 80 yards wide, but you have to hit your target line off the tee to maximize the hole’s downslope. Resident Hawaiian and NBC golf commentator Mark Rolfing says that target is the chimney on the right side of the clubhouse. If you hit that line, you’ll ride the speed slot and allow yourself the opportunity to go for the green in two. I followed Rolf’s advice all the way down to the green for a two-putt birdie finish.
What holes make up your par five “Dream Nine?” Let us know in the comment section below.