Six of Golf’s Best 19th Holes

By Adam Schupak

Silver Creek Valley Country Club

I learned something new at the Masters this year. My wife and I were sitting with Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and his better half, Claiborne, at an evening function when he told me that Alister MacKenzie’s original drawings of Augusta National included a 19th hole for settling tied matches. He told me I better fact-check this when I returned to the media center at Augusta National in the morning.

Just hours later, as if our table was bugged, into my social media feed from the Masters Instagram account popped a photo of the sketch intended for the land between Nos. 9 and 18. The hole was never built, but remains another example of how Augusta National was ahead of its time. 

The bye hole is a Scottish tradition meant to settle any outstanding wagers or games that went unfinished during the round, and the popularity of these quirky holes has grown in recent years. They can feel gimmicky or they can be great. Oftentimes, they are constructed as a bridge of sorts to get golfers from the 18th green back to the clubhouse. 

RTJ II designed a 19th hole at The National at Cape Schanck on the southernmost tip of Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, where the Bass Strait meets the tidal bay of Western Port, to rotate with the other par 3s and give one of them a rest. This is pretty common in Australia, Tom Doak reminded me.

“All of the best courses there have them, including Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath and New South Wales,” Doak said. “They actually use the one at Kingston Heath as part of the tournament set-up. But those are usually out away from the clubhouse, so they’re not a “bye hole” in the normal sense of being a bet-settler at the end of the day.”

I started thinking about the recent trend in 19th holes after I played Twin Dolphin in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a new private club with resort access designed by Todd Eckenrode and Fred Couples. It falls into the category of being a natural filler on the way back to the clubhouse. Couples concedes that he wasn’t a fan of the idea at first blush, but the 95-yard shot with the Sea of Cortez on the horizon grew on him during construction. “It’s entertaining and you know what, everybody loves it,” says Couples.

After all, who doesn’t want one more shot at a hole in one?

Here’s the Schupak Six-Pack of 19th holes I’ve enjoyed staring down over the years (in no particular order):

Knollwood Country Club, Elmsford, N.Y.

Knollwood Country Club

Not far from my old stomping grounds, where I played the game as a youth, is Knollwood Country Club, which I’m listing first as my unofficial granddaddy of them all. The hole was added in 1928 (34 years after the club’s opening) by Seth Raynor and Charles Banks, two of the many names that receive credit for the course’s design.

Knollwood’s 19th hole in 1929

It is said that club member Bobby Jones felt that the walk from the 18th green to the clubhouse was too long and suggested adding the 19th hole to conclude the round. Known as “The Bye,” it is a 123-yard par 3 played from an elevated tee over water to a tiny back-to-front-green protected out front by a row of three bunkers.

Forest Creek Country Club, Pinehurst, N.C.

Forest Creek (which also has one of best all-time locker rooms if you haven’t been) created “the hog hole” in 1997 before an optional 19th hole became trendy. Fazio placed the tee box for the 165-yard carry over water adjacent to the 18th green for easy access and this hole is enjoyed as the perfect venue for settling the day’s wagers or your unresolved swing thoughts.

Silver Creek Valley Country Club, San Jose, Calif.

Silver Creek Valley Country Club 19th hole

The 18th hole is a par 4 with a water feature hugging the left side of the hole. When Mike Strantz renovated the layout in 2002, he envisioned a tee box above the waterfall to allow members the option to play it as either a par 4 or par 3. It’s actually been rated by the Northern California Golf Association as a stand-alone hole ranging from 125 to 174 yards, so the club has separate course ratings/slopes for all the tee combos, which gives its members the option to play 18 or 19 as their last hole. The view from the 19th-hole tee-box perch overlooking the clubhouse and the mountains of Silicon Valley in the background is stunning and makes it a popular wedding venue.

Streamsong Resort, Streamsong, Fla.

Streamsong Resort 19th hole (Photo credit: Jon Cavalier)

The toughest choice at Streamsong is ranking the three courses—Red, Blue, and Black. But if you don’t have time for an emergency nine to settle a match, don’t fret because Tom Doak designed a one-shotter located behind the Red/Blue clubhouse and to the right of the putting green, on the way to the first tee at the Blue Course. Streamsong executive Rich Mack requested Doak build it because he thought it would be good to have an extra hole they could light up for night play for groups dining in the clubhouse and guests staying in the clubhouse.

Doak debuted the hole at his Renaissance Cup event the day after the grand opening. “We had 175 players for 128 spots in match play,” Doak recalled. “Players who weren’t granted an exemption had to survive a closest-to-the-pin contest just to get into the field!”

Stone Eagle Golf Club, Palm Desert, Calif.

Photo credit: Stone Eagle Golf Club

Doak is responsible for this 158-yard gem that overlooks the desert valley floor. As the club’s web site states, “Too tough for an opening par 3, too heartbreaking for the 18th, but a perfect 19th to settle tied matches or play for drinks.” 

That pretty much sums up the marching orders that Doak was given when he initially identified this hole. “I had to find 18 other holes on the property, and then use it as the 19th,” Doak said.

Forest Dunes Golf Club, Roscommon, Mich.

Forest Dunes 19th hole

Tom Weiskopf topped off this fiercely-challenging Northern Michigan layout with one more perverse pleasure—an homage to the sixth green at Riviera with a bunker in the middle of the green. This 19th hole looks like a giant doughnut except there’s no cream filling awaiting you if hit in the middle of this 117-yard bonus hole. 

This isn’t meant to be a definitive list by any means. Here’s a short list of honorable mentions for whom their only fault is I haven’t gotten around to playing them yet (but someday I will).

Others: Old Sandwich (Mass.) by Coore & Crenshaw; The Gambling Hole at Koasati Pines (La.) by Kevin Tucker; Double Eagle GC in Galena, Ohio by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Moorish; Forrest Wager (Hole 17.5) at The Short Course at Mountain Shadows (Ariz.) by Forrest Richardson; The Summit Club (Nev.) by Tom Fazio.

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It’s your time to weigh in. What 19th holes did we forget or are deserving of greater recognition? Let us know in the comments section!