Golfers are by nature superstitious, and with reason. Their fortunes are tied to lucky (or unlucky) outcomes. Rub of the green rules the game. But there are some holes that seem to consistently bring players to grief.
Augusta National, Augusta, Ga.
No. 15, par five, 530 yards
You’ve finagled an invitation to Augusta National, home of the Masters. From the member’s tees, you hit your best drive of the day at the 15th hole. From a perfect lie in the center of the fairway, your caddie agrees with your decision to go for the green in two. You flush it. The ball soars into the sky and lands on the front of the green. But it doesn’t stay there. It rolls, slowly at first and then faster, back down the slope and into the pond.
North Berwick, Gullane, Scotland
No. 13, par four, 387 yards
One of the oldest clubs in East Lothian, the West Links at North Berwick has been confounding players since the 17th century, a time when golf was a laugh-out-loud lark. How else to explain the 13th hole, the “Pit,” a quaint, eccentric concoction that doglegs sharply left to a sunken green defended by a stone wall. Pro’s Tip: “Don’t argue with the wall—it’s older than you.”
PGA West (TPC Stadium Course), La Quinta, Calif.
No. 16, par five, 600 yards
Hook your approach to the ledged green on this Pete Dye-designed firebreather, a course PGA Tour refused to play again after their humiliating debut in the 1987 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, and the ball will roll down a long, steep slope to a waste bunker nearly 20 feet below the putting surface. From here, opt for the hand mashie—locals refer to the hazard as the “San Andreas Fault.”
Pebble Beach, Pebble Beach, Calif.
No. 14, par five, 572 yards
Well inland from Pebble’s epic stretch of holes along the cliffs, this uphill par 5, angled from left to right and a true three-shot hole, leads to a devilish green. The approach shot must carry a huge gaping bunker and hold a slippery perched green that tends to reject low trajectory shots. When the pin is cut to the left on the green’s upper tier, the margin for error is mighty slim. Shots left or long tend to tumble down an embankment to tangled rough or hardpan.
Pine Valley, Clementon, N.J.
No. 10, par three, 161 yards
The shortest hole on the nation’s finest but arguably most difficult course calls for a lofted iron shot to a raised green girdled by a ragged sand pit to the left; and by a deep, cone-shaped pot bunker at the front right corner. This is the “Devil’s Asshole.” A slightly flared tee shot may hit the right front portion of the sloping green—and roll slowly, inexorably backwards into this horrible hazard.
Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
No. 6, par three, 199 yards
Golf course designer George C. Thomas set his imagination free at this one-of-a-kind one-shotter. Interred within the putting surface is a sand-filled bunker, a “creative hazard” in the rear portion of the green that divides the sprawling surface into four distinct quadrants. If the pin is cut back left and your tee shot settles in the front right portion of the green, the bunker is in play. How unlucky.
Royal Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland
No. 8, par three, 123 yards
The shortest hole on the Open Championship rota, a.k.a. “the Postage Stamp,” is justly famous. But yard-for-yard, it has shredded more lucky charms than any other. Here’s why. The narrow green, barely 25 feet wide, is flanked by a large sheltering dune to the left and by a deep gully and menacing bunkers to the right. The invisible hazard is the wind, which can leap up and misdirect a seemingly fine tee shot to perdition.
St. Andrews (Old Course), St. Andrews, Scotland
No. 17, par four, 455 yards
A medieval card-wrecker, the Road Hole has humbled more champions than any other hole in creation. Eating into the left side of the long, narrow, tabletop green is a nasty, flared-nostril pot bunker. It has been modified slightly in advance of the 2015 Open Championship, but despite the changes, this penal pit tends to gather and swallow any shot that enters its evil realm.
Sun City Resort (Lost City), Gauteng, South Africa
No. 13, par three
This is no place to step on a banana peel. Beside the jigsaw-puzzle green, shaped like the African continent, is a water hazard. But not just any water hazard. This reptilian pond is home to nearly 40 adult Nile crocodiles. They’re well fed, but you’re well advised to watch your step as you approach the putting surface on this most precarious 13th hole.
TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium), Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
No. 17, par three, 137 yards
The hole the pros love to hate. Why? It’s entirely possible to hit an acceptable tee shot on Pete Dye’s cyclopean creation (it was actually his wife Alice’s idea) and have the ball bounce or trickle off the bulk-headed green into the middle of the lake. Luck tends to run out on windy days, when the target on this dastardly do-or-die hole shrinks to the size of a kid’s swimming pool.