Breathtaking and downright weird golf holes that you’ll never forget
Most of the time, if you ask a golfer what their course bucket list is, they’ll tell you the same basic list of courses. Augusta National, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, The Old Course, and so on. Rightfully so: These courses are all notable, historic achievements and represent some of the best golf you can play. But your bucket list should also include these fascinating outliers — holes that take golf and golf architecture to the extreme, causing delays because of gapers and photo ops as much as the difficulty of the hole.
It’s the longest par 3 and the most dramatic tee shot in the world. Accessible only by helicopter, the teeing ground of the “Extreme 19th” hole at Legend Golf & Safari Resort in South Africa sits atop Hanglip Mountain some 470 yards above the green. It’s not for the faint of heart, as making a good golf swing with a strong weight shift will feel like you’re jumping off the edge of a cliff. Feel free to take a mulligan or two, as the experience of hitting a shot like this isn’t likely to be repeated anywhere else.
The gigantic, difficultly-contoured green is shaped like the African continent and, despite its size, looks like a postage stamp from the dramatically elevated teeing ground.
Chicago Highlands Golf Course – No. 9 Par 4, 288 Yards
Chicago Highlands is a gem of a course that flies under the radar, overshadowed in name by nearby Medinah and Olympia Fields. But it’s a more interesting course than either of those can boast, with bold architecture and a degree of difficulty that ramps way up when the wind starts blowing. But the hole that you’ll tell your friends about is the ninth, a short par 4 like you’ve never seen. The green rests on a plateau above a giant mound that’s elevated over 20 feet from the teeing ground, surrounded by a fairway that’s dotted with the occasional bunker. It’s a 360-degree false front, essentially. If you miss the green, you’ll have a 40-50 yard approach shot straight up a hill to the plateau green that, incidentally, offers a beautiful view of the rest of the course. Just when you think it’s all been done before, a hole like this comes along and shows you there are still new ideas in short par 4s.
Everyone knows the Plantation Course at Kapalua — the PGA Tour plays their tournament of champions there every year. It’s a triumph of a course from the amazing Coore/Crenshaw design team. But lesser known is the older Bay Course at Kapalua. While most of the Bay Course is unremarkable, the 17th hole makes it all worth it. Your tee shot must carry about 175 yards over the Pacific Ocean, where most days you’ll see surfers carving it up by the cliffs below. It makes for quite a photo op.
The 17th at TPC Sawgrass is the most famous island green in the world, but the floating green at Coeur d’Alene is unique. It’s a true island that’s actually an engineering marvel: the island is movable to create different yardages and shots each day. The island looks tiny from the 218-yard back tees, but it’s actually a sizeable 15,000 square feet. Once you’ve managed to get your ball on the green, you board the “Putter”, an electric boat that ferries you to and from the green. Truly fascinating!
Just looking at the course overview on the Gunsan Country Club website, the third hole on the Jeongeup Course is quite an outlier. The fairway, lined on the left by water, just seems to go on forever. This 987-yard par 7 current has the distinction as the longest golf hole in the world. The longest hitters may be able to get to the green in three, which results in the rarest of the rare: a putt for an albatross. But most mere mortals will be happy with five controlled 200-yard shots and a decent chance at par. With water, all down the left side and peeking in on the right, and strategic bunkering that’ll really mess with the overly aggressive, the hole is a marathon of shotmaking. Par is a good score, but a birdie will be the most rewarding 6 you’ll ever write on a scorecard.