Every few weeks somebody will shoot 24 under par on a long, difficult PGA Tour course and a certain subset of golf fans will shake their heads and mutter collectively on social media about the game just being too easy for these guys.
Is this a real problem? That’s up for debate. If it is a real problem, how would you solve it? Another interesting question.
But let’s sidestep both of those thorny subjects and explore something ridiculous instead, because it will be more fun: What would happen if the PGA Tour only played the hardest holes? What would happen if we took the holes with the highest scoring average and made a composite course? With a quick trip into the PGA Tour’s stats pages, we decided to find out.
First, a few notes on constraints:
-The stat inquiries work better with a complete season, so I decided to trek back to the 2018-2019 season to avoid any Covid-related complexity.
-I decided to build a par-72 course with four par-3s, four par-5s and 10 par-4s.
-I kept the holes in their original position on the course — so No. 2 at Pebble Beach was required to remain No. 2 on our fictional course, too.
-I also tossed out the courses that got played fewer than three rounds per tournament, like Monterey Peninsula CC or Torrey Pines’ North Course. Small sample sizes and all that.
Enough disclaimers. Let’s hit the course! I present to you: Torture National Golf Club.
No. 1: Quail Hollow Club
Par-4, 495 yards
Scoring average: 4.201
There aren’t quite as many devastatingly difficult opening holes on Tour as there are elsewhere, but the opening hole at the Wells Fargo Championship is still a doozy.
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No. 2: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Par-4, 516 yards
Scoring average: 4.321
Another way to make courses play harder? Turn par-5s into par-4s. That’s what they did at Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open, and sure enough: It played hard!
No. 3: Bethpage State Park (Black Course)
Par-3, 230 yards
Scoring average: 3.322
No. 4: Augusta National
Par-3, 240 yards
Scoring average: 3.207
Fun fact: This beastly par-3 also boasts Augusta National’s lone palm tree!
No. 5: Augusta National
Par-4, 495 yards
Scoring average: 4.336
Amen Corner gets all the eyeballs, but if you go par-par on 4-5 at Augusta you’re gaining on the field.
No. 6: PGA National
Par-4, 479 yards
Scoring average: 4.370
Another former par-5 turned beastly par-4 for the pros.
No. 7: Club de Golf Chapultepec
Par-3, 235 yards
Scoring average: 3.275
Even at high elevation, 235 yards over water is no cakewalk.
No. 8: Sheshan International
Par-5, 603 yards
Scoring average: 5.084
The site of the WGC-HSBC Champions has some brutally difficult golf holes, including this demanding par-5, which requires three shots for most Tour pros.
No. 9: Sheshan International
Par-4, 486 yards
Scoring average: 4.435
The clubhouse looms behind No. 9 green at Sheshan International. If you survive 8 and 9, stop in for a drink. You’ve earned it.
Front nine stat line
Length: 3779 yards
Scoring average: 36.551 (2.551 over par)
No. 10: Bethpage State Park (Black Course)
Par-4, 502 yards
Scoring average: 4.284
Eat your lunch before you make the turn at Bethpage Black or else No. 10 will eat it instead.
No. 11: Royal Portrush
Par-4, 474 yards
Scoring average: 4.352
It feels good to get an appearance from this fiesty Open Championship host site, specifically the brutish 11th, which is called “Tavern” — perhaps because it’ll send you to the bottle.
No. 12: Torrey Pines (South Course)
Par-4, 504 yards
Scoring average: 4.387
The view from the 12th green is amazing. Here’s hoping the pros enjoy it during their practice rounds.
No. 13: Bethpage State Park (Black Course)
Par-5, 572 yards
Scoring average: 4.968
Thus begins a stretch of three consecutive par-5s. Hey, we didn’t say this course would be well-designed! Just that it would be hard as hell. No. 13 fits the bill.
No. 14: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Par-5, 580 yards
Scoring average: 5.017
There are only a few par-5s on Tour that really test the pros on a regular basis, and No. 14 at Pebble does exactly that.
No. 15: Coco Beach Golf & Country Club
Par-5, 600 yards
Scoring average: 5.083
You may not have expected an appearance from the Puerto Rico Open on this list, but Coco Beach’s longest hole brought the heat in 2019.
No. 16: Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
Par-4, 475 yards
Scoring average: 3.311
Welcome to the jaws of The Snake Pit! Don’t slice one.
No. 17: Sheshan International
Par-3, 212 yards
Scoring average: 3.338
This beastly par-3 caps off Sheshan’s three appearances on this list, a number equaled only by Bethpage Black.
No. 18: Muirfield Village
Par-4, 484 yards
Scoring average: 4.276
Few holes have produced more iconic finishes of late than Muirfield Village’s 18th — which may only get more difficult after this year’s renovation.
Back nine stat line
Length: 4403 yards
Scoring average: 40.016 (2.016 over par)
Here’s the complete breakdown of our beautiful 8,182-yard par-72 behemoth:
76.567. I can’t believe that number isn’t higher. This is the most difficult combination of golf holes on the entire PGA Tour and the average pro is still easily breaking 80.
2. This is a long golf course.
At Torture Country Club, the average par-3 is 229 yards. The average par-4 is 491. And the average par-5 is 589. Those are some beefy holes.
3. We don’t need 9,000-yard golf courses (yet!)
My colleague Alan Shipnuck has written in the past about the PGA Tour’s approaching need for 8,000-yard golf courses. More recently he wondered if that was even long enough — do we need 9,000-yarders? But it’s clear that we don’t need to stretch our courses that far just yet. We just have to make those 18 holes very, very difficult.
4. Winged Foot would change this radically.
If we tabulate this same brutal course at the end of this season, the number will likely be much higher. Why? Because pros went relatively low at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, especially compared to this September’s test at Winged Foot. Scan the numbers above and you’ll see that the very toughest holes play about 0.3 shots over par. Winged Foot had 11 different holes that played 0.3 shots over par or harder. Eleven!
5. What would you shoot?
Remember, these are the best golfers in the world playing the very hardest golf holes in the world. Maybe this is a question best left unanswered.