Here’s what Tour pros would shoot if they played only the hardest holes

Here’s what Tour pros would shoot if they played only the hardest holes

What would happen if PGA Tour players only played the most difficult holes?

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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

No. 1 at Quail Hollow Club.

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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

No. 2 at Pebble Beach.

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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. 3 at Bethpage Black.

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No. 4: Augusta National

Par-3, 240 yards

Scoring average: 3.207

Tiger Woods chips on No. 4 at Augusta National at the 2019 Masters.

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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

No. 5 at Augusta National.

Jonathan Wall

Amen Corner gets all the eyeballs, but if you go par-par on 4-5 at Augusta you’re gaining on the field.

street scene in harrisburg, georgia


Michael Bamberger

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

No. 7 at Golf Club de Chapultepec.

Golf Club de Chapultepec

Even at high elevation, 235 yards over water is no cakewalk.

No. 8: Sheshan International

Par-5, 603 yards

Scoring average: 5.084

No. 8 at Sheshan International.

WGC-HSBC Champions

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

No. 9 at Sheshan International.

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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

Par: 34

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

No. 10 at Bethpage Black.

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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

No. 11 at Royal Portrush.

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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

No. 12 at Torrey Pines South.

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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

No. 13 at Bethpage Black.

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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

No. 14 at Pebble Beach.

Courtesy Pebble Beach

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

Nick Watney taking a drop at No. 16 at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course.

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Welcome to the jaws of The Snake Pit! Don’t slice one.

No. 17: Sheshan International

Par-3, 212 yards

Scoring average: 3.338

No. 17 at Sheshan International.

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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

No. 18 at Muirfield Village.

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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

Par: 38

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:


1. Seriously?

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.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/, where he’s told the story of a strange cave in Mexico, a U.S. Open qualifier in Alaska and plenty in between. Dethier joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. He is a Williamstown, Mass., native and a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English. Dethier is the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.