My column on “Most Difficults” a couple of weeks ago provoked a flurry of reaction. Well, maybe not a flurry – but it was more emails than I usually get, so pardon me if I feel I’ve struck the motherlode.
And since there isn’t a heckuva lot going on in golf these days (sorry, the start of the PGA season, in mid-October, just doesn’t grab my attention), I thought I’d fill this space with another list of golf holes that stand out for me, from my six decades of toil and trouble.
Again, these are strictly my off-the-top-o’-me-‘ead observations, highly subjective and totally unscientific, whatever that means. And they’re only holes, or courses, I’ve played, not just visited and snapped the photo.
Prettiest Par-3 Holes I’ve Ever Played
This is a tie between the 6th at Muskoka Lakes, the 17th at Red Mountain in Phuket, Thailand, and the famous 3rd hole at Mauna Kea in Hawaii. On a beautiful, sunny, dewy July morning, standing on the 6th tee at Muskoka, looking down at the green, with the sun coming through majestic pines on the right, Augusta-like flowers on the hill behind the green, and (since they cleared out much of the woods beyond) seeing Lake Rosseau in the distance… it’s like standing in the middle of a Gainsborough painting. (Believe it or not, all I could find online is this photo, taken from the back of the green.
The 17th at Red Mountain is another elevated tee, down to a green that’s literally carved out of the jungle. The sound of monkeys screaming in the trees only adds to the magic. And you cannot visit the Big Island of Hawaii without playing or at least standing on the tee of the 3rd… just a stunning 200-yard carry across the ocean.
No. 12 at Muskoka Lakes is also gorgeous, and gets honourable mention, as does the often-photographed 3rd hole at the Mountain Course at Ventana Canyon, Tucson. And number 12 at Apes Hill, Barbados.
Most Visually Striking Par-4 Holes
The 6th at Bigwin Island, Lake of Bays. For much the same reason as the 6th at Muskoka… you just can’t beat the view of the water and islands off in the distance from the high, elevated tee. Also, the 18th hole at Apes Hill, Barbados… spectacular view out to the Caribbean. And it’s hard to beat the 18th at Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island, with the Lighthouse in the distance and Calibogue Sound all the way down the left side.
Best Looking Par-5s
I’m wracking my brains to think of a more awesome par-5 than the 10th hole at Turnberry, which has been modified and lengthened, and is stunning as it runs along the sea with the lighthouse as a backdrop to the tee. The epitome of links golf.
The 18th at Bigwin Island is a beautiful sweeping dogleg around Lake of Bays, first viewed from an elevated tee. The 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass is one we all know and love, with water invading the second half of the hole on the right side. And the 1st hole at Capilano GC in West Vancouver is not a hard par-5, but it’s pretty spectacular running downhill from the clubhouse, with the Vancouver cityscape through the pines in front of you.
Most Interesting Clubhouses
This is a tough one… so many buildings stand out, for various reasons. But Capilano is a classic, beautiful, functional building in a magnificent setting, followed by Toronto Hunt, St. Georges Hill (Weybridge, Surrey), Sandy Lane (Barbados), Beaconsfield (Montreal), and Toronto Golf Club, all tied for second. I’d add the R&A Clubhouse at St. Andrews, but if ye’re no’ a member, laddie, ye’ll no’ be gettin’ inside.
Nicest Drive in to the Property
I doubt that anyone’s ever come up with this category, but driving in to Caledonia Golf & Fish Club on Pawley’s Island, south of Myrtle Beach, is like driving through time to the 1920s, or maybe 1860. It’s about a 500-yard journey under a canopy of century-old live oaks, to a quaint and peaceful ante-bellum clubhouse. What an incentive to play!
The drive into Toronto Golf Club, in Mississauga, is maybe 800 yards long, through the course, and ending at a grand old clubhouse straight out of the 1920s, too. The anticipation of a great day ahead builds as you make the journey in from the gates off Dixie Road. And I remember being pretty pumped by the drive into Lake Nona GC in Orlando several years ago… passing by large, immaculate white houses and manicured lawns.
Bunkers, pretty?? Well, no, not really, but most of the traps at Sunningdale Old in Ascot, Berkshire have a burst of purple heather and/or beige fescue running along their upper brows, that are quite seductive… like long eyelashes on a beautiful woman.
Most Beautiful Course Overall
The afore-mentioned Red Mountain in Phuket, and Sunningdale Old are pretty spectacular… as is Hawk’s Ridge outside of Atlanta, Royal Birkdale and Turnberry, and Muskoka Bay in the Fall… but when I close my eyes, the one that sticks in my brain is the King’s Course at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland. The setting, on the northern apex of an almost equilateral triangle with Glasgow and Edinburgh, is surrounded by hills, with lots of elevation changes between holes. My friend Doug Ball took this lovely photo of me looking for my ball (as usual)… it took longer than usual because I was looking up and around, not down.
In case you’re wondering how I can remember all these holes, and courses, it’s because I’ve kept a record and brief description of every single golf club I’ve ever played, over 60 years… something I started about 25 years ago. I highly recommend it. You’ll be amazed at what thoughts and mental pictures come back to you.