What’s the hardest hole you ever played?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The European Tour will rebrand itself as DP World Tour in 2022 after striking a deal with DP World that will see prize money almost double to $200 million. The Tour will play 47 tournaments in 27 different countries including two co-sanctioned PGA Tour events. This is a huge step in the escalating battle between rival Tours since the announcement of two Saudi-backed upstart leagues and Greg Norman’s LIV affiliation with the Asian Tour. The players will clearly be the beneficiaries of all this new money in pro golf but it’s not clear that all of the rival groups can survive. How do you see this playing out?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): No matter what I prognosticate, it’ll undoubtedly turn out to be wrong. But above all, the orgy of money being made available kinda turns my stomach, and it all seems rather unsavoury with the Saudis being behind most of it. I just wonder if there’s enough talent and personality to go around that each of these tours can attract a fan base or attract enough television viewers and broadcast networks to sustain themselves. I can see them all diluting the pool of good and elite players to the point that none of them will have an edge over the others, and it’ll all self-destruct in a few years, leaving three tours intact: the PGA, the Euro, and the (minor league) Asian… just like it is today.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The market always finds a way. Players will certainly benefit. How do I see this playing out? Any start ups will be nearly impossible to get off the ground, no matter the money backing them. Do I see this as a threat to the PGA Tour? Not at all. The one thing the Euro Tour (DP World Tour) has is more global events. Still, it would be decades from now to put a dent on the PGA Tour brand, unless something unforeseen accelerates it.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: This entire situation will benefit the players and the fans. Once Americans discovered golf around the time Frances Ouimet won at Brookline, they gravitated to it. Their climate, political situation, economy and culture all created a perfect storm for success. As a country, there has been a lot to admire and envy from other counties around the world. But none had the same fertile grounds to produce the best players in the world. A few players grew in other counties, but the main supply came from the USA. That is changing! More and more high-quality players are coming out of other countries particularly female players. As these new Tours bring money, ideas and opportunity to countries other than the USA the competitive atmosphere will begin to generate new top-level players. Ultimately, in a few years, one, two or three will find a way to amalgamate into a gigantic world tour just like MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL have all experienced. Fasten your seatbelt! This is going to be fun!

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s clearly a power play by the Euro Tour and PGA Tour and I like it. Let’s get all of those other tours out of here and just focus on the ones that exist and have a good history. Maybe I’m just being too old school, but I don’t think the game needs a big change like the new tours are trying to achieve. This increased money will surely go a long way to cementing the DP World Tour as the true world tour that others are trying to create.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems even more appropriate now — golf is too much with us. There is a saturation point to everything — we in B.C know this all too well — and while 20 years ago, even a decade ago, golf fans clamoured for more coverage, there is now golf of various levels of excellence available for viewing all the time. Golfers — not new-to-the-game wanna get outside because of the plague players — love the game and its traditions, the Majors, and the true tests. Weekly bun fights between multi-millionaires — enough already in the NBA, NFL and MLB — don’t register. Hoping this is correct, the petro-dollar chase burns out quickly and we get back to golf.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I still can’t see either of the proposed Saudi-backed leagues getting off the ground, especially now that the European Tour (DP World Tour) has big money behind it and Norman’s group is aligned with the already established Asian Tour. After much jockeying I expect we’ll see three pretty strong Tours, with the balance of power shifting marginally away from the U.S. towards Asia. Maybe they’ll even host a major in Japan or Australia. The frustrating thing about this is that all three Tours are still offering a steady diet of 72-hole stroke play events. You’d think they could get a bit more creative.

On Sunday, Jason Kokrak won for the third time this year on the PGA Tour while Phil Mickelson won for the fourth time in six starts on the Senior Tour (PGA Tour Champions). Which is the bigger surprise?

Deeks: Kokrak, in my view. Nothing Phil does surprises me.

Loughry: Kokrak is the bigger surprise. He’s a fine player and all, but I don’t see him as a threat every week especially in deep fields. Mickelson I just expect to clean up on the Champions Tour, because he’s still competitive on the regular Tour and hits it a mile in comparison to anyone else on that senior circuit.

Schurman: Phil’s play isn’t a surprise and it’s good for the Champions Tour. Just when everyone is wondering how many more Schwab Cups can Langer win and what will happen in 5 or 6 years when he can no longer win along comes Phil. Kokrak is still finding his way. He has improved greatly over the past few months, and I look forward to watching him reach the next level of winning a major.

Rule: Kokrak by far. You would almost expect Phil to dominate the senior circuit in his early fifties, he just won a major on the main tour for crying out loud! But Jason Kokrak? That came out of nowhere (well, technically came out of North Bay, Ontario, so we can sort of call that a Canadian victory!).

Quinn: Lanny Wadkins yaks mind-numbingly on the Geriatric Tour telecasts, but he had a point — stop the presses! oh, right, no more presses — last week. He said that Phil is averaging ten yards longer off the tee than the rest of the guys on the Old Boys Fun Tour. But, pure Lanny, he didn’t mention that the Thrill’s 10-yard advantage is only measured on the fairways that he actually doesn’t hit that often and doesn’t even care about hitting because there ain’t no rough on the Blue Light Special Circuit. So, Phil can win on the Top Up the Retirement Plan Fandango anytime he feels like it. Kokrak winning was a surprise. He showed early promise but wins in November in off-schedule events don’t mean much, except to Kok and his accountant.

Mumford: Definitely Kokrak. He wasn’t on anybody’s radar to win in 2021, let alone three times. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Phil can win on the Senior circuit. The shorter courses and 54-hole formats cater to his strengths. The bigger surprise is that he’s playing there at all.

Each year the PGA Tour compiles a list of the Hardest Holes on Tour, which usually shows an average score of half a stroke over par but also a few really high numbers. What’s the hardest golf hole you ever played?

Deeks: I’d say the 16th hole at Summit, in Richmond Hill, a 600-yard straightaway that I don’t think I’ve ever parred, in at least 20 attempts over the years. Followed by all 18 holes at The Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida; Greg Norman’s course, which I played about a week after it opened in 1995. The fairways and greens were like concrete. I played to about a 6 handicap then, and I don’t believe I broke 100.

Loughry: For me it’s the 17th at Kiawah Island (Ocean Course). Long Par 3 over water, and you can’t exactly bail out left either. There’s just nowhere to hit your ball, you have to step up and hit a shot there. I feel the same way about the 10th at The National Golf Club of Canada too.

Schurman: There are three holes that are among the hardest holes I have ever played. The first is # 7 at Beaumaris. It is a 230-yard par 3 to a small green with a steep bank on the front making the shot all carry or the ball can run back down 30 or 40 yards. On the left and protruding into the green is a massive lump of the Canadian Shield standing ready to deflect shots anywhere. On the right and quite close to the green is another severe slope and a lateral water hazard. The green is two-tiered adding to the fun. However, it is a very picturesque hole. Another, also a par 3 is # 9 at Pine Ridge in Winnipeg. It is extremely uphill and about 225 yards long. The green is shaped like a bicycle seat pointed toward the tee. It is quite small and is perched high surrounded by severe slopes you could ski down. If you are fortunate enough to hit the green, it is extremely fast. I don’t like the hole and it is one of the ugliest holes I have ever seen. Last, is #17 at Uplands. Another small green, 250 yards, to a green surrounded by very steep slopes on the front and left. On the right is another slope that goes up and away from the green. Once again, a very pretty hole but tough.

Rule: There are a few that come to mind, hard to choose just one. The 7th at the National (I made an 8 and a 7 there in the 2000 Ontario Amateur), the 17th at Ocean Course at Kiawah, Road Hole at the Old Course, and the one that might not normally fit on a list with those other holes but often ruined a round or club championship is the 14th hole at Kedron Dells in Oshawa. It’s a long par 3 with OB left, trees right, and many play the hole as a short par 4 for fear of making a big number when trying to reach the green.

Quinn: Sorry, it’s a cliche, but the 17th at St. Andrews. Wind howling off the right, tried to nut it over the shed and let it drift into position A. Instead, at the last second decided to hit a cut that glanced off the facade of the Jigger Inn and into the deep rough, just barely in play. My caddie, disgusted, handed me a 4, I plucked a 6. We had been duelling since the first. Hit the shot of my life to 15 feet and two-putted. When I offered to buy him a pint in the Inn to commemorate ‘our’ miraculous par, we became pals. Can’t think of a tougher par 4, or a more satisfying one.

Mumford: I find the hardest holes take my focus off what I want to do and introduce some negative thought. Water hazards (I refuse to call them penalty areas) adjacent to the landing area or tight tree-lined fairways or blind shots can do that. The tee shot at the Road Hole has a bloody parking garage in your sight line and then the approach is nearly impossible. So for me it’s the toughest hole in golf. Another one that gives me fits is the first at Tobacco Road near Pinehurst, NC. It’s a dog-leg par-5 where both the first and second shots are blind. That’s a lot of pressure before you’re even warmed up.

 

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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