Article by James Ward originally published in the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
Four of the most exhilarating golf holes… and how to conquer them
Fun golf is no oxymoron. For those who love the sport, emotions run the gamut from pure ecstasy to utter frustration. Then there are those golf holes that stir up a fascinating mixture of pure anticipation… and sheer dread. These are some of them.
4th hole, Stanley Thompson Course
FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS, BANFF, ALTA. PAR-3 / 192 YARDS / ARCHITECT: STANLEY THOMPSON
This legendary hole isn’t called Devil’s Cauldron for nothing. From an elevated tee in the midst of the Rocky Mountains forest, you’re asked to hit the ball over a glacial lake to a heavily bunkered green that sits in a bowl, or cauldron, if you will, tucked at the foot of Mount Rundle.
Don’t be short, and steer clear of the bunkers on the right side (the bank on the left side is more forgiving). And keep your focus: it’s easy to get distracted by the fiendishly stunning mountain views around you… or by the occasional grizzly wandering onto the green.
15th hole, Prestwick Golf Club
PRESTWICK, SCOTLAND PAR-4 / 353 YARDS / ARCHITECT: OLD TOM MORRIS
No listing of top holes would be complete without a Scottish connection, where golf originated. The 15th hole at Prestwick, the birthplace of The Open Championship, is aptly called Narrows.
A blind tee shot awaits golfers as the hole descends into a valley floor, where bunkers all too happily ambush your ball. The short par‐4 features a devilish green high on a crest that repels all but the surest of approach shots. Score a par here, and you might just hear the faint sound of bagpipes in the distance.
17th hole, Teeth of the Dog Course
CASA DE CAMPO, LA ROMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC PAR-4 / 422 YARDS / ARCHITECT: PETE DYE
It’s Pete Dye at his best at the 17th, which hugs the craggy Caribbean shoreline and curves dangerously to the right. To avoid the ocean lurking at the right from tee to green, play your first shot just short of the fairway bunker on the left. If you hit the bunker, it’s a difficult shot out of the sand because of the large trees blocking you.
On the approach, the tricky green slopes toward the sea and is guarded by bunkers short right and hard left. Add to this the ocean wind blowing in your face, and you see why this mighty Dog has bite.
18th hole, Streamsong Black Course
BOWLING GREEN, FLA. PAR-5 / 586 YARDS / ARCHITECT: GIL HANSE
The “Black” in the course name evokes a sense of fright… and it wouldn’t be entirely wrong. As you walk over a small ridge, you see the daunting 18th hole in the distance, guarded by a lagoon and front greenside bunkers. Here, you’re faced with a classic risk-reward opportunity: Do you attempt a bold second shot and flirt with a menacing water hazard in hopes of setting yourself up for an eagle putt? Or do you take a more prudent approach and play along the left side of the fairway? This hole takes some time to figure out but is worth it.