America’s 20 Toughest Golf Courses

1 | The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, S.C.

Par 5, 16th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“I think the 17th hole is the toughest par 3 in the world. If the wind blows, watch out.””The course is really, really challenging for all levels of player. When the wind is blowing, par on many of the holes is an excellent score.””If your idea of a good time is a fistfight, this is the place for you.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

2 | Pine Valley (N.J.) G.C.

Par 4, 18th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Is there a better test mentally? Time after time, you have to trust your swing.””The target areas are wide and forgiving. But when you miss the target, the bunkers will eat you alive.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

3 | Oakmont (Pa.) C.C.

Par 4, 18th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Every approach shot had a different challenge and a different objective. I’ve never been more punished by a golf course.””A course that demands excellent putting, pitching, and bunker play plus driving and approaches. There is a fine line between these greens being very demanding and unfair.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

4 | Spyglass Hill G. Cse., Pebble Beach

Par 3, 12th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“A strong test of golf with great ocean views and tight, tree-lined holes with difficult greens.””The most challenging course in Pebble Beach. Its green complexes are the toughest in the area.”

Photo By: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

5 | Bethpage State Park (Black), Farmingdale, N.Y.

Par 4, 5th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Where is the finesse on the Black? The shortest par 4 is the 2nd hole at 392 yards and uphill, playing closer to 410 yards. It’s a big, brawny test.””Without a doubt the very hardest course I’ve ever played. It was not fun and I have no desire to play it again.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

6 | Whistling Straits (Straits), Haven, Wis.

Golf Digest Panelist Comments:“The most visually challenging course I have played.””Playing in a strong wind with the beauty of Lake Michigan is golf at its best. The vistas were amazing but so was the course: challenging but fair, demanding all shots in the bag and penalized bad shots. It’s a great test of golf.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

7 | TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium), Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Par 5, 11th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“A beast of a course that tests every part of one’s game, especially the part between your ears. “It’s even harder in person than it looks on TV. The greens were FAST.”

Photo By: Scott Halleran/Getty Images for MetLife Blimp

8 | PGA West (TPC Stadium), La Quinta, Calif.

Par 4, 1st HoleGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Well, the intent of this course is to drive good players batty and it succeeds mightily in that. Go in with the proper attitude and a fun time can be had. BUT … it is as severe as any golf course one will ever play.””I don’t believe the course is fair. Great shots are not always rewarded, sometimes not even playable. If this course were set up with thick rough and slick greens it could be almost unplayable.”

Photo By: Nick Doan

9 | Winged Foot G.C. (West), Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Par 4, 17th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Hard, hard, hard. Tough rough, new longer tees, great Tillinghast green complexes. Certainly one of the best championship courses in the U.S.””Truly great test of golf with wonderful green sites. I’ve always viewed it as one of if not the toughest up and down course in the world.”

Photo By: David Cannon/Getty Images

10 | Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort (No. 2)

Par 3, 17th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Wide open fairways still require drives in the correct spot to open up the greens.””Possibly the most difficult course from 50 yards to the hole The greens are upside-down saucers: You shoot at a 6,000-square foot green, but actually your target is 4,000 square feet.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

11 | Butler National G.C., Oak Brook, Ill.

Par 4, 14th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“The golf course is very straight forward, as you see all the shots in front of you and all you have to do is execute the shots. The course is more severe if you hit into the rough, as it makes the shots into the small greens much tougher.””The toughest course I’ve ever played. They could play a major championship on this course tomorrow.”

Photo By: L.C. Lambrecht

12 | Shinnecock Hills G.C., Southampton, N.Y.

Golf Digest Panelist Comments:“Wind has an enormous bearing on resistance to scoring. Due to the routing, the wind is attacking you in all directions.””There could be an argument made that this is the best course in the world.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

13 | The Olympic Club (Lake), San Francisco

Par 3, 8th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Removal of trees has enhanced sightlines, while still providing a great, difficult challenge. Great mix of holes and yardages.””Wow, this one has it all: bunkers from the moon, elevation changes (both up and down), shots to to the left and to the right … “

Photo By: Courtesy of the club

14 | Pebble Beach G. Links

Par 4, 4th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“The views and sounds are so outstanding that it can be a challenge to focus on golf.””The first four holes are above average and are a good warm up to what you are about to face. The 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th can attack your game from all facets and test all skills.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

15 | Oakland Hills C.C. (South), Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Par 4, 11th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Probably the most difficult greens to putt that I have ever played.””A very difficult test of golf. The shot opportunities are terrific but you have to have your A-game. There is a real premium on having played the course before as there is so much to learn about where to aim into the greens.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

16 | Medinah (Ill.) C.C. (No. 3)

Par 4, 2nd holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“It has length at 7,657 yards par 72 and the greens after Rees Jones remodeled them in the latest renovation have become harder.””Great angles off the tee. Drives must be placed in correct position to attack green. Loved green complexes, sloping greens well protected by deep bunkering.”

Photo By: David Cannon/Getty Images

17 | Torrey Pines G. Cse. (South), La Jolla, Calif.

Par 3, 3rd holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Quite a heavy emphasis on length vs. accuracy. Plays mostly straight away with few doglegs. Many greens are elevated and beautifully set with bunkering a key feature in play.””Renovations to the green complexes by Rees Jones turned an average course in a tremendous location to an Open Championship test. Many outstanding cupping positions provide interesting challenge.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

18 | Pacific Dunes, Bandon, Ore.

Par 3, 14th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Challenges golfers of all abilities with an excellent layout that requires precise accuracy to avoid fairway and greenside bunkers. Knowing where to ‘miss’ drives and approaches is key to scoring.””Outstanding golf course with very firm greens and windswept bunkers. True Scottish experience – highly recommended. Club selection is absolutely critical.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej

19 | Desert Mtn. Club (Renegade), Scottsdale

Par 3, 6th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Unusual design with two separate hole locations for each hole played from four different teeing grounds. The white flags offer more direct lines to the holes while the gold ones are longer and more difficult with bunkers, water, or island greens.””I did not like the idea of two holes on every green. Did not suit my eye on tee and especially on approach. I would not go out of my way to play again,”

Photo By: J.D. Cuban

20 | Merion G.C. (East), Ardmore, Pa.

Par 4, 11th holeGolf Digest Panelist Comments:“Now that the course is being stretched to almost 7,000 yards, it will regain its indisputable teeth and superb reputation.””One of the most intimidating opening tee shots in golf — especially if you tee off at noon when the patio is full. Love the variety in holes that include short 4s and short 3s — and super long versions of both.”

Photo By: Stephen Szurlej