Most Difficult Golf Courses in the World

Golf continues to dominate the headlines at the moment and we take a look at some of the toughest courses in the world

Flag at the 7th hole of Kiawah Island for the USPGA Championship

There are some fiendishly treacherous golf courses across the world, and we have picked out what we believe are the toughest tracks out there, ranging from China to Scotland.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club – Lijiang, Yunnan, China

Designed by the Nelson & Haworth partnership, Jade Dragon is, to put it mildly, an absolute beast at 8,548 yards from the professional tees – making it the longest regulation par-72, 18-hole golf course in the world.

With the course situated 10,000ft above sea level, the ball does tend to travel around 20 per cent further in the air, so this does help in knocking off some of that 8,548 yards length, but it is still a great distance to cover.

Of the four par-fives to go at, the fifth hole weighs in at a massive 777 yards, giving it a stroke index of two, while the par-four 14th at 532 yards is, statistically, the hardest hole on the course.

Carnoustie Golf Links Championship Course – Dundee, Scotland

Carnoustie is a par-71 that measures in at 7,421 yards and is dubbed ‘Golf’s Greatest Test’. It has staged the Open no less than eight times, the latest of those in 2018, and the winning score has been over-par four times and never greater than -9.

When the wind whips in from the North Sea, which it often does, the course plays much longer and provides an even sterner examination of a player’s ability to handle tough conditions.

Pot bunkers are littered over the 18-hole stretch and thick rough to collect any errant shots, while the fast, undulating greens make this one of the toughest tests.

Whistling Straits – Kohler, Wisconsin, United States

Designed by Pete and Alice Dye, Whistling Straits is the USA’s homage to the seaside links course of the UK and Ireland, with the Wisconsin track set along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline.

No less than eight holes hug the lake, which puts a premium on accuracy, while the fast greens, pot bunkers, grass-topped dunes and strong winds that come in off the lake make this a real challenge.

This par-72 measuring 7,790 yards staged the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015, while it also hosted the 2007 US Senior Open and the 2021 Ryder Cup. There are a staggering 967 bunkers on the course; although some are so small it’s hard to define whether they are sand traps or not, but that shows there are hazards ready to catch you out.

The Ocean Course – Kiawah Island, South Carolina, United States

Rounding off the list is The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina – a par-72 measuring 7,876 yards that is located on the easternmost end of the Island.

No less than 10 seaside holes are hugging the Atlantic – the most in the Northern Hemisphere – while the other eight-run parallel to those. The course was raised following a suggestion from designer Pete Dye’s wife, Alice, which significantly increased the difficulty with the wind coming into play.

The Ocean Course is famously known for the 1991 Ryder Cup, dubbed the ‘War on the Shore’. The USA overcame Europe 14.5-13.5 in a fiercely competitive battle with several incidents on and off the course.

Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship by a record eight strokes when it was held here in 2012. The event returned in 2021 when Phil Mickelson became the oldest major champion in history at 50.

A single-handicapper, James always offers an interesting insight to the world of golf, with extensive knowledge of both the US and European Tours. James also has a wealth of information about the domestic and international football scene.
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