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The Ten Toughest Courses

Are tough courses, and then there are these ten monsters
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Bacon, May/Jun 00

Some like it tough. Some like the holes long, the fairways narrow, the rough high, the greens fast, the bunkers deep and the ponds wide. Some don't break a sweat at the sight of enough sand to constitute a desert. Some only salivate when a water hazard is wider than the Hudson River. Some come alive only when faced with a 260-yard tee shot to a fairway 20 yards from rough to rough.  

We're talking about he-man golfers here, gonzo golfers. We're talking about players with the high-tech clubs, the souped-up swing, and the pumped-up ego. We're talking about players who want to take on the toughest courses in the United States.  

And brother, there are plenty of tough courses to play. Cigar Aficionado is here to tell you what the 10 toughest golf courses in America are. These courses can collapse an ego like a tent in a hurricane. They are long: long in yards, long on hazards, long on penalty strokes.  

The trouble isn't finding them; it's whittling down the field. In the golf course building boom of the past two decades, monster courses (under the guise of the "PGA championship" moniker) were built faster than $600,000 tract houses in San Diego County. Every facet of the game seemed to get more difficult.  

With each course description is a set of numbers that includes the course rating and the slope rating, both products of the United States Golf Association's mission to quantify the difficulty of a course. The course rating is determined by certified raters who examine the length, terrain change, bunkering, trees, water hazards, out-of-bounds, green contours and weather conditions to arrive at a number that is an expression of the number of strokes a course should be played in, carried out to one decimal point. Par has nothing to do with it.  

The slope rating is the USGA's arithmetical way of altering a person's handicap index based on the difficulty of the course on which that person achieves the handicap. The higher the number, the more difficult the course is, with the highest official number being 155 and the average slope rating being 113. You don't want to know how those slope ratings are calculated. The math might be more difficult than the courses.  

The one number you won't find here is the machismo rating. We haven't figured out a way to calculate it, but like an invisible subatomic particle, we know that it exists. What follows, in order, are our top 10 places in golf to pursue that elusive rating.    

Yardage from back tees
Par 72
Course Rating
Slope Rating
155 plus  

When you want to quantify the difficulties of a golf course, you generally do it by the numbers. You look at total yardage, the course rating and the slope rating.  

When it comes to the Koolau Golf Course, you need to know only two numbers: The course record is 69, three under par. The course record for lost balls is 63, about 61 above average.  

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