The Ten Toughest Courses

Are tough courses, and then there are these ten monsters

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Yes, you can find all of that in the Catskills. What you came for, however, is a golf course that can kick the rockers out from under the old folks, bust Granny's canning jars and crush abusive baseball parents.  
The story goes that Ray Parker, who once owned the Concord, wasn't invited to a prominent social event at Grossinger's, another local resort with well-known golf courses. To give Grossinger's the business, he hired architect Joe Finger and told him to build the toughest golf course he could, something he could market against his rival. Parker also hired legendary touring professional and cabaret singer Jimmy Demaret to be his head professional. Demaret also consulted on the course, along with Texas colleague Jackie Burke Jr.  
The Monster opened in 1963. The official length of the course is 7,650 yards, but if the greens superintendent gets up on the wrong side of the bed, he can have his crew push the tees back to more than 7,900 yards. Everything about the Monster is big, but that's what you would expect.  
Consider that there is only one par 4 under 400 yards, and the shortest of the par 4s on the back nine is 451 yards. The toughest par on the course, however, might be the 248-yard par-3 seventh hole. Making the hole effectively longer, your tee shot plays to a green elevated above the tee. To the left of the green is a 30-foot drop, the embankment reinforced with a stone wall. Miss the green left and you might as well be hitting up the side of the World Trade Center.  
Aptly named, this Monster.    
NO. 6 LAGOON LEGEND Marriott's Bay Point Resort, Panama City, Florida
Yardage from back tees
72 Course Rating 75.3
Slope 152  
The devil works in mysterious ways. Right in the middle of a family resort on the Florida panhandle sits one of the nation's toughest courses, and it isn't even 7,000 yards long.  
Affable golf pro and television commentator Bruce Devlin collaborated with the architect Robert von Hagge to fashion a Disney World of penal golf guaranteed to make Dad wish he had stayed home, or make the family wish that Dad had stayed home.  
In the true spirit of Florida golf, there is enough water on this course to declare it a second Everglades. Penalty strokes can mount up faster than day-trading losses. Bring balls, because you won't find the ones you hit out of play here. Losing a dozen balls a round isn't unusual. Heck, it's the average. There is water on 16 of the holes, though the number-one handicap hole, the 450-yard par-4 third, doesn't have a drop on it.  
The first hole is a quick hello, a 542-yard par 5 with water to the front and right of the green and a nasty nest of mounds at the back of it. The par-3 eighth is 208 yards to an island green. There's a short par 4 at the 13th, just 300 yards. Water guards the green. Alligators guard the water. No kidding. The 18th hole isn't that long at 392 yards, though there seems to be more water than fairway, and there's definitely more water than green.    
NO. 7 PGA WEST'S STADIUM COURSE La Quinta, California
Yardage from back tees
Course Rating
Slope Rating
Hello, Mr. Dye. So nice to see you again. But we can't keep meeting like this. I'll run out of balls.   Yes, Pete Dye was up to his Hitchcockian ways again when he built the Stadium Course at PGA West. Miss a green, miss a fairway, and you are severely punished. How severely? Well, there's a 19-foot-deep bunker to the left and back of the short par-4 16th. It's a 240-yard carry over water to the 255-yard par-3 sixth hole. You can bail out to the left on this hole and only carry the ball 220, but there's water on the left of the bailout area, too.  
The Stadium Course is so grueling that it is no longer used as one of the venues for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. The touring pros found it difficult to get around, and their amateur partners couldn't get around it at all. You need a forklift to get some less than agile players out of Pete's bunkers.  
The shortest holes tend to be surrounded by the biggest trouble. The 12th hole is only 363 yards, but a 10-foot-deep sand bunker surrounds the green. It's called the Moat on the scorecard. The 17th hole is a par 3 surrounded by water with rocks at the water's edge. It's named Alcatraz.   There's no telling what you might be calling the Stadium Course after you play it. Just don't call Pete Dye. He's heard it all before.    
Yardage from back tees
Course Rating
Slope Rating
It's appropriate that Jack Nicklaus should have at least one course in the Top 10 Toughest, and he actually has two. With pins and greens seemingly everywhere, the Renegade is one of his most distinct creations.  
There are two pins on every hole, the white flags being easier positions to reach than the gold. There are 12 double greens and six holes with separate greens for the white and gold pins. The toughest the course plays is gold-to-gold, from the gold tees to the gold pins.  
Rather typical of a tough Nicklaus course, the driving areas tend to be generous and the green complexes tend to be treacherous. The first hole tells you a lot about the course. It's a 464-yard par 4 with a wide fairway but a shallow green that is surrounded by deep bunkers. Nearly every green at Renegade is elevated and shallow, a combination that makes it very difficult to hold par with long irons or fairway woods, and very difficult to recover from the surrounding sandpits.   If you like tough par 3s, the 230-yard fourth is tailor-made. You are looking at a carry of 215 yards over water to a green that slopes from left to right. If you miss left, you are in a wasp's hive of bunkers and it's next to impossible to get your sand shot close to the hole.  
The 13th hole can kill you. It's a 474-yard par 4 with a fairway that collects balls down to the right. The green is only 18 paces from front to back, and even good players often hit fairway woods into this one.   The fairways are bordered by maintained waste areas that you can play from, if you're not dead against a cactus, a mesquite tree or a rattlesnake. If you're like Nicklaus and can hit high, soft long irons, then the greens are nearly flat and simple to putt. But we know you're not like Nicklaus.    
NO. 9 BAYONET COURSE FORT ORD Seaside, California
Yardage from back tees
Course Rating
Slope Rating
The Bayonet Course at Fort Ord holds an almost mythical position in the world of California golf. In a state that brims with exquisite private clubs and exquisite resort courses like Pebble Beach Golf Links (a 20-minute drive from Fort Ord), the Bayonet Course stands out as an exceptional public golf course and an excruciating test of golf.  
The course was designed by none other than Fort Ord's commanding officer in 1954, Maj. Gen. Robert "Bourbon Bob" McClure. He may have had some help from architect Jack Neville, but it's a better fable if you believe that Bourbon Bob created this gem with help from "volunteer" soldiers stationed at the base.  
What Bourbon Bob and his golf platoon wrought is a remarkably sensible course distinguished by narrow fairways lined with gorgeous cypress trees, and greens that tilt and pitch to confound approach shots and frustrate putting. You no doubt have heard of Augusta National's Amen Corner. Bourbon Bob designed Combat Corner, holes 11 through 15.   Qualifying rounds for PGA Tour cards have been played on the Bayonet, and the course has held up to the best players in the world. Three holes on Combat Corner, the 423-yard 11th, the 471-yard 13th and the 215-yard 14th, were the three toughest holes in the 1998 PGA Tour qualifying round.  
Former baseball star Reggie Jackson lives in Pebble Beach and plays most of his golf at the Fort Ord courses. "You want to talk about tough, it's the toughest course in the area," Jackson says about the Bayonet. "It can humble you." Quite a statement, coming from Reggie Jackson.    
Yardage from back tees 7,204
Par 72
Course Rating
Slope Rating
Some would say that Jack Nicklaus's Tournament Course at PGA West is easy--easy in comparison to Pete Dye's Stadium Course in the same development. Then you start to play the Tournament Course and you come to understand that it's about as painless as a tooth extraction.  
Again, Nicklaus gives you a fairly generous landing area for your tee shot, a fairly difficult approach to the greens. But in some cases the tee shot isn't all that easy, either. Consider the 572-yard par-5 15th, which has a bunker eight feet deep running right up the middle of the tee shot landing area.   There is plenty of water on this course. Yes, it's in a desert, but the Palm Springs area gets its water from a giant aquifer that runs underneath the Coachella Valley. While it brings life to the desert, the water becomes death for golf scores.  
Both the ninth and 18th holes at the Tournament Course are threatened by water. Your tee shot on the 18th, if pushed to the right, can roll out onto a beach and trickle into a lake. The par-3 eighth has water on three sides of the green, and there is more water still on the par-3 12th. Death by water in the desert; a mirage with penalty strokes.  
So there you have it, our top 10 toughest golf courses in America. We have left out many worthy candidates. Pete Dye's courses alone could fill out the list. We've left out some really tough layouts, like Dye's Honors Course in Tennessee and his and Greg Norman's Medalist Golf Club in Florida. We've left out wonderful old Pine Valley in New Jersey, which still strikes fear in most players. And any course that the USGA sets up for the U.S. Open automatically takes a temporary spot in the Top 10 Toughest.  
If you're ready, if your clubs and swing are at their best, if your body and mind are tuned, then hoist a bag on your shoulder and accept the challenge. And bring balls. You'll need them.
 Jeff Williams writes about golf for Newsday.    
THE TEN TOUGHEST GOLF COURSES IN THE UNITED STATES   So you think your course is a challenge? Here, in descending order, are 10 courses that will change your mind.  
No.1 Koolau Golf Course, Oahu, Hawaii  
No.2 The International Golf Club, Bolton, Massachusetts  
No.3 Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin  
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