Subscribe to Cigar Aficionado and receive the digital edition of our Premier issue FREE!

Email this page Print this page
Share this page

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

(continued from page 1)

Whoever coined the phrase "It's a jungle out there" must have had Koolau in mind. The course, wrenched into the windward side of the Koolau Mountains, sits in a rain forest less than half an hour north of the Honolulu airport. A Japanese real estate magnate named Masao Nangaku, seeking to build what he hoped would be the world's toughest golf course, hired architects Dick Nugent and Jack Tuthill in 1987 to oversee a construction project with a reported budget of $82 million. The collapse of the Asian market in the early 1990s cost Nangaku most of his empire, but he got what he wanted: the toughest course in the world. Everywhere you look, from every tee, from every fairway, there is jungle. Not only do you have to pass through it, there are 14 forced carries across ravines. (And just what was Tarzan's handicap index?)  

Head professional and general manager Rob Nelson says that the course has a slope rating of 162 based on visits by accredited USGA course raters and a special visit from one who didn't believe what the others had told him. "When he came to see it for himself, he agreed with their rating," says Nelson. Never mind that USGA slope ratings don't officially exceed 155.  

The most important thing at Koolau is accuracy. You want to have enough balls left to play the 476-yard par-4 18th hole that requires two forced carries, the first over a ravine from the tee, and the second over another ravine to the green. You could use up a half-dozen balls right there.  

And who knows, if you're playing really badly, losing and searching for balls constantly, it may take you longer to play Koolau than it does to fly to Oahu from the East Coast.    

Yardage from back tees
Course Rating
Slope Rating

The Guinness Book of World Records calls The International the longest course in the world. Unless there is someone playing 600-yard par 4s on the Bonneville Salt Flats, there is no disputing that The International is long, going on infinite. 

This behemoth was designed by Geoffrey Cornish in 1957 to replace the old Runaway Brook Golf Club. Robert Trent Jones was hired in 1972 to make it substantially more challenging.  

Standing in front of the clubhouse, you might think that The International was another in a long line of golf courses by the venerable Jones that have stood the test of time. But you better be ready for this test if you plan on playing from the gold tees.  

Take the third hole, for instance, a mere 674-yard par 5 that requires a 250-yard carry just to reach the mown fairway and another 10 yards to get past the ladies' tee. Or how about the fifth hole, a 715-yard par 6 that plays to one of the biggest, most difficult greens anywhere. The fifth green is 29,000 square feet--almost two thirds of an acre--and 89 yards from front to back.  

And boy, are the two par 3s on the back nine a treat. The 13th is 250 yards over a pond with an evil trap at the front right. The 17th might be the most difficult par 3 that doesn't play over an ocean chasm in a gale. It's 270 yards from the back tee (OK, it's a little downhill). The green is small and two-tiered. If you make a four here, you'll swear you made par. 

< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 >

Share |

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In If You're Already Registered At Cigar Aficionado Online

Forgot your password?

Not Registered Yet? Sign up–It's FREE.


Search By:



Cigar Insider

Cigar Aficionado News Watch
A Free E-Mail Newsletter

Introducing a FREE newsletter from the editors of Cigar Aficionado!
Sign Up Today