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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

(continued from page 2)

If you play this course from the up tees, it can be a real delight. From the back, it can feel like boot camp. Just salute the starter and call him Sarge.    

NO. 3 WHISTLING STRAITS Kohler, Wisconsin
Yardage from back tees
Course Rating
Slope Rating

This is the first of three Pete Dye courses that are ranked in our top 10. You should know just by looking at the scorecard that Whistling Straits is akin to whistling through a graveyard. The 18th hole is named Dyeabolical. Enough said?  

No, not really. Dye builds some hellaciously good courses. By all accounts of those who have survived it, Whistling Straits is one of them. It's one of three golf clubs along Lake Michigan owned by Herb Kohler, the chairman of kitchen and bath plumbing manufacturer Kohler Co., along Lake Michigan, north of Milwaukee. Whistling Straits was host to the PGA Club Professional Championship last summer and will host the 2004 PGA Championship. That in itself says a lot for the place, though it doesn't tell the whole story.  

Dye was given the task of building a true links course on the Lake Michigan shore, where the wind whips through without a single tree to deflect its intensity. There is sand everywhere. Every time head pro Steve Freidlander tries to count the bunkers, he gets lost at about 700 or so before he even makes it to the 18th hole.  

Then, of course, there's the wind. It's a constant companion, sometimes a constant irritant and often a constant terror. Hey, that's what links golf is about in the British Isles, so stop whimpering. And don't expect to be wheeling any damn golf cart around here. Whistling Straits is a walking-only course.  

Dye has built a series of strategically daunting and physically challenging holes, like the 455-yard par-4 fourth hole where the fairway slopes toward Lake Michigan on the left for its entire length. Or the 462-yard par-4 eighth hole where the right side of the fairway slopes down to the beach.  

And what about Dyeabolical, the 470-yard par-4 18th hole? It takes a drive of 240 yards to carry a mess of bunkers and deep fescue grasses. Then a long-iron approach shot is played to a four-section green of 15,000 square feet, where a three-putt might even seem a relief. This hole, like many of the others, has a tee even further back. None of these tees is listed on the scorecard, but at full measure the course plays about 7,800 yards. Now Pete didn't really intend all the tees to be all the way back all the time. It just depends on the wind. Or does it?    

NO. 4 OCEAN COURSE Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Par 72
Course Rating
Slope Rating

This was Dye's first attempt at a links course, a wondrously sandy stretch along the Atlantic an hour south of Charleston. The PGA of America chose it to be the venue of the 1991 Ryder Cup matches, and was roundly criticized at home for selecting a course that seemed to favor the European players, who more regularly play links-style golf.  

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