1. Friar's Head - #13, par 4, 499 yards
Most holes at Friar’s Head could find their way onto this list, but #13 was a standout in the voting and it appeared on the 2007 list as well. The hole’s expansive links-like landscape, wide fairway (65 yards), and wide-open approach in front and to the left of its sizeable green make it appear easier than its length would suggest, but appearances here are very deceiving.
To begin with, there are two small pot bunkers in the middle of the fairway 275 to 285 yards off the tee; just four yards wide each with two yards between them, they divide the seemingly generous landing area into two narrow passages. “You can play short of them, aim right or left of them, or try to carry them altogether,” says head professional Adam McDaid, “and the location of the flagstick and the wind direction on any given day should be accounted for when deciding how you want to attack the hole.”
On the approach, there is only one greenside bunker protecting its right side. If you avail yourself of the short grass to the left of the green, the tilt of the undulating putting surface from back to front and left to right will make for a very difficult up-and-down. A masterpiece of subtlety, this deceptively difficult hole played as the third-toughest on the course during the 2015 Ike Championship.
2. Laurel Links Country Club, #18, par 4, 439 yards
A nest of bunkers placed on the direct line to the green by architect Kelly Blake Moran constitutes the main challenge off the tee. From the back tee the bunkers are about 260 yards out, 290 yards to carry. The fairway swings right to provide room to run past the bunkers, and what head golf professional Steve Haggerty calls “a Speedway bank” will help a well-placed drive gain extra yardage. As befits an open layout on the eastern end of Long Island, the wind direction is a vital factor in the strategy: into the wind, prudence suggests staying short of the bunkers, while a helping wind favors the gamble of the carry.
On the approach, a bunker right and three front left guard the entrance to the green that angles away from the fairway. Like many of Laurel Links’s putting surfaces, the 18th has a distinct ridge that creates problems for putts from the wrong sector. This fine concluding hole will challenge the area’s best at the Met Amateur in August.
4. Atlantic Golf Club, #18, par 5, 611 yards.
A long par-five, made longer by playing up a rise to the clubhouse. The fairway swings left off the tee, and if the longer hitters can hit over the bunkers on the inside of the dogleg they have a chance to reach the green in two. For others, the landing zone for the second shot is guarded by bunkers on both sides, and there’s also out-of-bounds to the right of the fescue that separates the hole from the range. The green is well protected front and left. While other aspects of the routing have changed through the years, this hole has always provided a challenging crescendo to the round since Atlantic opened in 1992.
6. East Hampton Golf Club, #5, par 5, 531 yards.
Coore and Crenshaw’s first Met Area design features a front nine routed through open pasture and a second nine that is tree-lined, tight, and hilly. At the par-five fifth, the fairway swings gently from left to right; a very long waste bunker guards the right side and requires a carry of 245 yards to reach the short grass on the straightest line. Nine bunkers dot the left side from tee to green, with a tenth beside the large putting surface. Mounds and fescue lurk on both sides to swallow the errant shot, and a single mounded bunker on the right side short of the green provides an aiming point (aim left of it!) and a potential card-wrecker. The hole plays differently day to day thanks to the shifting winds.
7. Silo Ridge Field Club, #17, par 3, 231 yards.
The newest golf course on our list, Silo Ridge, opened in 2016 and is a rare example of a completely different course being created on the footprint of a former layout. The seventeenth hole requires a carry over a 30-foot-deep chasm that was part of an iron-ore mine back in the Depression era. Tom Fazio placed six different tee boxes in a horseshoe around the quarry, and while the landing spot looks narrow from the tee, there’s actually plenty of room once you’ve gotten across to it.
The water hole down in the chasm was known as the “Squabble Hole,” a swimming spot for local residents; Discovery Land Company, developer of Silo Ridge, intends to bring back a rope swing for those who want to hike down and take the plunge. There’s good fishing down there as well, with rainbow trout and largemouth bass. “I can’t think of a more dramatic hole that I’ve played,” says director of golf Brian Crowell. “You can see all the way to Massachusetts, with the Berkshires in the distance.”
8. Golf Club of Purchase, #16, par 4, 456 yards.
Jack Nicklaus has said his design for the sixteenth hole at Purchase was inspired by the eleventh hole at Augusta National. Players must hit one of their best drives to find the fairway between a pond on the right and a set of bunkers on the left that stretch from roughly 225 to 280 yards from the back tee. If negotiated successfully, the drive will leave a long to mid-iron downhill to a green protected on the left by a lake but providing a bail out on the right. Carl Alexander, the director of golf, warns that because the lake borders the front two-thirds of the green, players who choose the bailout will have to pitch across the green and towards the water, requiring a delicate touch. The green itself is deep, with undulations that provide several pockets for difficult hole locations.
10. Anglebrook Golf Club, #13, par 3, 193 yards.
Like Ballybunion and Prestwick, Anglebrook has a cemetery bordering the golf course, beside the thirteenth hole. According to general manager Matt Sullivan, the land purchase contract requires the golf course to maintain the cemetery, filled with 19th-century tombstones for the Frost and Green families.
A pond in front protects the right half of the green, with a bunker short left to capture the too-timid shot. “The original plans called for railroad ties, a la Pete Dye, to bulkhead the pond,” notes Sullivan. “Rather than pay to dump all the rock off property, superintendent Lou Quick suggested we give it more of a Westchester look, and today we can’t picture the hole without its spectacular rock wall.”
When the course was first opening, on-site lead architect Roger Rulewich came back to play the course. He put his first shot into the pond, and re-teed. His next shot went in the cup. “That was my first hole-in-one,” laughed Rulewich later, “and it was for a par.”
11. Hudson National Golf Club, #16, par 3, 249 yards.
“The toughest part of playing this hole,” notes director of golf operations Theron Harvey, “may be ignoring the beautiful view from the tee.” This big par-three, with views of Manhattan in the distance to the left and the Hudson River out beyond the green, can put an abrupt stop to what was a good round up to this point. There are deep bunkers and heavy rough left of the green and a collection area tucked behind another bunker to the right. The green itself is massive and open in front. The hole is one of Fazio’s favorites, featured on the cover of his book Golf Course Designs, published in 2000.
12. Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, #18, par 5, 576 yards.
This dramatic par five plays amid rolling mounds of fescue and against the backdrop of the Whitestone Bridge. The stunning vista should not overshadow the excellence of the hole: as head golf professional Colin Igoe notes, “The 18th is a par five designed to decide the outcome of a major championship.” From the back tee, a pair of bunkers center and right at 285 yards are divided by just 25 yards of fairway, while a drive to the left forces either a layup out to the right or a gambling approach over a greenside bunker and water short of it, to a green that requires a high shot to hit and hold the putting surface. Mere mortals and those who chose to stay short of the bunkers can play it as a three-shot hole, but must be conscious of the right-to-left slope of the fairway and protect against going left towards out of bounds and the East River. The layup zone widens out to the right at about 100 yards, leaving you well placed to fly at any hole location on the two-tiered green.
13. Metedeconk National Golf Club, #3, par 5, 561 yards.
“It’s just a monster par-five,” says Brent Studer, Metedeconk’s director of golf. As he describes the hole, it becomes clear how well-chosen those words are.
Consider the tee shot: “In the landing area up at the 260-280 mark, it’s a bit pinched in with a fairway bunker on the right and a finger of the lake that comes in as well on the left.” The options off the tee are to hit it around 250 to leave it short of the bunkers, thread the needle at the pinched area, or carry the drive 300 yards. If you’ve chosen the first option, you now must execute a second shot of at least 200 yards, with water on the left and trees and mounds on the right. “Even once you’ve navigated the first two shots, you still have a very difficult third shot because you’re crossing the lake to a narrow green sitting sideways, and off the back it falls off into a closely-mown area. I would say the key to the whole thing is being aggressive on your second shot and getting much farther down the fairway than you feel comfortable with, because that will leave you with a wedge rather than a 9-8-7-6-iron. And with a wedge in your hand, you’ve got much more chance of stopping it on that narrow green.”
What about those who want to go for the green in two? “I very rarely see anyone go for it in two,” says Studer. “I just don’t think the payoff’s there.” A monster indeed.
14. Neshanic Valley Golf Course (Meadow Nine), #9, par 5, 577 yards.
A strong uphill par-five that played as the ninth hole in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Publinx, the green is set in an amphitheater that creates a stage for dramatics. Two staggered fairway bunkers guard the sides of the landing area for the drive; the elongated one on the left ends at about 245 yards from the tee, while the rounder one to the right begins at 268. Still, says head golf professional Fred Glass, “In general, if you can’t hit the fairways at Neshanic you shouldn’t be playing golf.” The decision-making comes with the second shot: “It’s framed up the right side with fairway bunkers, and there’s a pond on the left if you’re trying to go for the green, but you have to lay up carefully too because the fairway slopes toward the pond.”
The two-tiered green has “more pitch than the average Neshanic green,” Glass notes. “It’s a flat-out good par-five, a hole you could put on any course in the world.”
15. Trump National Golf Club – Bedminster (Old Course), #16, par 3, 216 yards.
A classic par-3 over water, the hole has evolved since it was originally designed by Fazio. There were bunkers at the front left and far right of the green in addition to the one behind the green that had a small dip between it and the putting surface. In 2014, at the instigation of Donald Trump, a decision was made to remove those front bunkers and take the water line right up to the edge of the green, extending it across the entire front. The back bunker was moved right up against the green as well. The result, says director of golf Mickie Gallagher, “is a tee shot that visually is now far more intimidating and requires a more precise shot due to the combination of the angle at which the green sits and the water.”
Gallagher’s advice is to simply play for the middle of the green no matter where the hole is: “With water in play on three sides of the green, any shot that is played directly for a hole location that sits on the right or left side of the green and is slightly off line will find the water. The 16th hole won’t win a championship, but it could lose it for any competitor.”
17. Bayonne Golf Club, #16, par 4, 486 yards.
Bayonne Golf Club is an engineering marvel, and nowhere more so than at the spectacular 16th hole. The tee sits beside the clubhouse, ninety feet above sea level – all elevation created with millions and millions of yards of dirt. “The purpose of raising it,” says Eric Bergstol, owner and designer, “was to create a grand, sweeping view – you can see the biggest city in New Jersey, Newark, and the biggest city in America, New York.”
It’s a memorable hole by any standard. The tee shot is sharply downhill, to a fairway that terminates at a pair of bunkers on the left and swings toward a bottleneck on the right where a small strip of land connects to the sixty-yard run-up to the large (52 yards front to back), undulating green. Behind the green is the river and the busy container-ship port of Bayonne.
“The biggest anecdote has to do with the green,” Bergstol says. “That was not upland. The greens complex was sheet piled and filled, 300 feet by 300 feet, right up against a deep barge channel. We had two ‘pug mills’ there where you mix dredge and cement. The area was created for offloading the dredge from barges, and the original permit required that this complex be removed – even though it was now about two acres and included the 16th green, our 17th tee, our marina, and our helipad. We had many discussions with the various permitting agencies trying to convince them to let us keep this area; we were finally successful, and if we hadn’t been, the 16th would not resemble the hole it is today.”
18. Liberty National Golf Club, #18, par 4, 490 yards.
Our Modern Dream 18 ends with a long right-bending par-four that concludes with a priceless view of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. A series of bunkers lines the right side of the fairway, with mounds and a wall beyond them by the river. The green has been through three incarnations since the course opened, the most recent reworking coming after the first Barclays was held there in 2009.
Downwind, it’s a birdie opportunity for the pros; into the wind, just reaching the green in regulation can be a trial. “At the Barclays in 2013 there was a rain delay, so some of the players had to continue on Saturday,” says Dan Schleichert, the head golf professional. “The wind started to blow like it often does here, twenty-five miles per hour right in their faces, and there wasn’t one player in the field who reached the green in two. Matt Kuchar hit driver/3-wood, then still had a 60-yard pitch to a front hole location tucked behind the front bunker. The ball shot up into the air, and came down in the bunker.”
In 2009, Heath Slocum made a twenty-foot par putt on 18 to win the Barclays. Had he missed, he would have joined what might have been the most star-studded playoff in PGA Tour history: awaiting his result were Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, and Padraig Harrington.