Editor’s note: Through a series of polls and spirited discussions, members of our Broken Tee Society Discord servercompiled their Composite 18: a rundown of the best holes they played as a community in 2021. It was so fun that we decided to run it back. As with a year ago, we thank everyone for their time and thought, and a special thanks to Ryan Book for his stewardship, and his words below.
No. 1: The Golf House Club, Elie Elie, Leven, Scotland 420 yards, Par 4 Unknown, 1875 / Old Tom Morris, 1895
Old Tom Morris may get the most credit for The Golf House Club’s 18-hole design, but the first hole dates at least back to 1875; the course at Elie dates back to the 16th century.
Morris was no stranger to quirk, so he likely approved of the opening tee shot: a blind salvo across a hill just 100 yards out. Follow the aiming pole to avoid the bunkers along the right.
Or, better yet, get a full preview of the hole via the periscope located in the starter’s hut. Salvaged from the HMS Excalibur, it’s got a touch more personality than the traditional “all clear” bell.
No. 2: Gamble Sands (Sands Course) Brewster, WA 341 yards, Par 4 David McLay-Kidd, 2014
Gamble Sands has been praised for its gettability. Just remember that you get what you pay for.
And if you try to get the green on this short par 4 from David McLay-Kidd, you better be paying with the black card of tee shots. Downhill, and often downwind, everything seems to be at your back. But pay attention to what’s at your front—namely the long, angled centerline bunker about 230 yards out. A deft draw will feed back to the green.
Even if you take the two-shot route, beware. The green, backdropped distractingly by the gorgeous Columbia River Valley, runs right off the cliff.
No. 3: Pasatiempo Golf Club Santa Cruz, CA 222 yards, Par 3 Marion Hollins & Alister MacKenzie, 1929
The first two holes in our composite are par 4s, and some would argue that the third deserves the same status. At 222 uphill yards, the third is both a par 3 and the No. 2 handicap hole at Pasatiempo.
Don’t let the large cross bunker just out from the tee scare you; there’s plenty of room to lay up here. Nearly 70 yards, in fact. But, as some TGJ members have suggested, “no laying up,” right? If that’s your approach to life, play a slight fade to avoid the five convoluted bunkers encircling this long, narrow green.
No. 4: Spyglass Hill Golf Course Pebble Beach, CA 376 yards, Par 4 Robert Trent Jones, 1966
Robert Trent Jones was playing with house money when he designed Spyglass Hill. He was the most popular golf course designer in the world, creating the sequel for one of golf’s all-time great courses.
Either stand out or disappear in the glare. Jones didn’t expect everyone to love No. 4, and he was right. It demands comment.
Ten yards wide, 55 deep, and tiered to boot, this green ranks as one of the most polarizing putting surfaces in the game. Jones stated that this was his favorite par 4 among those he designed; a peek into the psyche of one of our most influential golf architects.
No. 5: Bandon Preserve Bandon, OR 142 yards, Par 3 Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, 2012
The forward tee box at the fifth hole on Bandon’s par-3 course has become a bit of a tourist attraction. Here, many golfers unsheath their putters and rap a bouncer more than 100 yards downhill to a sizable green.
By all means, have fun. That’s the Preserve’s purpose, after all. But consider pulling a wedge and taking a more sincere shot from the back tee, especially when the flag sits near the steep drop-off at the back of the green. There’s no lack of strategic challenge here at this short course.
Perhaps putting from the tee is akin to trick-putting a 2-foot “gimme”—you’re scared of what might happen if you play it honestly.
No. 6: Cruit Island Golf Club Cruit Island Lower, County Donegal, Ireland 137 yards, Par 3 Michael Doherty, 1986
Cruit Island feels so lived-in that it could advertise itself among the oldest clubs in Ireland and few tourists would question it. In fact, designer Michael Doherty laid out the nine-hole loop in 1986. The rocky dunescape forced him to emulate the old-world designs of yester-century, and the coastal winds did the rest.
“Cruit” translates to “harp,” and the green at No. 6 calls golfers to the cliffs, like a merrow luring the mesmerized with plucked strings. It’s pronounced “crutch,” however, and you’ll need one if you choose the wrong club for the carry. Depending on the north Atlantic gusts, it could vary from wedge to wood on any given day.
No. 7: Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club Holyoke, CO 352 yards, Par 4 Tom Doak, 2006
Tom Doak wrote a book—maybe “the” book—on Alister MacKenzie’s design heritage, so it’s fair game to look for that legend’s cues in the former’s work.
No. 7 at Ballyneal may not feature a proper “boomerang” green, but the long, thin putting surface here certainly seems like MacKenzie’s influence, filtered through Doak’s naturalist approach, fitting the green within the dunes of Holyoke, wrapped ever-so-slightly around a pair of biting bunkers.
The landscape, both in presentation and materials, invites a big hitter to span a huge cross bunker, around an obscuring dune, and ride the sandy soil down to the green.
No. 8: Pikewood National Golf Club Morgantown, WV 562 yards, Par 5 John Raese / Bob Gwynne, 2003
John Raese made his money in limestone mining, and his subsequent trip into politics suggests he’s no fan of big government. But golf? Go big, and go hard.
The shock and mostly awe campaign at Pikewood National, the course he designed with business partner Robert Gwynne, lands at No. 8, a hole appropriately titled “Audacity.”
Pete Dye is known for cape holes and what was once the undisputed No. 1 golf course in West Virginia. No. 8 at Pikewood, a long cape wrapping around a mountain gorge, looks like the result of studying the master.
No. 9: Tobacco Road Golf Club Sanford, NC 427 yards, Par 4 Mike Strantz, 1998
Mike Strantz’s post-apocalyptic Pinehurst routing never fails to light up the comments, and this hole neatly sums up why.
From the tee, the dune to the left seems to be the line; surely you’ll receive a reward for crossing this hazard. You do: the straightest line into a green that’s perched one, maybe two clubs above the fairway. You don’t, however, get a clean view of that green. During your second round, perhaps you’ll play to the middle. Now you can see the green cleanly, but face a big fade around the hillside waste.
Fun…frustrating…a constant test. Strantz’s oeuvrein a nutshell.
No. 10: Prairie Dunes Country Club Hutchinson, KS 185 yards, Par 3 Perry Maxwell, 1937
Some par 3s provide options from the tee. No. 10 at Prairie Dunes demands perfection. Ask participants at the 1988 U.S. Mid-Am; five players entered a one-hole playoff, and two double-bogeys won out.
First, take enough club to reach a green partially hidden in dunes. Second, don’t take so much that you run off the back of a putting surface that runs away at the rear. Finally, dodge two big bunkers at the green’s neck.
Maxwell cited this as both his best par 3, and the best short hole in the country. Care to call him out?
No. 11: Royal County Down Golf Club Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland 442 yards, Par 4 George Combe, 1906
George Combe’s heroic feats include trumping Old Tom and Harry Colt as the accepted author-of-record at Royal County Down, one of the world’s greats.
The tee shot at No. 11 calls for equal heroism. A 40-foot dune ahead of the teebox throws down the gauntlet. Shots that clear the peak roll for miles. Players must still thread five of the property’s signature bearded bunkers to get home, hoping to two-putt for par on a green as convoluted as you’d expect by this point in the round.
Granted, this is all assuming you didn’t panic and send your tee shot right into the dune.
No. 12: White Bear Yacht Club Dellwood, MN 383 yards, Par 4 William Watson / Donald Ross, 1915
Tom Doak spent significant time in his Little Red Book series examining at this hole, which serves notice to us lesser academics.
Those who find the center of the fairway are never in the “A” position. Those aiming for flags on the upper-right will want to drive to the left edge of the fairway, and those playing to the lower-left tier must challenge the bunkers on the right.
Was it Willie Watson or Donald Ross? Perhaps a bit better for both.
No. 13: Lake Merced Golf Club Daly City, CA 155 yards, Par 3 Alister MacKenzie, 1929 / Gil Hanse, 2022
Total restorations are rarely possible, especially when highway projects eat chunks of the property. That gave Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner some leeway to create their own holes at Lake Merced. But No. 13? They had great photos of Alister MacKenzie’s original par 3, and it was only reasonable they rebuild it.
The green angles back and left, obscuring gradually behind earthworks that Hanse restored. The crown jewels in this soil crown are three large, ragged bunkers in MacKenzie’s style. If you trust yourself, you can sail these hazards and roll back toward the green.
Now you, like Hanse, have rediscovered this MacKenzie gem.
No. 14: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Sheep Ranch) Bandon, OR 403 yards, Par 4 Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, 2020
Sheep Ranch may be the most scenic route at Bandon, with seven holes sitting along the property’s Pacific cliffs. But we all know Coore and Crenshaw are about more than mere eye candy.
No. 14, inland, speaks to a brand of links not found elsewhere at Bandon—the stuff of Cruden Bay and Perranporth. If you ever needed a caddie at Bandon, this is the moment. Look out across the bubbling dunescape, find your aiming point, and try to catch the proper side of the hog’s back ridge so that you’ll be able to see the putting surface upon approach.
The one thing about links golf you can’t fake? Local knowledge.
No. 15: Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club Southern Pines, NC 542 yards, Par 5 Donald Ross, 1921
The North Carolina Sandhills have become the cultural capital for Donald Ross aficionados, flocking to the Pinehurst designs that he groomed for decades. If one truly wants to experience those hills, however, they might head to Mid Pines instead..
No. 15 demonstrates how Ross blended sandy soil and uneven terrain to create superior strategic golf. Much of the landing area pitches right-to-left, and those who flirt with the rightward fairway bunker will find it pitches them forward as well.
With a particularly blessed bounce, an eagle opportunity awaits those who embrace Ross’s signature switchback strategy with a bold iron approach. Jim Moriarty penned an ode to this masterpiece for TGJ No. 17.
No. 16: Chambers Bay Golf Club University Place, WA 396 yards, Par 4 Robert Trent Jones II, 2007
Talk to a prickly purist and they might suggest that you can’t simply build “links.” They might rail against the former mining site where Chambers Bay now sits and point out the course’s philosophical flaws.
But Robert Trent Jones II and his team nailed the important part: Links golf is fun golf. Play a long fade, watch your ball roll and tumble down toward either the minute green or the massive waste hazard. Admire the shot, and then admire the view out to Puget Sound. Feels “links” enough to us.
That the BSNF freight line runs alongside the hole only adds to the sincerity of the vibe.
No. 17: The Reserve at Moonlight Basin Cameron, MT 777 yards, Par 5 Jack Nicklaus, 2016
Ready to hit the longest shot of your life? There’s a bunker about 375 yards from the back tee at Moonlight Basin’s No. 17—an absurd target almost anywhere else in the United States. But at 7,500 feet? Go for it.
If you play wide of this centerline, you may find a downslope inspired by the local skiing scene. The fairway avalanches acutely for another 150 yards, making this 777-yard yeti play short enough to pull putter for your third.
And if you didn’t miss that centerline? Well, damn. You still drove it 375 yards—that’s a good story on its own.
No. 18: Southern Hills Country Club Tulsa, OK 491 yards, Par 4 Perry Maxwell, 1936
Define cruelty: A closing hole where double is expected, or where par seems there for the taking, only to be ripped away?
No. 18 at Southern Hills Country Club looks like the former—a 491-yard dogleg right, playing uphill, divided by a creek—as it played to the highest average score during the 2022 PGA Championship. Yet it fielded relatively few doubles to the field. The dollar wasn’t the only thing to take a hit in May; inflation crushed the value of a GIR at No. 18, with three-putts punctuating tough rounds.
It’s not only muscle that breaks great golfers on a great final hole.
There are many ways to get to the traditional-sounding par of 71. Ours just happens to include a back nine that’s three shots and 1,000 yards longer than the front. Hiking boots are available for rent at the turn.Many thanks to BTS Member Andrew Bailey for creating the scorecard.
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