The 18 Best Holes of 2023

A par of 67 and a collection of some of the world's top par 3s highlight the Broken Tee Society's 2023 Composite Course

Editor’s note: For a third year running, members in the Broken Tee Society Discord server compiled and voted on a routing of the best golf holes they played as a community over the past year. And suffice it to say, the crew got after it this year. The list is littered with household names, nine-hole sleepers and some international flair—all culminating in par-67 layout one could only dream of walking. Enjoy a tour of it below. For previous year’s versions, click here: 2021 and 2022.

No. 1: Culver Academies Golf Course
Culver, IN
507 yards, Par 5
William Langford & Theodore Moreau, 1924
Nominated by Jeff K.

The “gentle handshake” crowd will appreciate starting with a par 5 that’s reachable in two. Even with a blind approach over the hillside, most can find this putting surface. Strategically, however, you may regret it. 

No. 1 at this underappreciated prep-school nine holer an hour from South Bend features a smaller green by Culver standards, checking in at “only” 9,300 square feet. A guiding slope shuttles approach shots to the green’s front, setting up a 65-foot putt to a center pin, across a few of the many mammoths that Mr. Moreau ostensibly buried to create some of the boldest internal contouring in existence. It’s a theme for your day: Culver is a GIR buffet. Putts are calories and you’re gaining weight.

No. 2: Prairie Dunes Country Club
Hutchinson, KS
164 yards, Par 3
Perry Maxwell, 1937
Nominated by Danny P.

A year after voting PD’s 10th into the 2022 composite routing, the BTS is back for more Maxwell short-hole goodness. This time, the second gets the nod.

Maxwell’s greens have merited crisp comparisons, and this one is far from plain potato. Choose your favorite flavor but, more importantly, choose the correct club. Hutchinson’s representative is shorter than last year’s, but equally cruel.

Short on this uphill flight lands in one of the four bunkers rounding the front, but long hurts even more. Regardless of whether you’ve found the death bunker or the tall stuff, your downhill recovery chip will likely end up fried.

No. 3: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Old Macdonald)
Bandon, OR
375 yards, Par 4
Tom Doak & Jim Urbina, 2009
Nominated by Andy T.

The “Sahara” feature keeps a low profile: over too soon at National Golf Links of America, and no longer existing at Royal St. George’s. Come to think of it, you may not notice the template’s namesake bunker at Old Macdonald either. 

Living With a Ghost No. 25 Tree Old Mac
Photo: Nathan Kahler courtesy of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Instead you’ll be looking at, and advised to aim near, the Ghost Tree, perhaps the single most recognizable piece of flora in the golf course architecture world. It’s a rare “known” within links golf, a beacon visible across most of a course where otherwise you can’t count on a good lie or aiming point. 

Let it help you set your course, over the ridge and down, down, down to Old Macdonald’s happier pastures.

No. 4: Lahinch Golf Club
Lahinch, Co. Clare, Ireland
475 yards, Par 5
Old Tom Morris/Alister MacKenzie, 1892
Nominated by Clay D.

“Klondyke” takes its name from the Canadian region where many an Irishman sought fortune during the gold rush. The monolithic dune, 25 feet high and every bit as wide as this par 5, evoked the mountainous terrain of the untamed Yukon Territory.

Old Tom Morris recognized golf as not just man versus course, but man versus terrain. The latter imposes itself memorably among Lahinch’s Hokusaian sand crests, none more so than Klondyke Hill. The eagle-seeker must remember to lay back a bit off the tee, as the closer the shot wanders to the base of the hill, the steeper an approach must climb to find this wide green.

Eagles, like the gold in them thar hills, are hard to come by. Adventure, however, is guaranteed.

The house on Klondyke Hill is quite humble, but remains a vital piece of this puzzle. Players would be wise to follow the directions of the forecaddie who resides there, waving flags to let them know when the green they cannot see is clear. Perhaps more important is the white aiming stone lodged into the hill: It’s the only true direction they’ll receive. Photo by Tom Shaw.
The house on Klondyke Hill is humble, but remains a vital piece of this puzzle. Players would be wise to follow the directions of the forecaddie who resides there, waving flags to let them know when the green they cannot see is clear. Perhaps more important is the white aiming stone lodged into the hill: It’s the only true direction they’ll receive. Read more about this hole from the story in TGJ No. 5. Photo: Tom Shaw

No. 5: Coeur D’Alene Resort 
Coeur d’Alene, ID
148 yards, Par 3
Scott Miller, 1991
Nominated by Soren J.

Coeur D’Alene has staked its reputation on a floating green, but it should throw some advertising dollars at another short hole, because it’s paying million-dollar (view) dividends. No. 5 offers a sampler platter of the summer getaway’s attractions: hills, waterfront, sand, rock formations and pine forests. 

And despite the hole’s 150-yard length, you’re far more likely to hit any of these things than the green. 

Scott Miller may have trained under Jack Nicklaus, but he presents like Dick Wilson; a three-tongued green, and all want to eat your lunch. Try to ignore the views and aim for the center.

No. 6: Bandon Dunes (Sheep Ranch)
Bandon, OR
460 yards, Par 4
Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, 2020
Nominated by Shawn W.

No. 6 at Sheep Ranch might register on many best-of lists for the views alone. To see the cliffside aglow with gorse is to remove oneself from the Scottish fantasy that Bandon sells and embrace that, no, this majesty could only happen here, on the south Oregon coast. 

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s work assures that this hole merits mention for strategy as well. The former worked with Pete Dye long enough to appreciate a dangerous dogleg, and those who hug this cliff get prime pickings. Natural mounding happily escorts those who lay up left to a safer seat, albeit one impossible to score from.

Sheep Ranch bandon dunes
Photo: Kohjiro Kinno

Most architecture aficionados affirm that sand is the best basis for a course, yet we can’t help but feel that burying a boxcar full of it does nothing for Lawsonia’s drainage. 

It did, however, provide a case study on Langford and Moreau, two of golf’s most progressive earthmovers. 

Not content with housing greens in hollows, Will tasked Theo with burying the boxcar and working his signature steep sides around it, like Le Corbusier in Fond Du Lac. That the left half of the green is blurred by a hillside only adds quirk and strategy, from a pair of course builders who proved you could have both.

No. 8: Essex County Club 
Manchester-By-The-Sea, MA
422 yards, Par 4
Donald Ross, 1917
Nominated by Robbie V.

Thumbprint greens register chatter in course architecture circles, but how about thumbprint fairways? Credit the divine or geology, but either way the collapsing structure of Essex County Club’s eighth fairway feeds into one of the most fun tee shots in a Bay State full of them.

Joy begins blind, blasting a tee shot over a grass wall, wondering what comes next. The best have stayed left, hugging the property line to earn a kick off the mother of all downslopes: an extra 30-plus yards on their drive, and the best angle in. Those who play too safely will feed right, down to the living room of this split-level fairway, where the view is nice but pars are no picnic. Pull it a hair too far left? You’re off property and into Rosedale Cemetery. God’s thumbprint, perhaps?

No. 9: Yale Golf Course 
New Haven, CT
201 yards, Par 3
Charles Blair Macdonald / Seth Raynor, 1926
Nominated by Ben D.

An ongoing argument among template fans: Is laying up on a Biarritz hole a strategic option, or just cowardly? 

The system’s progenitors, C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor, provide an answer at Yale: Carry all 200 yards to the green, or lose your ball in the lake. Yale’s most popular hole may be the most notorious example of MacRaynor’s most notorious template. A blessed few will get to see their ball reemerge from the green’s signature swale. 

yale 9th hole
Photo: Larry Lambrecht

Granted, when Yale debuted, the front portion of this putting surface was fairway. We’ll see what Gil Hanse plans for his restoration, but the adrenaline junkies will insist: No laying up.

No. 10: Chambers Bay Golf Course 
University Place, WA 
398 yards, Par 4
Robert Trent Jones II, 2007 
Nominated by Jeff K.

Photo: Kohjiro Kinno

Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, gotta go through it. To master this Puget Sound special, you must navigate the property’s two largest “dunes,” skirting dangers that lie in the dark of their shadows. 

Mind you, Chambers Bay’s fairways still offer plenty of room to land, but the mountains and copious bunkering offer just as much to think about. You’re traveling straight through, but lean left for a look at birdie.

How legitimately links are these dunes compared to those at Lahinch? If legitimacy is measured in a golfer’s satisfaction after shepherding his ball through their dangers, “High Dunes” might as well be in Ireland. 

“This is quite rightly considered the best short hole in golf.” So spoke Alister MacKenzie, who knew a thing or two about such things.

st andrews old course 11th hole
Photo: Tom Shaw

Like the rest of the Old Course, High (In) has changed over the years, although perhaps less than most. The bunkers have remained the same—the daunting Cockleshell, the deep Hill, and the tight Strath. Getting over these is only half the battle, as the putting surface is the hole’s most dangerous weapon, so steep that the threat of a putt back into those bunkers has thwarted centuries of birdie bids.

No. 12: The Algonquin Resort 
St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada
175 yards, Par 3
Thomas McBroom (2000)
Nominated by Ben D.

Two consecutive par 3s, both about 175 yards, both in St. Andrews. Different continents, different greens, but one key theme recognized by differing architects, centuries apart: If you build a short hole against an ocean backdrop, the player will walk off the green happy, regardless of score. 

Thomas McBroom received an opportunity and a gift when he came to the Algonquin Resort at the turn of the millennium: a chance to rework a centenarian course, plus 30 new acres along the Bay of Fundy to play with. A drop-shot down to the peak of the peninsula, between four recently renovated bunkers, will leave no frown unturned. 

No. 13: Milwaukee Country Club
River Hills, WI
366 yards, Par 4
C.H. Alison (1929)
Nominated by Michael U.

What separates No. 13 from the rest at Milwaukee Country Club? The Milwaukee River for one, as this short par 4 is the only hole completely contained on the waterway’s east shore. 

Flatter than day-old Pabst, this portion of the property forced C.H. Alison to get clever to have it match its more movement-oriented kin around the course. A large sand complex at the dogleg right defends position A. Land in positions B, C, or D and you’ll be staring down the near-vertical bunker face on the greenside left, questioning both whether you want to mess with that, and how he created a hazard so deep on land so shallow.

No. 14: Cherry Hills Country Club 
Cherry Hills Village, CO
520 yards, Par 4 
William Flynn, 1922 
Nominated by Ryan B.

William Flynn brought the Philadelphia School westward. And, to Cherry Hills in particular, he brought Pine Valley at altitude. 

Cherry’s No. 14 and Pine Valley’s No. 13 feature long tee shots to high landing areas, followed by called draws down to greens that bow away left. The fairway in Denver features a spine dividing winners from the weak-kneed, and even the brave must again call upon courage with the second shot, shaping their downward approach as Little Dry Creek meanders ever nearer. 

Dan Jenkins dubbed it the best No. 14 in America, and the BTS has no argument with His Ownself.

No. 15: Sleepy Hollow Country Club (Upper)
Briarcliff Manor, NY
502 yards, Par 4 
Charles Blair Macdonald / Seth Raynor, 1911
Nominated by Robbie V.

The horseman’s head disappeared in some mysterious incident, but players at Sleepy Hollow lose their minds for good reason: Cresting the hill at No. 15 and catching a view of two greens—both of this long par 4 and No. 16, one of the most-photographed short holes in the world—all framed against the backdrop of the Hudson River is enough to make the eyes dewy. 

2023 Broken Tee 2-Man Sleepy Hollow
Photo: Kohjiro Kinno

You, being the consummate golfer, first look where your ball has settled on the fairway. MacRaynor’s punchbowl walls open up to let long shots in, but guarantee little else. Don’t pitch your putter, or a pumpkin, if a three-putt follows.

No. 16: Cypress Point Club 
Pebble Beach, CA
233 yards, Par 3
Alister MacKenzie, 1928
Nominated by Andy T.

Some say MacKenzie’s greatest asset was that he wasn’t much of a golfer himself. That outlook almost lost the world one of its great holes, however, when he doubted the wisdom behind Cypress Point’s legendary No. 16 tee shot. Fortunately, Marion Hollins grabbed a hickory, and knocked a 200-yard-plus approach onto today’s green. 

A century later and the leviathan still wrecks our mind’s ship. Throw in Pacific winds, roaring tides, the sheer anxiety of playing at this legendary club, and the physical challenge of piloting a golf ball 230 yards and relatively holeward, and it’s a wonder the cove still has room for water between the Titleists. 

Golf, in this instance, is like skydiving. The pleasure isn’t in the comfort, but the terror. Wisdom from Marion to MacKenzie. 

The 16th green, with the two-shot 17th beyond. Photo: Kohjiro Kinno

No. 17: St. Andrews Golf Club (Old)
St. Andrews, Co. Fife, Scotland 
455 yards, Par 4
Allan Robertson, 1848/Old Tom Morris
Nominated by Scott B.

Only one hole has repeated in the BTS Composite, a testament on top of the already incomparable adulation that the Road hole receives. It is simply one of the greatest monuments to the art of golf course architecture. 

Old course road hole taku miyamoto
Photo: Taku Miyamoto

Given a relatively flat parcel, squashed up against a road and intersected by a railway shed, Allan Robertson and Old Tom Morris somehow created a legend. Width and angles. Risk and reward. Par and a half. An iconic green embracing an iconic bunker. Pros and tourists alike scratch their heads. 

Strategic course design may have been born at St. Andrews, and architects have been trying to match Road ever since. 

Ask Johnny Miller about the density of the fairway bunker’s sand on Carnoustie’s final hole. Or Jean van de Velde about the temperature of the water in Barry Burn. Both fought bravely but had the Claret Jug stolen, not by opponents, but by this beast. 

If you’ve got (golf) balls, or backbone, left after 17 holes at “Carnasty,” try to carry the creek and reach in two. 

BTS Composite course
BTS Composite course

Get your birdies in early. After two short par 5s in the first four holes, this year’s routing is nothing but one- and two-shotters all the way back to the clubhouse. Thanks and kudos to BTS member Stu Stagg for designing the scorecard and a detailed routing map.