Golf Advisor's 50 toughest courses, according to your reviews

For many golfers, the beauty of the game is the fact that it's the ultimate sporting challenge. It takes a lifetime, if we're lucky, to master. And even so, there are far more days the game defeats us than we prevail.

We've dug into the nearly 500,000 reviews on Golf Advisor to see which courses are being hailed as the most challenging. When you post a review on Golf Advisor, one of the optional fields is to grade the difficulty of the course from five options. We assigned each selection a numerical value 1-5, with "extremely challenging" assigned a score of 5. About 75 percent of all reviews have a course difficulty rating. These are reviews from golfers of all ages and handicaps, playing the tees they felt the should play on that day.

The results have plenty of expected names from some of the most infamous designs in golf. Others are more under the radar, known to locals as severe tests. You'll see some familiar names here: a few major championship and pro golf venues, as well as some of the most storied links golf courses in Ireland. Architects like Jack Nicklaus (7), Pete Dye (7), Robert Trent Jones Jr. (5) have the most entries in this top 50.

When assessing a course's difficulty, its championship yardage, slope and rating only tells part of the story. Often times, a course's setup (like pin locations), conditions (rough height or green speeds) and weather (wind or wetness) play an even bigger role than the design. And just because a course might be manageable for low-handicappers, it may be an entirely different beast for higher handicaps.

So if you crave the sternest of tests, keep this list in mind, compiled by golfers all over the world, and features not just U.S. courses, but bruisers in Canada and Ireland as well.

Golf Advisor's 50 toughest courses

50. Prairie View Golf Club

Carmel, Ind.
Yardage: 7,073 | Slope/rating: 137/74.8
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
What they're saying: "Prairie holes and several that went into the woods and were lined with trees." - Jesse5296632

49. North at The Club At Bond Head

Bond Head, Ontario, Canada
Yardage: 6,981 | Slope/Rating: 144/74.5
Architect: Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry
What they're saying: "A dramatic course, elevation changes everywhere. Would recommend to anyone, but may need to play it twice to truly 'get it'." - amarasovic

48. Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Golf Club

Bend, Ore.
Yardage: 7,379 | Slope/rating: 151/75.2
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "I thought Jack Nicklaus was a nice guy." - Hacksalot

47. Mountain Course at Bear Mountain Resort

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Yardage: 6,891 | Slope/Rating: 142/73.2
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "a roller coaster ride through the most mountainous golf course site on the island."> - MikeBaileyGA

46. Old Corkscrew Golf Club

Estero, Fla.
Yardage: 7,393 | Slope/Rating: 153/77.6
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "Beautiful, but will kick your butt if you are too aggressive." - Eldon4031533

45. The Golf Club at Dove Mountain

Marana, Ariz.
Yardage: 7852 | Slope/Rating: 145/77.2
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "Many holes can have a long carry to green, so pick your tees accordingly." - Kronmiller

44. Harbor Shores

Benton Harbor, Mich.
Yardage: 6,852 | Slope/Rating: 143/74.4
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "Just bring your best flat stick game cause Jack knows how to design a green complex." - Gonzokush

43. Chambers Bay

University Place, Wash.
Yardage: 7,585 | Slope/Rating: 146/78.1
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
What they're saying: "Play from the correct tees, load up on some extra pearls, and embrace this beautiful brute." - DamonHackGC

42. The Links at Spanish Bay

Pebble Beach, Calif.
Yardage: 6,821 | Slope/Rating: 140/74.0
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Watson
What they're saying: "Almost every shot off line will be swallowed by dunes or trees on the higher holes of the back nine. " - JasonDeeganGA

41. No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club

Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
Yardage: 7,588 | Slope/Rating: 138/76.5
Architect: Donald Ross, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
What they're saying: "approach shots in to some of the most diabolical green complexes I've ever played." - sd014808

40. Tobacco Road Golf Course

Sanford, N.C.
Yardage: 6,532 | Slope/Rating: 144/71.7
Architect: Mike Strantz
What they're saying: "I can't imagine what the architect was thinking or how he conceived the layout but, wow, brilliant!" - GeoAZ

39. The Legends Course at Lionhead Golf & Country Club

Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Yardage: 7,402 | Slope/Rating: 155/77.5
Architect: Ted Baker
What they're saying: "A tough course that rewards accuracy and penalizes any lapse in concentration." - tlindst

38. Pound Ridge Golf Club

Pound Ridge, N.Y.
Yardage: 7,165 | Slope/Rating: 150/76.0
Architect: Pete Dye, Perry Dye
What they're saying: "Shot 86 with 42 putts. The pros couldn't break par from the tips" - Pokermeister

37. Thoroughbred Golf Club

Rothbury, Mich.
Yardage: 6,900 | Slope/Rating: 146/73.6
Rothbury, Mich.
Architect: Arthur Hills
What they're saying: "Check out the greens before you hit - lots of buried elephants give HUGE undulations." - Noise396

36. Oak Bay Golf & Country Club

Port Severn, Ontario, Canada
Yardage: 6,503 | Slope/Rating: 146/71.4
Architect: Shawn P. Watters
What they're saying: "Put the driver away and tee off with a 3 wood or take a couple of dozen balls!" - Normshiffman

35. Amana Colonies Golf Course

Amana, Iowa
Yardage: 6,824 | Slope/Rating: 142/72.8
Architect: William J. Spear
What they're saying: "The course's natural beauty can also be enjoyed by the novice player who brings an extra box (not sleeve) of balls!" - coppersmith

34. Shadow Creek

North Las Vegas, Nev.
Yardage: 7,560 | Slope/Rating: 145/74.5
Architect: Tom Fazio
What they're saying: "Stunning water features, brilliant bunkering and true-rolling greens make this one worth the price of admission." - BillBowmanGA

33. Old Course at Ballybunion

County Kerry, Ireland
Yardage: 6,802 | SSS: 72
What they're saying: "The par 3's are as hard a collection as anywhere in the world while still retaining a facade of fairness." - IAN1196853

32. Northlands Golf Course

North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Yardage: 6,504 | Slope/Rating: 135/71.6
Architect: Les Furber
What they're saying: ' I play here once a month and can't say I've played a tougher front 9 before." - Jason2894225

31. Champions Club at The Retreat

Corona, Calif.
Yardage: 6,745 | Slope/Rating: 145/73.9
Architect: Nicklaus Design
What they're saying: "Almost every hole has forced carries off the tee and/or to the green over native red staked ravines."> - NickSquire

30. Otter Creek Golf Club

Otterville, Ontario, Canada
Yardage: 7,124 | Slope/Rating: 136/74.6
Architect: Dick Kirkpatrick
What they're saying: "Not for the faint of heart. Huge challenge...with intimidating shots all over the place." - peebee1

29. Highlands Course at Deerhurst Resort

Huntsville, Ontario, Canada
Yardage: 7,011 | Slope/Rating: 140/75.1
Architect: Thomas McBroom, Bob Cupp
What they're saying: "When it was built they didn't give you a lot of bail out room like they give you on the newer courses." - Reidb

28. Lost Key Golf Club

Pensacola, Fla.
Yardage: 6,801 | Slope/Rating: 145/73.9
Architect: Arnold Palmer
What they're saying: "Nice, but difficult course. There's a reason it's called 'lost balls'." - drws187

27. Tobiano Golf Course

Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
Yardage: 7,367 | Slope/Rating:135/75.3
What they're saying: "A great challenge, but no tricks. If you hit good shots you get good results." - bmcmynn

26. Conservatory Course at Hammock Beach

Palm Coast, Fla.
Yardage: 7776 | Slope/Rating: 150/78.2
Architect: Tom Watson
What they're saying: "I'm a low handicap player and would NOT even think of playing the back tees! 7700 yards is just insane!" - golfismylife223

Part 2: Click here to see the 25 toughest courses according to your reviews

Jun 10, 2016

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Post a comment 

DLGolf98's avatar
DLGolf98 wrote at 2016-06-20 23:00:31+00:00:

Bethpage Black is just a mental & physical beatdown from one of the worlds best courses. 

RockyLaddo's avatar
RockyLaddo wrote at 2016-06-14 19:09:59+00:00:

Bethpage Black is definitely deserving of the top spot, but I also think that the Prince course in Kauai was brutal.

LOSTTEXAN65's avatar
LOSTTEXAN65 wrote at 2016-06-14 19:09:34+00:00:


u00000592604's avatar
u00000592604 wrote at 2016-06-14 18:52:01+00:00:

I think they missed out on Bull Valley. That thing is BRUTAL...

But I'm playing #35 Amana for the first time next week so I'll get to judge that one for myself. 

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Brandon Tucker

Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.