Bizarre Golf Course Feature You've Never Seen

It's rare I come across something I've never seen before on a golf course, but that's exactly what happened to me last week.

And, I'm willing to bet that unless you've played where I was playing, you have never seen this either.

In fact, it might be the first of its kind in the entire world.

What was so unusual?

The course was the Four Seasons Golf Club in Costa Rica, but the bizarre sight was NOT the white-faced and howler monkeys all over the place.

(Monkeys on a golf course are unusual, but not unprecedented; you can also find them in Barbados at Sandy Lane's aptly-named Green Monkey course).

Rather, I noticed the most unusual feature on the par-3 fifth hole.

From the tips it is listed at a meaty 215 yards and the entire green is guarded by a long pond on the right. There is bail out room on the left, but a line of bunkers stands ready to swallow wayward shots (see below).

As I glanced at my scorecard, I noticed this was the number one handicap hole on the entire golf course.

This got me thinking: surely I have played many difficult par-3s, but has one ever been the No. 1 handicap hole?

So, I searched my memory and came up with some contenders:

The 5th at Pine Valley...
The 9th at Yale...
The 14th at Royal Portrush...
The 16th at Cypress Point...
The 17th at Kiawah's Ocean Course...

Alas, these contenders were all pretenders.

Very difficult holes, yes, but none is the No. 1 handicap on its course.

By the way, "No. 1 handicap hole" doesn't mean, "the hardest hole."

Instead, it's the hole where a bogey golfer will most likely need a stroke as an "equalizer" against a scratch golfer.

Said another way: the hole that typically produces the biggest differential in their scores.

(Use that, my fellow bogey golfers, if anyone tries to deny you a stroke on a par-3 simply because it's a par-3.)

And guess what? I played three rounds at this course and shot double bogey, double bogey, bogey on the hole.

So, as bizarre as it seemed at first, this par-3 surely felt accurately handicapped at No. 1.

How about you? Have you ever come across a par-3 that was the number one handicap...or one that should be? Do you see anything wrong with giving strokes on a par-3 even if it's highly handicapped?

Please share your thoughts or read what other are saying below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
40 Comments
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Stanley Pasarell

Just like hole 5 at Papagayo's Four Season in Costa Rica, Puerto Rico's Royal Isabela hole 17 is a 215 yard par 3. Without question our most difficult golf hole. 17 has 11 tee boxes...most perched at cliff's edge 180 feet above the Atlantic. Your tee shot must account for wind in to safely carry the chasm before reaching the green. The 3 level green juts out to a penninsula across that soars 150 feet above the Atlnatic. As our dear friend, golf architect David W. Pfaff, use to say "a monkey could have designed this hole". David along with my brother, Charlie, and I design Royal Isabela. On a sad note, David passed away about a year ago...we miss him...

Bob Pegram

Most people think the handicap ratings on holes are a ranking that shows which holes require a stroke to stay even with a scratch golfer. That is not the case. It should be, but isn't. The hole handicap ratings start with the holes on which a golfer would score the highest numerical score. It has nothing to do with par. A 600 yard par 5 is more difficult than a 215 par 3. The two double bogeys the author shot would be pars on a par 5. His gross score is likely to be higher than on any par 3 hole, therefore it should be handicapped as more difficult than any par 3.
If the handicapping works the way it is designed to work, and a golfer shoots exactly according to averages, he would score a net 4 on every hole regardless of par (assuming a total par of 72 and a course rating of 72).
I don't agree with this method of hole handicapping, but that is how it is supposed to work.

TR

NOTHING VENTURED NOTHING GAINED

John

Portage Country Club in Portage Wisconsin has a par 3 hole (#3) rated as the number one hanidcap hole. It's 213 yards from the white tee, into the prevailing wind, with water on the entire left side and behind the green. To the right is a wooded hillside, a popular landing place but a difficult bogey if you go there.

Bobby

Oakmont #8 is a beast!

rich cecil

A note regarding Calvin's comment about Cacapon State Park #18 green with a chimney in the middle of it. It is actually in the middle of the practice putting green. By the way this course is one of the best kept secrets around. Just a beautiful, quiet, challenging golf experience in a wonderful country setting. One of my favorites.
RC

Ron Leporati, PGA

The Old Course at Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford, Pennsylvania has a par-3 ranked as the #1 handicap hole. Our fourth hole, adequately named "Volcano," is 223 yards uphill to a green that appears to sit at the top of a volcano. Our course is also ranked the #1 Public and #1 Resort Golf Course in Pennsylvania by GolfWeek Magazine as well as #53 on their "Top 100 Resort Courses in the United States" list. Come see us!

Rod

This one is easy - the 5th hole at Anstruther Golf Club in Scotland. Of course most have never heard of this little 9 hole course 9 miles south of St Andrews and along the coast between Anstruther and Pittenweem. It is another one of those unique Scottish courses like Shiskine and Stonehaven that offer just spectacular scenery, great hospitality and pure fun.

The par 3 called Rockies was voted the toughest par 3 in the UK. "From the elevated tee you must hit the ball onto the small fairway which is guarded on the right by a steep gorse and rough bank and on the left by the Firth of Forth which is out of bounds.
The more adventurous golfer can go for the green but a knowe that obscures half of the green makes this an extremely difficult and high risk shot. Best results are achieved by playing it as a par 4."

And the unfortunate thing is, being a nine-hole course, you have to play it twice
.anstruthergolf.co.uk/anstruthergolfclub.pdf

Brian Lowe

There are quite a number of courses in Australia that have different stroke and match play ratings for each hole in the round marked on the card.

John M

I would like to question the reasoning behind the toughest par 3 on our course that is rated as the #18 handicap hole! The handicap committee & the club pro all agree with the rating that was set many years ago & never changed. Unless there is greater than a 17-stroke handicap differential between two match play players, the low handicapper has an advantage over a higher handicapper.

It is 187 yards into the prevailing wind (if the wind ever stopped blowing, everyone would fall over!) to a long, narrow from side to side, domed green.
It has a bunker guarding the right front with a strategic tree to the front left and right of the green to prevent shot shaping. If your tee shot misses the green pin high, you have a difficult chip, which if short, it rolls off & you do it again, if long it rolls off & you chip again. The reason the hole is rated #18 is because it is the hole a low handicapper would least wish to give a stroke to a higher handicapper in match play!!!!! That seems one-sided favouring low handicappers.

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