Too often people look at par fives as the holes they need to survive in order to save their score. Not me. As anyone who has golfed with me can attest to, I love par fives. I love that I can have one bad shot, and still have a good chance for par.
Sometimes it is the challenge that makes par fives great. Sometimes it is the options the hole provides. Sometimes, it has such a spectacular layout and looks so great that my score the first time I play it doesn’t even matter.
Some courses are chocked full of great par fives. Courses like University Ridge, Castle at the Bay, Wild Rock and Horseshoe Bay were built for great par fives. They churn out one after another. Other courses have one or two that are truly spectacular. There is definitely an art to making a great par five, and this article is an ongoing examination of the best.
You will notice that this listing changes often. It is listed as “posted on” October 25, 2011, but will be ever-changing. It is my intention to edit this as often as a great hole is found that deserves to be included.
This list is dedicated to the par five holes that provide the best challenge and options, and oftentimes for me the most memorable experience on the course.
From the moment you step up to the tee, the sixteenth at U-Ridge is one of the most fun golf holes in Wisconsin. A large oak tree provides your first choose-your-own-adventure experience: Aim to the right of the tree to hit the lower fairway, but risk finding the woods or fescue if the drive cuts. Aim to the left for a slightly safer play, but doing so will add more yardage to the hole and bring in to play thirteen centrally placed sand traps on the approach.
The second shot will be long regardless of the side you choose, but each has a bailout fairway to help take the bunkers out of play. Aim over the traps for your only chance at hitting this green in two and putting for eagle.
Hole 16: Par 5 (554/533/514/434)
2. Whistling Straits, Straits Course #16 (568/545/535/513/412):
Driving along the coastline of Lake Michigan, “Endless Bite” is a beautiful, demanding par five with the lake as a backdrop to a green perched opposite a multitude of recessed sand traps and waste areas.
While this is the shortest of the par fives on the Straits course, the green is quite possibly the toughest to hit in two, as the left side all slants toward the lake.
Hole 16: Par 5 (568/545/535/513/412)
Walking off the green of the gorgeous par three 16th hole on the Palmer course at Geneva National, you walk alongside the shore of Lake Como to tee boxes that when looked over cannot help but make you think of the famed 18th hole at Pebble Beach.
One of Arnold Palmer’s “Dream 18” holes of his course designing career, the 17th presents a formidable task: Getting off the tee. Lake Como lines the entire left boundary of the hole, while out of bounds lines the right side. Several large oaks give you a line, while strong winds off the lake make this initial challenge even more difficult.
The hole flows down the shoreline and finishes with a flurry of sand traps. This is the signature hole on the Palmer course, and one of the most beautiful holes I have found in the state.
Hole 17: Par 5 (573/530/485/421/406)
4. Wild Rock #6 (588/551/525/504/457):
The most awe-inspiring tee shot on one of Wisconsin’s most majestic courses is Wild Rock’s par five sixth hole. The view from the quartzite tees overlooks Baraboo and more than 30 miles of the Wisconsin Dells surrounding area.
Being in or around the fairway is essential, as anything right is dead, and there is little room to work with left. The fairway narrows as the sixth plays uphill, and a blind shot to the green becomes guess-work as the approach drops downhill, then into oblivion both long and right. The pin location has been in the midst of a severe slope each time I have played it, making a two-putt much to ask for.
Hole 6: Par 5 (588/551/525/504/457)
5. Blackwolf Run, River Course #11 (621/560/538/522/446)
While it looks fairly elementary from the tee boxes, the eleventh hole at the River is anything but. The views from the second and third shots are picturesque, to say the least, while the distances over the Sheboygan River are deceivingly long.
Do yourself a favor and avoid looking at the hole flyover prior to teeing off. The optimal tee shot is the left side of the fairway, although a sand trap is found left 260 yards out. The river runs the full distance of the right side, and narrows the fairway between it and the reservoir found to the left at about 300 yards. The second shot will bring the river in to the equation no matter where the tee shot is played to, and the distance to safely carry the river can be tough to judge.
To me, the eleventh is the most scenic hole on the River course, which is a bold statement. I am told that it is Herb Kohler’s favorite, as well.
Hole 11: Par 5 (621/560/538/522/446)
6. Lawsonia, Links Course #13 (568/556/489/489):
Thirteen is one of the most awe-striking par fives you will find anywhere. The tee shot is pretty self-explanatory: Try to find the fairway and set up your second shot. From there, it gets interesting.
The mounding on this hole is absolutely beautiful, and is the quintessential example that should be used for any American links-style course. The second shot has to be long, and absolutely needs to be in the fairway. Why? The finish is surrounded by woods, and features a massive depression that falls steeply from the fairway. It then climbs again for 150-plus yards to the green, which looks heavenly from the fairway depression before being mounded even higher for the green itself.
Hole 13: Par 5 (568/556/489/489)
The eighteenth at Erin Hills is one of the most beautiful finishing holes I have played, and at 620 yards from the green tees (660 from the tips), it is also one of the longest.
Listening to Director of Golf, Rich Tock, tell me about this hole before our round got me excited to play it. With a good drive, the fairway bends right at around 250-300 yards out. Trying to hit the green in two from this area will inevitably result in a lost ball in the forced carry over fescue that serves as a wetland. The second shot has to be played far right toward the central fairway sand trap. The fairway on eighteen extends considerably in that direction, and leaves a wedge in to a green that is risen and lined on the left with deep sand traps. Long and left runs off the green quickly.
The view on this approach is breathtaking, with the clubhouse, village, and American and Erin Hills flags in the near distance, and Holy Hill on the horizon. It is so memorable that a friend of mine from my Thursday night golf league hired a painter to capture the vista with him on the eighteenth green.
Hole 18: Par 5 (660/637/620/539/506)
8. SentryWorld #5 (526/510/475/435/370)
It was a great decision by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. not to change much on the par five fifth hole at the renovated SentryWorld.
Driving over water, the fairway meanders around the lake and finishes on a peninsula well under 400 yards from the tee boxes, but is completely unreachable. While this crescent-shaped layout provides a wealth of risk/reward options, the smart play is to make sure the fairway is hit off the tee, then “Walk the line” greenward.
Keeping it as the fifth hole does not mean improvements were ignored: The new fifth has an opened up driving area, and less trees in the fly zone over the inland lake means long hitters will now be further provoked to try daring approaches over and along the shoreline.
Hole 5: Par 5 (526/510/475/435/370)
9. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms #8 (568/556/500/487/435):
All you need to know about this hole can be seen in the aerial layout. With water seamingly everywhere, the tee shot needs to be played to the fairway. The parallel rivers separate split fairways on the second shot, and the green is mercilessly small and breaks relentlessly. While the fairway on the left side makes for the easiest setup, the one in the middle allows the greatest margin for error on the approach. Choose your own adventure on this spectacular par five.
Hole 8: Par 5 (568/556/500/487/435)
10. Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys #16 (590/544/487/478/415):
The longest par five on the Meadow Valleys course, the sixteenth is nicknamed “Rolling Thunder.” The tee shot from the tips requires a whole lot of length to clear the hill that fronts the fairway and landing zone, then fires right green-ward. Stay well right of the small barn off the tee.
Be smart on the second shot to avoid the largest sand trap at all of Blackwolf Run, and maybe the largest greenside bunker in the state, lingering short-right and along the entire right side of the elevated putting surface.
Hole 16: Par 5 (590/544/487/478/415)
11. Geneva National, Gary Player Course #10 (552/511/495/462/405):
The opening hole on the back nine of the Player course features highly-elevated tee boxes with woods to the left and a hugely downhill drive.
Find the fairway on the drive and get great roll to set up a chance at hitting this green in two. The shot over the pond is long, and the landing area is largely populated with sand. The finish of this hole reminds me of the 18th from Castle at the Bay, requiring a long shot over water and staggered bunkers. The green is multi-tiered, as many of the greens at Geneva National are.
Hole 10: Par 5 (552/511/495/462/405)
12. Big Fish #13 (525/487/475/440/401):
The back nine at Big Fish is absolutely beautiful, and is highlighted by this phenomenal par five. Following a straight tee shot, the setup is played over a gigantic crest in the fairway that drops significantly toward a lower fairway before playing back uphill to a small green guarded by several pot bunkers left, and a line of trees to the right.
Hole 13: Par 5 (525/487/475/440/401)
The seventh at Washington County is a brutal par five. At over 500 yards, water lines almost the entire left side of the hole, and the fairway funnels toward it. The tee boxes are in line with the pond, so it is essential to stay right.
The approach is over a small creek / waste area, and fescue runs along the right side of the rough by the cart path.
Hole 7: Par 5 (545/524/505/431)
The eighteenth at Brown Deer begins with one of the most demanding tee shots I have ever played. From the tips, this hole plays at 557 yards, and the tee shot needs to be at least 225 and straight to cross the pre-fairway stream.
Heading uphill, the hole is lined with trees. A former PGA Tour event finishing hole, it is fun to think to yourself on the tee boxes: “What would Tiger do?”
Hole 18: Par 5 (557/477/353)
15. Hawk’s Landing #5 (561/512/482/445):
With elevated tee boxes driving downhill, out of bounds left and tons of sand traps and OB right, this is a tight driving hole that can reward straight shots with a lot of roll-out. The par five fifth at Hawk’s Landing plays downhill to a green that has to be run on to.
Hole 5: Par 5 (561/512/482/445)
16. Whistling Straits, Irish Course #8 (555/542/501/459/392):
After parking the cart and walking back to the tee boxes, there is a carry to the tee shot of a little over 100 yards to the fairway. The right side drops about 15 feet off the playing surface, so if you land there then take your medicine and re-find the fairway. The setup shot is played over an inland stream and uphill to one of the most beautiful green areas I have ever seen. Littered with sand and an almost impossibly sloped green, a par here would feel like a birdie on almost any other hole.
Hole 8: Par 5 (555/542/501/459/392)
The Firestone replica sixth hole at Northern Bay tees up from 625 yards of tree-lined fairway. The fairway is tight, and the setup shot aims downhill to a creek that starts on the right side and builds in to a pond before the green. The green is next to impossible to hit in two, so play it smart to avoid this blow-up hole waiting to happen.
Hole 6: Par 5 (625/586/565/546/361)
Ten is Hawk’s View’s longest par five, and my favorite hole at Como Crossings. The tenth sets up similarly to the eighteenth hole at one of my favorite Wisconsin courses, The Oaks. The fairway sets up laterally with hundreds of yards to short grass to hit from the tees. The farther left you drive, the shorter the drive will be.
If the tee shot is long and left, there will be a chance to hit the green in two, but it will likely be 200 yards or more. If the middle or right side of the fairway is hit off the tee, the only option will be to lay up before Como Creek. A beautiful wooden bridge crosses the creek and leads to a short layup area that fronts an elevated green. This is an awesome par five that for almost all players will require three shots to hit.
Hole 10: Par 5 (600/550/539/515/507)
19. The Oaks #18 (547/510/483/479/460):
The eighteenth at The Oaks is a fantastic finishing hole. The last of their five par fives, the fairway runs slightly downhill and is probably the widest on the course. The hole bends left and over a large waste area, with woods left. Beyond these woods is about 30 yards of open fairway and sand traps, while the front-right side of the green area will result in a lost ball or deeper bunkers.
Play to the left side of the green for your best chance of staying safe, and realize that there is plenty of fairway and layup area left of the green over the trees that front the approach area.
Hole 18: Par 5 (547/510/483/479/460)
Seven is my favorite hole on the Woodlands course, and one of my all-time favorite par fives. The tee shot is nearly impossible: A large sand trap and woods on the left, forest on the right, and well within distance is a mammoth pond surrounded by tall, thick fescue. Stay safe off the tee and your second shot will be to a wide enough area uphill to set up the approach.
The green is two-tiered, so make sure you find the right level. Anything on the wrong level almost guarantees a three-putt, while a top-level hole location is still liable to carry any putt to the lower level (or off the green, altogether). Take a minute to enjoy the look back at this gorgeous hole layout before moving on to the eighth hole.
Hole 7: Par 5 (527/495/479/428)
The tenth at Fire Ridge has one of the most exciting par five approach shots in Wisconsin. At over 500 yards, a forest lines the left side of the hole, and the fairway is wide enough with the exception of a large tree that can lock out shots cut right.
The approach carries a wide river (shown below), then flies a long sand trap that fronts this kidney bean-shaped green.
Hole 10: Par 5 (532/528/489/443)