2. Whistling Straits, Straits Course #18 (520/487/424/420/380):
The finishing hole on the Straits could very well be one of the toughest golf holes in the entire world. Par on this 520/487-yard behemoth, which is set to be four, should be considered a monumental task, but will I’m sure be required on Sunday of the 2015 PGA Championship for whoever hopes to take home the Wanamaker Trophy.
Nicknamed “Dyeabolical,” after Pete Dye, of course, the eighteenth is 520 yards from the black tees and 487 from the blues. A split-fairway is found atop the hill in the driving area, and anything between the fairways may travel too far.
The long approach from anywhere on the upper-right fairway is best targeted right of the clubhouse in the distance. Anything left of that is likely to find the stream or wasteland between and below. The cloverleaf green on eighteen is iconic to golf, and a fantastic way to finish this incredible championship golf course.
If you find the bend in the fairway, you will have a shot at the green in two, which is over the back-side of the ravine and directly left. Stay long, if anything, because short is dead. This is a phenomenal par four, with bite.
The second hole is one of my favorites at the Woodlands. 200 yards down the middle of the fairway lives a huge quarry that drops deep from the hitting surface. A bailout fairway lies to the right, while the more appropriate fairway to the left is narrow and sheltered by trees.A large stone observation tower, known locally as Jutson Tower, looms above the fairway, and a huge oak tree is centered in front of the green, guarding the back-left green location. Playing early on a Sunday morning, chimes and church music provided fantastic ambience to the hole.
5. Geneva National, Gary Player Course #5 (354/310/283/257/255):
Hole five on the Player course is an instant classic! A true risk/reward hole, the fairway in front of the green is drivable, but requires at least 225 yards to carry the waste area and fingered sand traps. The bail-out fairway to the right is much more accessible, although it adds considerably to the hole’s yardage.
The green’s front-right bunker is deep, and woods to the left must also be considered if going for this green from the tee. At 310 yards from the gold boxes, this is one of the best short par fours I have ever seen or played.
6. Whistling Straits, Irish Course #10 (398/387/378/361/340):
The tenth hole on the Irish is one of the most awe-striking holes in Wisconsin. With Lake Michigan on the horizon, the wind is always a factor. The fairway runs significantly uphill and to the left, and missing it is catastrophic. The multitude of random bunkers built into the hills on the right side of the fairway are demonic, and will leave little to no chance of reaching this green in two.
7. Blackwolf Run, River Course #5 (427/400/388/376/275):
The fifth is the first hole played on the River course that is not part of the Original Championship track – the Original Championship skips five through thirteen and instead rounds Swan Lake to fourteen as its fifth. Three times leading up to our round I was told about the tee shot on five, and it did not fail to impress!
With highly elevated tee boxes, five is nicknamed “Made in Heaven.” Having played the River many times on Tiger Woods Golf for Playstation 3, I should have known what was coming, but was still awe-struck by such a majestic driving scenario.
The drive on five is to a wide fairway that is bordered long and left, as well as on the right side by a large sand trap, and right of that trap by the Sheboygan River. The tee shot is relatively simple on this hole. The approach, however, is not. High uphill, the approach plays to a plateau that is cut out of the tree line and drops straight down twenty feet on the right side. This drop is reminiscent of the right side of the green on the “Boxcar Hole” at Lawsonia’s Links course, if that helps you picture it.
9. Brown Deer Park #1 (461/447):
10. Erin Hills #12 (466/432/388/388/317):
At a course where the norm is large, elevated greens, the twelfth at Erin Hills goes oppo. At 388 yards from the green tees, fescue will envelop anything errant whether off the tee or from the fairway. In contrast to the majority of the course’s greens, the one on twelve actually resides in a small hollow that is blind from most approaches.
Sand traps line the right side of the green, while the rest is defended by tall fescue that shrouds it from view from the left.
11. University Ridge #4 (467/398/354/304):
12. Ironwood, Meath Course #3 (278/273/235):
Another short par four, the third on the Meath is as fun of a hole as I have ever played. Playing downhill from elevated tee boxes, the green is reachable from the tee, but good luck at stopping the ball there!
The green is surrounded on three sides by water, and two large sand traps. There are approach areas on both the left and right side, but the right side plays much more difficult. The left side fairway will allow an unimpeded shot to the green, which slopes severely toward the water on the right side. This is a fantastic par four, and my favorite of Ironwood’s 27 holes.
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.
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.
4. Wild Rock #6 (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.
6. Lawsonia, Links Course #13 (568/556/489/489):
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.
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.
9. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms #8 (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.
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.
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.
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.
16. Whistling Straits, Irish Course #8 (555/542/501/459/392):
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.
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.
There is no more exciting hole in golf than a well-made par three. Great par threes begin with imagination, and are cultivated to provide a challenging one-shot experience interlaced with fantastic aesthetics, and occasionally options.
This article is dedicated to the par threes that I will never forget, and will be an ongoing examination of the greatest one-shot holes in the Midwest. Much like my all-time greatest courses list, it will be ever-changing and updated as necessary when I find one that deserves a spot in the rankings.
1. Whistling Straits, Straits Course #17 (249/223/197/165/131):
The legend of the seventeenth goes like this: At every course that Pete Dye designs, he allows his wife, Alice, to design one par three. This was the seventeenth for the Straits course, and she must have been angry with him that day!
The seventeenth, quite possibly the signature hole on the Straits course and one of the most beloved par threes in the state of Wisconsin, is a brutally long par three with very few spots to miss. The lake lingers left of the playing area, and huge mounds front the right entrance and entire right side of the putting surface.
The misses here are short and/or long-right, as the mounds right of the green can help carom slightly wayward shots toward the putting surface.
2. Wild Rock #15 (179/166/134/130/118):
With six individual tee boxes separated by the trees and cliffs, the fifteenth hole is one of the most picturesque holes on one of the state’s most picturesque golf courses. A large stone quarry lives between the elevated tee boxes and the elevated green, and anything hit short will be claimed by the waste area that lies beneath.
3. Lawsonia, Links Course #7 (161/146/140/109):
The seventh on the Links course is famous for the “Boxcar hole” and its steep embankment short and right of the green. Opened in 1930, the Links is rated the number 55 classic course in the country, and the seventh is its signature hole.
Legend has it that course architects William Langford and Theodore Moreau used an actual train boxcar to create the elevated green on seven – if that’s true, then we can reasonably assess the drop in elevation on the right side to be at least 11 feet. In person, it feels like 15-20 – not an easy recovery when missed!
4. SentryWorld #16 (173/155/127/116/106):
As any avid Wisconsin golfer has, I had seen pictures of SentryWorld’s famous “Flower Hole” prior to playing it. Needless to say, I did not expect it to live up to expectations. It did, though, and more. The reason I say more is that it is an excellent par three even without the 45,000-plus flowers!
The green on sixteen is slightly risen and heavily sloped, and the steep bunkers that front it can be awfully penalizing. While shots in to the flowers cannot be played or looked for, the course does allow for a free drop. The flowers are beautifully patterned, and the colors are vibrant and glorious: Oranges, reds, yellows, purples and whites.
5. Castle at the Bay #10 (146/132/127/95/81):
A beautiful replica of the world’s most famous golf hole, number 17 at TPC Sawgrass, the tenth at Northern Bay is intended to challenge your mettle at the 132-yard distance that is played on the PGA Tour.
6. Erin Hills #9 (165/150/143/138/135)
Previously billed as the course’s “Bye hole,” the ninth at Erin Hills is a phenomenal downhill par three that plays between a multitude of greenside bunkers and a false front that protects the entrance to the putting surface. Deep rough abounds, and the craggy sand traps are hellish to play out of.
7. Blackwolf Run, River Course #4 (219/195/185/146/117):
Narrow and well-guarded, Swan Lake is one of the most charming holes on the world-famous River course.
The two biggest stars on this hole are the swans that live in the pond, who seem to be avid golf enthusiasts, themselves: When you’re on the tee boxes, they’re by the tee boxes. When you’re on the green, they are by the green. This will be one of the holes receiving a lot of attention during the 2012 US Women’s Open, and my guess is these two swans (pictured below) will be quite popular with the national media.
At 195 yards from the blue tees, the tee shot is long and intimidating. Anything hit right is dead, so zero in with a long club that you can hit straight, and pray to stay dry.
8. The Bull at Pinehurst Farms #6 (193/183/173/163/153/80):
On an unbelievably difficult golf course, the sixth at The Bull does not let up. Narrow and guarded by trees and sand, this hole requires absolute precision. This is a gorgeous hole, and follows one of my all-time favorite par fours, “Follow On.”
That being said, this is a beast of a par three. With a downhill tee shot, I have felt every time that I’ve teed off on this hole that I’ve hit it pretty well. Alas, I have found sand, I have found forest, and I have yet to find the green. The bunker on the right is particularly difficult, and anything overhit from there will likely be lost in the woods [or in the traps] on the left side of the green.
The green is two-tiered, and slopes from the back to the front. Nicknamed “Elation,” I will certainly be elated if I ever find a way to mark par on this par three.
9. SentryWorld #12 (161/139/123/86/76)
One of the newly designed holes on the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. renovated SentryWorld, I think a lot of Wisconsin golfers will be excited in 2015 to see that the “Flower Hole” may no longer be the most beautiful par three on the course. It might be top three, in fact!
Twelve is a brand new par three, created in an area that had previously never been used by the course. Teeing off from a laterally running tee box over the course’s inland lake to a peninsula that runs hard toward the water, twelve requires the precision of an island tee shot, with a slight backboard on the left side to help hold approaches.
10. Blackwolf Run, Meadow Valleys Course #15 (227/196/189/150/103):
The hole pictured on the Meadow Valleys scorecard, the fifteenth is a seriously PGA-caliber par three. Playing from 227 yards from the tips, and 196 from the blues, the tee shot is typically straight in to the wind and must carry almost the entire distance. Anything short is dead. Anything left is dead. Anything right is dead. Anything long will require a good touch downhill to keep from hitting the aforementioned “short” dead zone.
With one of the widest greens on the course, though, it is not impossible.
Adding to the mystique of this hole is maybe the most gorgeous vista in all of golf from the fifteenth hole’s tee boxes: Over the green and up the fairway of the “Nature’s Course” 14th hole.
The Honorable Mention List:
11. Trapper’s Turn, Canyon Course #7 (158/140/126/93):
The seventh on the Canyon course is a very intimidating tee shot, but actually plays a little easier than expected. Both sides of the approach area are slanted upward, which funnels shots slightly left or right in to the green area. Both times I have played it I have found myself on the green by way of the friendly bounce, which is much appreciated when playing on a course as tight as the Canyon.
12. Whistling Straits, Irish Course #11 (208/193/177/169/125):
Nicknamed “Lamb Chop,” the 11th at the Irish course is a long, and usually heavily wind-influenced hole chocked full of treachery. The cliff on the left side of the approach air zone provides a lot of character to the hole, and even that is wrought with sand traps. A sand trap from those areas would probably be best [or only] struck by the old “hand wedge.”
That was a [bad] joke, but this hole is not. It is absolutely gorgeous, with views of Lake Michigan and glorious mounding and bunkering.
13. Geneva National, Palmer Course #16 (218/204/177/156/141)
The start of one of the best combinations of back-to-back holes in the state, the sixteenth at the Palmer Course is a beautiful and challenging par three. The tee shot is long, at 204 yards from the blue tees, and plays to the shoreline of Lake Como. The backside of the green drops off to the lake, while the left and right sides are bordered by sand.
Perched atop the former Mt. Fuji Ski Hill, the back tees afford a view of much of the surrounding Lake Geneva and Delavan area, and 87 feet down to the putting surface of this gorgeous par three. At 153 yards, the wind was swirling for our round, and club selection proved to be quite difficult. My eight iron looked to be on the back of the green, but showed up in the back-side sand trap, making for a tough out that would finally be holed for bogey.
16. Edgewood, Oaks Course #14 (178/153/141/104):
Featuring another fantastic island layout, the fourteenth is the signature hole of the fantastic back nine on Edgewood’s Oaks course. From elevated tee boxes, the green is absolutely huge, and is affronted by a long sand trap and water on all sides.
17. Hawks Landing #17 (164/135/135/114/97):
18. Washington County #14 (197/175/147/92):
The fourteenth at Washington County begins on elevated tee boxes, and tees off over a pond that fronts and lines the left side of the green area. The green slopes heavily toward the water, making the sand trap on the right side quite difficult to play from. There is a small bailout area short and to the right, but the only safe play is to the green itself.