Think of the most difficult hole you’ve ever played. Perhaps there was a challenging pin placement, or a narrow fairway with trees at every turn, or the green was surrounded by ridiculously wide and deep sand traps, with some precarious water hazard lurking nearby. Now imagine all those factors combined, add a few sharks, a helicopter, and your own patch of grass, and you’ll find yourself facing some of the most savage golf holes on earth. Read on…
You can play the normal third hole at this spectacular Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Mexico, or you can try Hole 3B, which offers you the chance to take a swing at the world’s only natural island green. Aptly nicknamed the Tail of the Whale, this 194-yard par 3 plays to an island green in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Assuming your ball actually makes it onto the green, you can walk across the rocks to get there or, if the tide is up, grab your putter and hop onto a six-wheeled amphibious vehicle. Who says Jack Nicklaus is a nice guy?
For more info: fourseasons.com/puntamita/golf/pacifico_golf_course/
It’s probably not a good idea when the road you’re taking to your golf course is the same one other people use to go on safari. Before you even step up to the first tee in the middle of this national park, you’ll find signs warning you not to run from the lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo that may cross your path. If you run, the wisdom goes, the animal will believe that it has gained the “moral advantage” and it will be more likely to give chase. Best bet: “Keep your eyes on the animal and back off slowly,” say the course owners. And you thought a three-foot putt was nerve-racking.
For more info: sanparks.org/parks/kruger/tourism/activities/golf_course.php
It’s not the difficulty of these holes so much as where they’re located: Right in the middle of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The other fourteen holes are adjacent to the track, but you’ve got to step inside the Brickyard to play these four. Naturally, the course is closed during racing events. Gentlemen, start your tee times!
For more info: brickyardcrossing.com
The water off the fifteenth fairway isn’t the real hazard at Carbrook Golf Club. It’s what’s in the water: sharks! In the early 1990s, the nearby Logan River burst its banks, and many species of fish were found in the creeks and lakes of the Carbrook course. For a long time there were only rumors of sharks, but now several members have video footage of their existence. It’s probably not a good idea to go after your ball if it ends up wet.
For more info: carbrookgolfclub.com.au/
Welcome to the world’s only par 3 floating, movable island green. This most-famous hole on this world-class course has challenged amateur and professional golfers alike for two decades with its fifteen-thousand-square-foot green, just 150 yards off the lakeshore. Tee off, then board the Putter Boat shuttle to finish your hole—assuming, of course, that you hit the green. Regardless, when you finish, you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement, complete with your name, date, and score. And if it wasn’t impressive, well, at least you got a nice boat ride out of the experience.
For more info: cdaresort.com/golf
Most rounds of golf take about four hours. This one might take four weeks. Nullarbor Links is an eighteen-hole, par seventy-two course that spans more than 848 miles, with one hole in eighteen different towns along the Eyre Highway, from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in the south. Cart? You might want to consider a small plane.
For more info: nullarborlinks.com/
Tee off from the terrace of this historic hotel and try to land your ball on the floating green out in the middle of Ardmore Bay. Slice your shot? No worries. The balls are specially made of biodegradable material that turns into fish food within forty-eight hours.
For more info: thecliffhousehotel.com/the-hotel
When you’ve completed your round on this world-class eighteen-hole course and you want to give this extra par 3 hole a shot, it’s no problem at all. Just head over to the helipad, jump into the helicopter, and then tee off from a cliff on Hanglip Mountain, more than fourteen hundred feet above the green. Good luck: It’s more than 430 yards to the pin, which happens to be on a green shaped like the continent of Africa. It takes twenty seconds for a ball to hit the ground. If you manage to score a hole in one, you’ll head home with a million dollars—which means you can buy your own helicopter.
For more info: legendlodges.co.za/legend-golf-safari-resort
For a one hundred dollar entry fee, competitors are driven to Socorro Peak, 7,243 feet above sea level. The target? A fifty-foot patch of dirt about three miles away and 2,550 feet downhill located on the New Mexico Tech campus. Because the terrain is so rough, everyone’s allowed to tee the ball up after every shot. Best score ever: Nine. Worst? Difficult to say, since the scorecard only goes to seventy-five. Everyone starts with ten balls, and in order to take home the prize, you must have at least one ball left. Considering that the mountain is filled with cacti and abandoned mine shafts, that might not be as easy as it sounds. Golf. You just can’t win, can you?
For more info: socorroopen.com/pages/elfegoshootout.html
Lane Strauss is a freelance writer based in Cleveland. He has written for ESPN, The Magazine, Cleveland Magazine, and Ohio Magazine.