Noting that Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club did not make the cut, the publication considered USGA Course Rating, Slope Rating and Bogey Rating in compiling the list. The International in Bolton, Mass., took the top spot, followed by Pikewood National in Morgantown, W. Va., and Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
Forbes has combined a list of the five toughest golf courses in the U.S. In assembling this list, the USGA Course Rating System was taken into consideration along with both Slope Rating® and Bogey Rating™, so difficulty is gauged for scratch golfers as well as the average amateur who tees it up once a week.
The International — Bolton, Mass.
There’s long and then there’s the Pines course at The International. The par-73 layout, built in 1954 and reworked by Robert Trent Jones in 1972, has long been considered one of the longest in the world. It plays to a whopping 8,325 yards from the Gold (or “Tiger”) tees and features three par-4 holes in excess of 530 yards. The par-5 finisher is 656 yards, yet there’s an even longer par-5 on the property: the 674-yard third hole.
There’s also a par-6 hole that is 715 yards.
Pikewood National — Morgantown, W. Va.
High atop a mesa in the mountains near Morgantown, Pikewood National was designed in the tradition of classic architects like Donald Ross and Alister MacKenzie. The course has holes nicknamed “On The Rocks,” “Audacity,” and “Old Bastard.” Dow Finsterwald, a former Ryder Cup captain and PGA Championship winner, called Pikewood National the “most challenging, fair and beautiful course in the world.”
Rich Harvest Farms – Sugar Grove, Ill.
This property, which started as a six-hole backyard course for computer billionaire Jerry Rich, now ranks among America’s greatest and hosted the Solheim Cup in 2009. The exclusive private club was influenced by Augusta National and designed by Rich, who interviewed five architects before discovering he could draw the plans himself.
Oak Tree National – Edmond, Okla.
Oak Tree National founders Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser gave Pete Dye an edict to design the most challenging golf course in the U.S. in 1974. Dye now calls the layout the finest inland golf course he’s created. Built on a 640-acre countryside expanse, Oak Tree National’s tough design is only compounded by Oklahoma’s notorious winds.
Kiawah Island Ocean Course – Kiawah Island, S.C.
Another Pete Dye design, the difficulty of the layout was influenced by his wife, Alice, who during construction suggested raising the course to have unobstructed views of the Atlantic coastline from every hole rather than sit behind the dunes. The course has more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere (with 10 right along the Atlantic Ocean) and the result is that the layout is exposed to the location’s brisk and unpredictable winds. There are no prevailing winds, so good luck with day-to-day strategy and players can occasionally experience up to an 8-club difference on holes depending on the direction or strength of the wind.
Here are some other courses that didn’t crack the Top 5 but, according to their ratings, present the nation’s most severe challenges (at least from their longest tees):
Butler National – Oak Brook, Ill.
Medalist Golf Club – Hobe Sound, Fla.
Ballyhack Golf Club – Roanoke, Va.
TPC Treviso Bay – Naples, Fla.
Kenai Golf Association – Kenai, Ark.
The Honors Course – Ooltewah, Tenn.
Blessings – Fayette, Ark.
The Pete Dye Course – French Lick, Ind.
The Golf Club of New England – Stratham, N.H.
Ko’Olau Golf Club – Kaneohe, Hawaii