The 10 Craziest Water Hazards on the PGA Tour—with Video

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2012

The 10 Craziest Water Hazards on the PGA Tour—with Video

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    Crazy is a subjective term and there are many varieties of nuttiness in the world of aquatic dangers on the PGA Tour.

    Some water hazards are crazy for their sheer size, some for the crazy incidents they inspired. Some, even, are notable for the creatures that inhabit them. 

    Here are the 10 craziest water hazards on the PGA Tour and what makes them so crazy.

Honorable Mention: The 17th at Disney's Magnolia Course

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    The Hazard

    The 17th hole, in addition to featuring the famed Mickey Mouse bunker, is bordered on the left side of the fairway by a large pond. The pond stretches from the tee all the way to the green. 

    Why it's Crazy

    In a word: Fishing. Reportedly, the hazard is the best "fishing hole" on tour. Tour players, including David Toms and Heath Slocum, bring their fishing rods to tour stops. Indeed, Toms "keeps a bait-casting rod in his cart during practice rounds." 

    Heath Slocum's brother-in-law, who occasionally caddies for him, caught two nine-pound bass in a row from the pond. Additionally, golfers report, in classic "it was this big" style, that there are 10-plus pounders in the pond.

No. 10: 12th Hole at Augusta

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    The Hazard

    Rae's Creek meanders through the 12th hole. The iconic Hogan and Nelson bridges cross the creek. 

    Why it's Crazy

    Rae's Creek frames the front portion of the 12th green and runs behind the 11th green. On the 12th, it's not a terribly imposing hazard as players tend to just play long, so if they miss they'll end up in the bunkers or the azaleas, rather than the creek.

    The crazy thing about Rae's creek is that, for as notable as it is, for as significant a part of Amen Corner lore as it is, the bridges which span it are nearly as famous and iconic as the hazard itself. The Hogan bridge, for example, was dedicated in 1958 and bears a plaque that reads:

    This bridge dedicated April 2, 1958, to commemorate Ben Hogan's record score for four rounds of 274 in 1953. Made up of rounds of 70, 69, 66 and 69. This score will always stand as one of the very finest accomplishments in competitive golf and may even stand for all time as the record for The Masters tournament.

No. 9: 18th Hole at Bay Hill

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    The Hazard

    A large pond running from about 150 yards from the green on the right side, protecting the front of the green. A rock wall boarders most of the edge of the hazard.

    Why it's Crazy

    The hazard is crazy because of the number of times it has had a front row seat for Tiger Woods' dramatic victories (most notably, 2008). More than this, though, the water guarding the 18th green was the scene of Chris Couch's ridiculous ping pong ball approach shot featured in the video.

No. 8: Fourth Hole at TPC Louisiana

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    The Hazard

    A large expanse of water running from the right side of the tee box along the first half of the hole. 

    Why it's Crazy

    It was the scene of this episode of Boo Weekley-related craziness. The episode has two parts: Boo's play on (butchery of) the hole and his discourse on the particulars of the "gator call" at the end of the video.

No. 7: 18th Hole at Torrey Pines

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    The Hazard

    A small pond in front of the green on the 570-yard par 5.

    Why it's Crazy

    Bruce Devlin's Tin Cup-inspiring 1975 encounter with the water hazard. 

    Summarizing the incident, Devlin said:

    I hit a nice drive down the right side, and hit a 4-wood that covered the flag, and hit about six inches from the top of the bank. It stayed there for a second and then wiggled back down into the water. Seven attempts later…I kept hitting it out of the water—the flag was only 12 feet away from me—but it would almost get out and roll back down to me. Finally, I got smart and hit it 20 feet past the hole and rolled in the putt for a 10.

No. 6: 18th Hole at Harbour Town

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    The Hazard

    The beach of the Calibogue Sound, which runs along the left side of the hole. 

    Why it's Crazy

    You can literally hit the ball in the beach…and then play from it, as Matt Kuchar does in the video. Beyond this, the water is an integral part of a spectacular and challenging golf hole where players start their tee shots aimed at the iconic red-and-white lighthouse.

No. 5: 18th Hole at Doral

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    The Hazard

    Water hazard along the left side of the hole, running from along the fairway to the left edge of the green. 

    Why it's Crazy

    The water hazard on the 18th at Doral is crazy because…it drives players crazy. As Zach Johnson said:

    It's one of the best par-5s on the PGA Tour...It's the hardest hole on the planet, especially with a left-to-right wind coming into you. I know it's not technically a par-5, but the first hole there is a par-5, and 18 always has a higher stroke average than the first hole.



No. 4: 18th Hole at Pebble Beach

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    The Hazard

    A little bit of water colloquially referred to as the Pacific Ocean. More specifically, Carmel Bay, with its pounding surf, abuts the entire left side of the hole. 

    Why it's Crazy

    What's really crazy about the water along the 18th at Pebble isn't that Tiger Woods somehow snap-hooked a drive there during his 2000 U.S. Open Triumph or Hale Irwin's remarkable luck in 1984 or the fact that John Daly once took a 14 on the hole. 

    Rather, the crazy thing about where the Pacific Ocean meets Pebble Beach is the staggering beauty of it all. As Larry Dorman wrote in an excellent piece in the New York Times, the spot is "the perfect intersection of golf and nature."

No. 3: 18th Hole at Carnoustie: The Barry Burn

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    The Hazard

    The Barry Burn, which snakes through the 18th hole three times.

    Why it's Crazy

    Two reasons: It's a significant component of the most difficult finishing hole in golf.

    Sean O'Hair summarizes the difficulty of the hole in general, the Burn in particular:

    There's water left, there's water right, there's water short and there's OB left. That's a lot of hazards. And they don't allow you to hit iron off the tee. You have to hit driver to clear the burn. You're crossing the burn twice and the bunkers around the greens are not the easiest in the world. Any shot to the left could go out of bounds and if you're in the bunker right you're looking at the OB. There's just a lot of drama there.

    The second bit of craziness? Briefly, Van de Velde

No. 2: 17th Hole at TPC Sawgrass

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    The Hazard

    A four-foot deep lagoon surrounding the 4,088 square foot island green that claims an average of 150,000 balls each year. During the 2007 Players Championship, the pros alone hit 93 balls in the water. 

    Why it's crazy

    The most notable water hazard on tour, and perhaps the most visually intimidating short par 3 on tour, the 17th at Sawgrass is a built-in bit of drama at the Stadium Course. Fans turn out in droves to see who finds the green…and who heads to a watery grave.

    Anthony Kim summarized the pros' takes on the 17th: "It's not a tough shot. But when the wind blows and the greens get firm, it gets tough...especially with the pressure if you're in contention…the green gets smaller."

No. 1: 18th Hole at St. Andrews: The Swilcan Burn

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    The Hazard

    The Swilcan Burn—the only water hazard on the Old Course—snakes through first and 18th fairways and empties into the North Sea.

    Why it's Crazy

    The most famous bridge which traverses it aside. Arguably the craziest thing about the stream which winds its way through the first and 18th holes on the Old course is that it is protected by an act of Parliament. 

    A Victorian historian informs us that, in bygone times, legislation was enacted to preserve the integrity of the ‘Wee Burn’: ‘which has played its part so thoroughly and drastically at times of great competitions’. No other golf stream is protected by an Act of Parliament in the way that this one is, and its high dignity is unimpeachable.

    We are warned, under the usual penalty of a fine or imprisonment, that no one shall wade in the Swilcan Burn, so far as it flows through the Old Course, nor shall any one, except players or caddies in search of their ball, do anything to cause its waters to become discoloured or muddy.