The 10 Most Difficult Courses on the 2013 PGA Tour
Numbers normally don’t lie in golf. It’s easy to figure out who’s playing well and who isn’t by looking at the statistics.
The same thing goes for courses. Players can name this course or that one as the most difficult they’ve ever played, but the numbers make it crystal clear as to which courses are the most difficult.
And they also make great indicators as to how courses will play in the future.
Those numbers played a definite role in this list of the 10 most difficult courses on the 2013 PGA Tour.
1. Oak Hill Country Club
When the 2003 PGA Championship had been completed, only four players managed to finish under par through 72 holes.
That’s what a classic, old course can do to a field of 156 great players.
Don’t be surprised if the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club does the same thing to the field in this year’s PGA Championship.
It’s a par 70, 7,134 yards of Donald Ross design that features bunkers, difficult rough and trees, thousands of oak trees.
Just how tough is Oak Hill? There have been five stroke play events played there and only 10 players have finished with scores under par.
2. Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
Long considered one of Pete Dye’s most controversial designs, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has grown into a serious test for one of the best fields in golf every year.
Look at the winning scores each year and you’ll see that only six times since 1988 has the player at the top of the leaderboard finished out of double figures under par.
But that doesn’t diminish the difficulties that exist at every turn in Ponte Vedra Beach. Winners of the Players Championship have been playing at the top of their games and have not been able to sneak onto the winner’s stand.
The fifth, 14th and 18th are holes test the mettle of all those who seek to win golf’s “fifth major.”
3. Merion Golf Club
Another classic course that makes the list this year.
The U.S. Open will be held on the East Course at Merion in June, the first time the club has hosted the open since 1981. The Hugh Wilson design features uniquely sculpted greens and fairways, and bunkers that are treacherous.
It will also play short—actually very short—at 6,846 yards, but will be one of those courses where length will be of little advantage.
The USGA’s mission is to provide the most complete examination of a golfer’s game in order to determine an Open champion, and the 156 players that qualify will definitely be examined.
Shotmaking will be the key attribute here. Where players hit their shots will be just as important as how long they hit them.
4. Congressional Country Club
There are good reasons for Congressional Country Club being ranked as the third-toughest course on the PGA Tour in 2012. Eighteen reasons, to be exact.
The Blue Course—host of the AT&T—is a collection of great and very difficult holes, including as good a group of par 4's as there is on the PGA Tour.
At 7,569 yards, tour pros averaged 73.046 strokes per round in 2012, 2.046 above par.
Only 12 eagles were recorded at Congressional last year, a very low number for the tour’s talented stars. The second, fourth and 11th holes were among the Top 25 toughest holes a year ago.
5. TPC San Antonio
The AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio is not only the newest of the courses on this list, the statistics show it was the fourth-toughest last year on the PGA Tour.
A par 72, this Greg Norman design can stretch to 7,522 tough yards. It opened in January 2010 and has received rave reviews as the new home of the Valero Texas Open.
The field averaged 73.989 strokes a year ago, 1.989 strokes above par. Only three courses in the Top 10 toughest from a year ago had 40 or more of the dreaded “others,” meaning scores above double bogey.
The Oaks Course was one of those with 40. The Oaks was designed with a naturalist and environmentalist flair and that’s proven to be quite a formula for creating a test for Tour players.
Golf has been played at Muirfield—the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers—since 1891 on the course originally laid out by Old Tom Morris.
For the 16th time, it will be the host of the Open Championship in July, including eight since 1959.
If you’re looking for a course where the top players in the world are going to tear it up, this isn’t it. At 7,245 yards, it plays to a par of 71 and offers some unique challenges.
It was in 2002, when weather was extremely difficult, that Tiger Woods posted an 81 in the third round of the Open to take away whatever chance he had of winning the Grand Slam.
Most links courses run along the coast and then back to the clubhouse. Muirfield is unique because when it was built, it was one of the first courses to set up with two loops of nine holes, one of which ran clockwise, the other counter clockwise.
No more than three consecutive holes go in the same direction. And the fickle winds of seaside golf play all kinds of games with players.
All of that should make for an exciting, tough 2013 Open Championship.
7. Harbour Town Golf Links
Another Pete Dye classic design, the Harbour Town Golf Links might not be the toughest layout in the world, but it certainly is a testy-enough course at 7,101 yards to a par of 71.
Located in the low country of South Carolina on Hilton Head Island, the course itself is a shotmaker’s paradise; one that requires the ability to work the ball both ways, hit precise irons to a bunch of smallish greens and, of course, find fairways that aren't all that generous.
And, oh yeah, the wind blows occasionally on that island, and when it does, that’s when the fun begins.
The field last year averaged 1.288 strokes over par and since conditions and the course aren't likely to change much, don’t be surprised if Harbour Town is back on the list next year.
8. PGA National Championship Course
If you talk to many golf fans, they probably don’t know a lot about the PGA National Championship Course.
Located in Palm Beach Gardens, Fl., and home to the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic, the 7,048-yard course doesn’t grab a lot of headlines; until it gets to the 15th through 17th holes.
The Bear Trap is the name for that trio of holes: the 179-yard par three 15th, the 434-yard par four 16th and the 190-yard par three 17th. Water, sand and omnipresent wind create a pressure cooker for contenders and leaders as the Honda concludes.
The field averaged 1.186 strokes over par in 2012 and as long as the sand, wind and water remain, this one will remain a beast.
9. Augusta National Golf Club
It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the home of the Masters will always be a part of this list.
The bulked-up Augusta National Golf Club has everything necessary to challenge the elite field that arrives every April for the first major championship of the season.
But even before it underwent the bulking up (known as “Tiger-proofing” at the time), Augusta’s classic and frightening greens are what the course’s reputation was built on.
In 2012, Augusta National was one of only two of the most difficult courses on tour to surrender less than 1,000 birdies for four rounds.
The field averaged 1.5 strokes over par and you can bet a great deal of that was a result of putting.
The Masters is a classic event and Augusta National Golf Club will continue to confound players for decades to come.
10. Muirfield Village Golf Club
The course that Jack built in Dublin, Ohio has gained national and international acclaim through the Memorial Tournament that Nicklaus hosts every year.
It will get the opportunity for twice as much acclaim in 2013 when it not only hosts the Memorial, but the Presidents Cup as well.
The courses plays to 7,352 yards with 71 bunkers and water can come into play on 11 holes.
The field played 1.677 strokes over par and it will be interesting to see what that number is for both tournaments this year.
The Memorial will be set up to PGA Tour standards, but the Presidents Cup setup might be a bit softer.