American Horror Story: Can you survive golf's scariest holes?

What do you fear most on a golf course? Blind drives? Long carries? Water?

Fear is a golfer's worst nightmare. It creates self-doubt, the worst kind of swing thought.

In honor of Halloween, we've created a ghastly golf course filled with frightening and fearsome holes from public courses across America. Hard holes are everywhere in golf, but only a special few are truly "scary" to play.

Architect Pete Dye, the master of visual intimidation, has made a career out of striking fear into golfers. It's no surprise that his handiwork is well represented on our 18-hole house of horrors. You'd have to be scary good to shoot a decent score on this 7,346-yard, par-69 torture chamber.

Hole 1

No. 8; Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.; 427 yards; par 4.

What a terrifying way to start the round: A partially blind tee shot along the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. Even a perfect drive to the end of the fairway at the cliff's edge sets up another doozy, a long approach over a coastal chasm to a green sloping hard back to front.

Hole 2

No. 15; Black Course at Bethpage State Park; Farmingdale, N.Y.; 478 yards; par 4.

There are no fairway bunkers on the no. 1-handicap hole of this demanding two-time U.S. Open venue by A.W. Tillinghast. The anxiety comes, instead, from knowing you have to pummel a drive into a narrow fairway bending left for the slightest chance of hitting a severely elevated green. Deep greenside bunkers and a huge ridge in the green generate more angst.

Hole 3

No. 3; Mauna Kea Golf Course; Hawaii Island, Hawaii; 272 yards; par 3.

Think of this iconic ocean hole by Robert Trent Jones Sr. as golf's Medusa. She's beautiful and scary. The epic, 250-yard-plus carry over the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean transforms golfers into mush, not stone.

Hole 4

No. 18; Harbour Town Golf Links; Hilton Head Island, S.C.; 472 yards; par 4.

The fairway widens in the landing zone along the gorgeous Calibogue Sound, but that fact does little to calm the nerves. An approach shot fraught with danger has ruined many a PGA Tour pro. The candy-cane-striped lighthouse in the background fits right in with our Halloween theme.

Hole 5

No. 16; Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort; French Lick, Ind.; 301 yards; par 3.

Sheer length isn't the only concern. Water runs up the right side, and three bunkers gather up misses left. Even from the 183-yard blue tees, it's a devilish Dye hole.

Hole 6

No. 16; River Course at Blackwolf Run; Kohler, Wis.; 620 yards; par 5.

Dye dreamed up knee-knockers on all three shots -- a drive avoiding a gaping waste bunker up the left side, a layup to set up a proper attack angle around an imposing tree and the approach to a green hugging the Sheboygan River.

Hole 7

No. 16; Pasatiempo Golf Club; Santa Cruz, Calif.; 387 yards; par 4.

Architect Alister MacKenzie's favorite par 4 calls for a draw on a semi-blind tee shot. Drives too far left in the barranca or out of bounds to the right are no good. Even approaches that fly the creek bed in the barranca fronting the green and miss the deep greenside bunkers aren't clear of trouble. The nightmare of a four-putt can come true on a three-tiered, elevated green.

Hole 8

No. 8; Wolf Creek Golf Club; Mesquite, Nev.; 248 yards; par 3.

Wolf Creek relies on the intimidating eye candy of its red rock canyons to scare the bejesus out of golfers. It's virtually do-or-die from the elevated eighth tee box. Misguided shots might sink in the creek or disappear in the desert.

In Photos: Check out the scariest holes in the U.S.

Hole 9

No. 18; Ocean Course at Hokuala; Lihue, Hawaii; 459 yards; par 4.

A lagoon right. A dense jungle left. An island green. Playing this brute, which goes directly into the trade winds most afternoons, without your "A" game is like bringing a pair of scissors to fight Freddy Krueger.

Hole 10

No. 13; The Dunes Golf & Beach Club; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; 640 yards; par 5.

"Waterloo" -- the no. 1 handicap on a celebrated RTJ Sr. classic -- wanders through marshlands more suited for gators than golfers. The tee shot must find a skinny fairway along Lake Singleton. The second takes on as much of the lake as players can stomach. Three bunkers ring a raised green with multiple tiers.

Hole 11

No. 15; Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa; Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; 176 yards; par 3.

The daunting, three-hole "Bear Trap" by Jack Nicklaus starts off with this thriller where a lake right and sand left combine to torture the souls of PGA Tour pros and amateurs alike.

Hole 12

No. 18; Straits Course at Whistling Straits; Kohler, Wis.; 520 yards; par 4.

Dye's "Dyeabolical" finishing hole will likely claim more victims at the 2015 PGA Championship. Players can take on a 270-yard carry up the left side or lay back on the right to a wider section of the fairway. A mistake either way results in a gnarly lie in a bunker or shaggy dune. Avoid Seven Mile Creek, set below a massive green, at all costs.

Hole 13

No. 6; Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando; 555 yards; par 5.

Water is omnipresent on this dramatic, reverse C-shaped hole bending left around a pond. John Daly rinsed six shots in the hazard in 1998, carding an 18. It's so easy to chicken out off the tee and end up in the two fairway bunkers up the right side. Three more traps near the green swallow approach attempts just as meek.

Hole 14

No. 18; Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston; Humble, Texas; 484 yards; par 4.

Since the water runs all along the entire left side of the fairway, players must reload if they dunk it. Most golfers try to hit a right-to-left tee shot playing off the massive fairway bunkers on the right. Even from the fairway, it's a daunting second shot with a lightning-fast green that ensures any ball hooking hard will go swimming again.

Hole 15

No. 18; Ko'olau Golf Club; Kaneohe, Hawaii; 476 yards; par 4.

It takes two terrifying, ravine-hopping shots just to reach the green. Surviving Ko'olau with enough balls to finish the round requires real talent. I played well and lost eight.

Hole 16

No. 17; Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort; Kiawah Island, S.C.; 221 yards; par 3.

Wind off the ocean creates a nightmare in club selection. Seeing Dye's narrow green clinging to the water can wreck anybody's swing. Google Mark Calcavecchia and Colin Montgomerie's tragic match in the 1991 Ryder Cup if you need proof. Bailouts left are better off in the two bunkers than the dunes.

Hole 17

No. 17; PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass; Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; 137 yards; par 3.

Dye's famous island green provides the ultimate examination of a player's psyche. He's asking a simple question that haunts every golfer when the pressure is on: "Do you believe in yourself?" Dye's copycat hole on the West Coast, the 168-yard 17th on the TPC Stadium Course at PGA WEST in La Quinta, Calif. is named "Alcatraz."

Hole 18

No. 18; Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami; Doral, Fla.; 473 yards; par 4.

This monster bares its teeth at every moment, kind of like owner Donald Trump in the boardroom. Those who shy away from the water up the left side off the tee usually end up in a grove of palm trees to the right of the fairway or in the two diagonal fairway bunkers reconfigured during the recent Gil Hanse redesign. Laying back off the tee brings the water and two greenside bunkers even more into play on the second shot. Only the brave make birdie.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Commented on

There’s a couple holes at Devil’s Ridge (What an appropriate name) in Oxford, MI that I’ve played before that could be on this list. Hole 11 is a par five with a plateau fairway and to the right of the fairway is dense forest going down a steep hill. On the left there’s a cluster of trees that will put an end to any thought of reaching the green in two. Alas, it gets worse. The second shot is a blind downhill shot about 100 feet to a wide but short green. If you take too much club, you’ll watch as your ball vanishes into the dense forest behind the green. A layup isn’t necessarily the best idea either, as the front right side of the green slopes into a swale where a flop shot from an aggressive side slope is then necessary for the third shot, and on a hole where getting on the green in two is a possibility, you’ll lose at least 2 shots on your opponent if they’re successful. The name of the hole, you ask? “Descent of Doom”!

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Commented on

...any hole at seth raynor's fishers island, ny course especially punchbowl #4.  one of the top 18 holes in the world.

Commented on

Great article!

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American Horror Story: Can you survive golf's scariest holes?