Golf's Greatest Nicknames: The stories behind Amen Corner, The Bear Trap and other famous stretches of holes

More than 20 courses features creative nicknames for strong stretches of golf holes.

The Bear Trap. The Green Mile. The Snake Pit.

Naming collections of holes has become a fad of sorts. It all started with Amen Corner in the 1950s. A few more nicknames popped up at PGA Tour venues in the 1980s, but it's really been the last decade that's seen an uptick in creativity by tournament organizers, course owners, club members, marketing folks and golf writers to label key stretches of holes with a moniker to get fans excited and the media buzzing about the course or the tournament. Even everyday public tracks are jumping on the trend.

What will they think up next? The "Trash Compactor?" That's my lame attempt at humor to describe the fun finishing stretch on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Or how about the "Shark Bite?" I'm sure course designer Greg Norman would approve for the best collection of holes on his two designs at the Tiburon Golf Club, host of the QBE Shootout in Naples, Fla.

We at GolfPass have gathered up all the nicknames we've come across in our travels in America, all ranked from our least favorite to most iconic in the story. There's got to be more out there. We just haven't found them yet. Let us know if your club has one. We'd love to hear about it and add it to this list. Here goes:

21. Kelpie's korner

Where: Mistwood Golf Club, Romeoville, Ill.
Stretch: West of Chicago, Mistwood Golf Club presents a mostly links-inspired design full of dunes and wispy grasses. That is until you ascend the hill after the 13th hole and encounter Kelpie's Korner, three demanding holes wedged between the perimeter of the property and the large St. James Loch. The 14th is a 200-plus-yard shot entirely over water to a shallow green. No. 15 is a par-5 with a 90-degree dogleg left that tempts golfers to cut the corner at their own peril. The par-4 16th is no cakewalk with a forced carry off the tee, water left and an elevated green. "Kelpie's spine," the 166-yard 17th, ends the run around waterworld.

Comment: Mistwood is one of the signature daily fee courses in Chicagoland with a great tavern for drinks and dinner, a full-service performance center and even an indoor dome nearby. If you can survive Kelpie's Korner with the same ball, good on you! The kelpie - a Scottish water-horse demon - is always hungry for more.

20. Shotmaker's Mile

Aerial view of fairway #15 at Oak Terrace Golf Course

Where: Oak Terrace Resort & Spa, Pana, Ill.
Stretch: Holes 12 through 16 are aptly named for their risk/reward opportunities. It starts on No. 14, the course's best par 5, which doglegs 90 degrees left. The 15th is the signature shot, a do-or-die 267-yard (228 from the whites) par 4 to a peninsula green. The 146-yard par-3 16th plays over water. The two tough closing par 4s play 414 and 400 yards, respectively.
Comment: The 6,375-yard course is short by modern standards but that doesn't make it easy. User 'David7563469' wrote in 2015: "Nice course. Back 9 tighter, more scenic, and better than the front."

19. Merced Mile

The setting around Lake Merced -- such as off the 18th -- is what makes TPC Harding Park's back nine so good.

Where: TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, Ill.
Stretch: Holes 14-18. No. 14 (467 yards) and 15 (405 yards) are stout par 4s. The interesting par 4s are the drivable 16th (336 yards) and the beautiful and challenging 18th that doglegs left 468 yards along the lake. The 175-yard 17th is arguably the easiest par 3 on the course, so a birdie could swing a tournament or match.
Comment: This five-hole stretch amps up the beauty and the challenge at the famed muni. It certainly played a hand in Colin Morikawa winning the 2020 PGA Championship, its first major. His drive and eagle on 16 made that tee shot famous.

18. Goodnight Kiss

The island green at the 17th hole on the Links at Perry Cabin is the final island green built by Pete Dye.

Where: Links at Perry Cabin, St. Michaels, Maryland
Stretch: The final three holes are dubbed the “Goodnight kiss” – to “remain in the golfer’s mind long after the round is over,” architect Pete Dye said, just like a goodnight kiss on the first date.
Comment: The course, an old Roy Dye routing from the 1970s called Harbourtowne, was redesigned by Pete and is regarded as his final course.

17. The Lava Loop

View of a green at Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course

Where: Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course Kingman, Ariz.
Stretch: Holes 16-18. Despite its lack of length, the 338-yard 16th hole, which bends right, is the course's no. 6 handicap hole. The 188-yard 17th hole is the second-longest par 3 on the course. No. 18 finishes the round with a stout par 4 of 440 yards (no. 2 handicap).
Comment: Our Bradley S. Klein is rather partial to this nickname than many others on this list, writing: "Most of the course proceeds on low-lying ground. But when you cross a little road to play Nos. 16-18, the land suddenly becomes dramatically elevated - all humpty dumpty and lumpy – thanks to the congealed lava underfoot. If only the rest of the course were as interesting."

16. The Talon's Grip

Where: Stoneybrook Golf Club, Estero, Fla.
Stretch: Holes 11-14. Bunkers litter the 450-yard 11th hole. Water lurks left on the 404-yard 12th hole. The 13th hole might be short at 358 yards, but water intrudes from the right in front of a green. Good luck staying dry on the intimidating water carry at the 14th. It's only 230 yards from the blues and 271 from the tips.
Origin: Stoneybrook golf professional Jeff Nixon considers this four-hole stretch among the toughest he's played, so he created the nickname and bought a sign to commemorate it. If you look at the shape of the holes on the sign, Nixon believes they form an eagle's talon.
Comment: I lost three balls playing these holes and that was from the shorter blue tees.

15. Combat Corner

The 11th hole on the Bayonet Course at Bayonet/Black Horse doglegs left like so many holes on the property.

Where: Bayonet at Bayonet/BlackHorse, Seaside, Calif.
Stretch: Holes 11-15. This series of dogleg left par 4s is interrupted only by a 226-yard uphill par 3. The par 4s range from 370 yards to 479 yards. Considering you're playing the harder of the two former military courses on property, the nickname certainly applies.
Comment: While shooting a course-record 62 during PGA Tour qualifying tournament in 2010, Andres Gonzales went 4-4-3-2-3 (three under) while batting Combat Corner.

14. The Bermuda Triangle

Where: Silver Fox at Trump National Doral Miami, Miami
Stretch: Holes 6-8. Water right makes the 474-yard sixth hole feel uncomfortably narrow. It's do or die to the island green on the 183-yard seventh hole. The 429-yard eighth is eerily similar to the sixth, except the water on the right pinches in more on the approach.
Origin: The nickname originated when the course was redesigned by Doral golf instructor Jim McLean in 2009. It applied to the stretch of holes 13-15 at that time. Another renovation by Gil Hanse in 2014 tweaked the holes a bit and moved them to the front nine.
Comment: The holes are handicapped nos. 2, 4 and 6, respectively. "They do play just as tough as before," said Ryan Hershberger, golf sales manager at Doral.

13. Wicked Six

Water comes into play on the par-3 14th at the SunRidge Canyon golf course in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Where: SunRidge Canyon Golf Club, Fountain Hills, Ariz.
Stretch: Holes 13-18. The two par 5s, the 578-yard 13th and 533-yard 16th holes, and two par 4s, the 457-yard 15th and 432-yard finishing hole, play long, gradually climbing uphill into the prevailing breeze. The two par 3s both drop downhill. The 181-yard 14th hole falls off of terraced tee boxes to a green protected by a pond on the right. Two distinct sets of tees on the 209-yard 17th hole create different angles, altering the yardage and how the lone bunker comes into play.
Origin: In 2011, new owner Don Misheff found an article about the 1997 USGA Team Championship played at the course where one of the participants stated, "The last six holes are the most wicked finishing holes in Arizona golf." The nickname stuck. CBS commentator Gary McCord, a local resident, can take credit for the phrase "Something Wicked This Way Comes" written on the plaque introducing the holes. McCord quoting Shakespeare's Macbeth? Now that's wicked.
Comment: Golfers pummeled by the finishing stretch can drown their sorrows in the new Wicked 6 Bar & Grill inside the clubhouse.

12. The Devil's Elbow

Where: Corales, Puntacana Resort & Club, Dominican Republic
Stretch: Holes 16-18. The 416-yard 16th heads toward the sea with a bunker blocking the middle of the fairway. The 214-yard 17th features three tees along the rocky seaside cliffs and four more further inland that change the angle of attack. The striking 501-yard final hole boomerangs along the cliff-lined Bay of Corales, featuring a dramatic forced carry off the tee. It has become a feature of the TV coverage of the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship, a PGA Tour event since 2018.
Origin: The name emerged after a conversation between Frank Rainieri, the original founder of the Puntacana Resort & Club, and course architect Tom Fazio. It stems from the shape of the reef, which resembles an elbow.
Comment: There's not a prettier stretch of oceanfront golf in the Caribbean.

11. The Coyote Trap

Coyote Preserve Golf Club on Detroit's rural west side is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth finding.

Where: Coyote Preserve Golf Club, Fenton, Mich.
Stretch: Holes 16-18. The par-5 16th hole and monster 200-yard carry on the par-3 17th play especially tough from the blue tees, where most men play. The narrow, winding fairway at the 589-yard 16th hole is bordered by marsh on the right and woods on the left. A long second shot must be perfectly placed for a look at a sunken, topsy-turvy green on the far side of the marsh. Any third shot longer than 170 yards will be blind and all-carry -- two of the least favorite words of amateur golfers. Many golfers aim left and short of the green on the 17th, knowing it takes a perfect shot to carry the water to the green. The 551-yard, par-5 final hole is all risk-reward with a stream crossing in front of the green.
Origin: The nickname originated from the staff to mimic the more famous "Bear Trap." Jason Raney, the general manager/director of golf, says more people started recognizing the name after my 2012 article for was hung in the pro shop. "It seems to have stuck," he said.
Comment: A best buddy and I used to play an annual grudge match on this scenic Arnold Palmer design when I lived in Michigan. The finish always created some major drama.

10. Cliffs of Doom

An AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am participant takes on the ocean cliffs of the par-5 sixth hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Where: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Stretch: Holes 6-10. A renovation prior to the 2010 U.S. Open shifted the fairways of the 506-yard sixth, 427-yard eighth and 481-yard ninth holes closer to the cliffs, bringing the ocean and the beach into play. Everyone knows these holes from years of coverage during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am -- how the sixth fairway sweeps uphill, how the tiny seventh can require a 5-iron if the wind is ripping off the water, how the approach over the ocean on the eighth is one of the best, and most intimidating, shots in golf. Both the ninth (40 yards to 481 yards) and 10th (55 yards to 446 yards) were lengthened during the renovation as well.
Origin: Writer/editor David Barrett penned this unofficial nickname, writing it as a headline for a Tom Doak story in Golf Magazine in 1992. During the 2010 U.S. Open, the nickname popped up again on the cover of the U.S. Open preview edition of Sports Illustrated Golf Plus and on the photo click-through that accompanied the main golf course story on the USGA's has referenced it as well.
Comment: I'm not sure I'm a fan of this nickname. In my opinion, they're too beautiful to be called the "Cliffs of Doom."

9. The Longest Mile

The 15th green on the Legends Course at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa sits tucked behind trees and over a creek.

Where: Legends Course at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, Carlsbad, Calif.
Stretch: Holes 15-18. The challenge starts with a 391-yard dogleg left with a stream dissecting the fairway, which was expanded during a renovation by Damian Pascuzzo and former Tour player Steve Pate in 2011. The 416-yard 16th hole doglegs right without a single bunker. Four bunkers run up the left side and water up the right on the 525-yard 17th hole, a par 5 that has been shortened considerably from the days when few Tour pros could reach in two. The 457-yard final hole contends with another crossing creek and an elevated green.
Origin: The old "South Course" at La Costa began hosting the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions in 1969 and the nickname was probably invented in the 1970s, but no one knows for sure. Eventually, pros began dreading this closing stretch, especially with the last three holes playing into the breeze. Today, the final four holes add up to 1,789 yards -- a tad longer than an actual mile (1,760 yards).
Comment: Tiger Woods birdied every one of them in the third round in winning the Tournament of Champions in 1997.

8. The Green Mile

Look for the 18th hole at Quail Hollow to terrorize players at the 2017 PGA Championship.

Where: Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, N.C.
Stretch: Holes 16-18. Tom Fazio's redesign of a George Cobb course was tweaked again in 2016 for the 2017 PGA Championship, its first major after hosting the Wells Fargo Championship annually since 2003. The 508-yard, par-4 16th hole was created new in 2013. The once straightaway par 4 is a dogleg right that was rerouted 80 yards left through a former stand of trees to a new lakeside green. That move made room for the new 17th tees, creating a terrifying 221-yard par 3 to what feels like an island green. A creek ambles up the left side of the 443-yard final hole, and is in play on any shot. Two greenside bunkers right aren't a good spot to miss, either.
Origin: A caller into a local golf talk radio show in 2004 suggested the nickname "The Green Mile," a phrase that refers to the long walk from death row to the electric chamber referenced in the movie and also in a book by Steven King. The talk show no longer exists, but the nickname lingers.
Comment: From 2003-16, holes 1-15 have played 1,372 under par, and the final three holes have played 5,899 over par.

7. String of Pearls

Where: Sugarloaf Golf Club & Resort, Kingfield, Maine
Stretch: Holes 10-15 along the Carrabassett River. After playing the no. 1 handicap at no. 9, players are rewarded at the 10th hole, a 334-yard drivable par 4 named "First Pearl" that's the easiest hole on the course. The 120-foot drop at the 216-yard 11th hole to a green beyond the river makes club selection difficult. Not surprisingly, there has only been one hole-in-one on a hole called "Precipice". The 542-yard par-5 12th ("Carrabassett Corner") pinches narrow with bunkers on either side of the fairway where the second shot should land. The 401-yard 13th hole ("Shimmering Birches") bends slightly left following the river. The 401-yard 14th hole was named "Hurricane Bob" after the green was washed out by the river in 1992. It's a tough hole with a sharp dogleg over the river to reach the green. Two different angles at no. 15 make "Cobbled Stone" play anywhere from 178 yards (blue tees) to 132 yards (white tees) over the river.
Origin: Original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. was so smitten with the dramatic view from the elevated 11th tee and the white rocks lining the river that he came up with the nickname. Golf Digest has ranked Sugarloaf the top course in Maine 29 times since 1985.

6. The Gauntlet

Where: The PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Stretch: Holes 16-18. Even on such a demanding Pete Dye design, pros playing The PLAYERS Championship feel like they should birdie the 523-yard, par-5 16th hole, even though going for it in two can be risky with a tree and bunker blocking the left side of the green and water lurking right. The 137-yard shot to the island green at the 17th might be the most nerve-wracking swing in tournament golf. The same could be said of the tee shot on the 462-yard finishing hole. Bailouts to the right are common with such a large lake up the left side.
Origin: Ex-PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman is credited with the nickname, first announced on air in 2008, although former writer Tim McDonald claims he coined the phrase in an article years earlier.
Comment: The PGA Tour/PLAYERS Championship team "doesn't officially recognize the final three holes with any sort of moniker," even though there's a video about "The Gauntlet" on the PGA Tour's website.

5. Alligator Alley

The 11th hole begins the watery stretch known as Alligator Alley at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Where: The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Stretch: Holes 11-13. This Robert Trent Jones Sr. classic has been tinkered with by son Rees Jones over the years, adding length and updating infrastructure. The 430-yard 11th hole swings right through tree cover to a green sitting in a beautiful setting on the marsh. Four bunkers and a marsh carry guard the difficult green on the 245-yard 12th hole. The par-5 13th hole wraps around gator-filled Lake Singleton, finishing at the most severe, elevated green on the property.
Origin: During the run of the Senior Tour Championship at the course from 1994-99, the club's former Director of Golf Cliff Mann and member Joe Hackler coined the term in 1994 for ESPN announcers to use on the air.
Comment: Alligator Alley has to be the best and most scenic stretch of holes on The Grand Strand.

4. The Snake Pit

Avoid the water from the tee of the par-3 17th hole of the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Where: Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, A Salamander Golf & Spa Resort, Palm Harbor, Fla.
Stretch: Holes 16-18. The 458-yard 16th hole named "Moccasin" sweeps right with a water hazard intruding up the entire right side. Four bunkers surround the green on the 206-yard 17th holed, named "The Rattler." Nine bunkers gather misses on finishing 443-yard hole, "The Copperhead."
Origin: The Snake Pit was created in 2010 during the second year of what was then called "The Transitions Championship" as a collaborative effort among the resort, then-tournament director Gerald Goodman and the executive team at Transitions. An ominous coiled snake statue now greets golfers near the 16th tee on the well-respected Larry Packard design.
Comment: Count Patrick Cantlay among the latest victims. His bogey on the final hole at the 2017 Valspar Championship handed Adam Hadwin his first PGA Tour win.

3. Horrible Horseshoe

The end of Colonial's Horrible Horseshoe is the 481-yard par-4 fifth, which runs along the Trinity River to the right.

Where: Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas.
Stretch: Holes 3-5. Architect Perry Maxwell's redesign prior to the 1941 U.S. Open made these holes tougher. The 483-yard third doglegs left with three bunkers up the left-hand side and overhanging tree branches causing trouble the entire way. The green of the 247-yard fourth hole slopes back to front with two bunkers protecting the left side. Long is dead. The 481-yard hard dogleg right at the fifth runs along Trinity River and is the course's toughest hole. It regularly is mentioned among the greatest par 4s in golf.
Origin: Club members dreamed up the nickname because of the "horseshoe" shape the three holes make in the corner of the course, but it was writer Dan Jenkins who first used the name in print for Golf Digest back in the 1980s.
Comment: Colonial has hosted this professional golf tournament since 1946, with exceptions in 1949 (due to flooding) and 1975 (when the club hosted the second Tournament Players Championship).

2. The Bear Trap

The 15th hole at PGA National's Champion Course kicks off the infamous "Bear Trap," which is one of the most challenging stretches of holes on the PGA Tour.

Where: Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Stretch: Holes 15-17. A Jack Nicklaus redesign in 1990 brought the water more into play on the 176-yard 15th hole. A diagonal green running right to left and crosswind create the difficulty. The 434-yard, par-4 16th bends right between long bunkers on either side of the fairway, setting up an approach over the water that runs up the entire right side of the hole. The 172-yard 17th hole delivers more of the same, a nerve-wracking tee shot over water to a narrow green with a bunker on the left.
Origin: The statue of a giant bear standing on its hind legs, and the accompanying plaque, was added in 2008, officially cementing the legacy of these holes, but it's origin remains a mystery. Nicklaus has told Scott Tolley, his senior vice president of corporate communications and business development, that someone at the resort came up with the name, but that hasn't been verified. "First of all, I didn't try to create The Bear Trap. It was named after the golf course was done," Nicklaus told Tolley during a taped interview prior to the first Honda Classic in 2007. "… After we got the golf course designed, we found out that (hole) number 15, because of wind conditions, played very, very difficult and (hole) number 17 played very, very difficult, and number 16 was a very strong hole, well it just got a nickname of being "The Bear Trap," obviously because of me and because it is right at the finish of the golf course. Those three holes are strong." The holes should stand the test of time, no matter how far the golf ball goes. "It is not about length. It is about precision. It's about guts," Nicklaus said in another interview.
Comment: Since the first Honda Classic in 2007, The Bear Trap has ranked as the fourth-toughest three-hole stretch on Tour, according to Only Quail Hollow's three finishing holes and two combinations involving parts of Augusta National's Amen Corner have proven tougher on an annual basis.

Video: Charlie Rymer on surviving the Bear Trap at PGA National

1. Amen Corner

The par-5 13th is one of Augusta National's most famous risk-reward holes.

Where: Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
Stretch: Holes 11-13. The tee shot on this 505-yard par 4 named "White Dogwood" plays downhill and left to right with a pond at the green on the left and a bunker strategically placed right. Fickle winds, a narrow green, three bunkers and Rae's Creek haunt the 12th hole, Augusta National's shortest par 3 at just 155 yards. Golfers walk across the Ben Hogan Bridge to reach the green of "Golden Bell." The 13th hole, a 510-yard par 5 named "Azalea," requires a strong tee shot to go for the green in two on this sweeping dogleg left. A tributary to Rae's Creek winds in front of the raised green, which is bracketed in back by four bunkers.
Origin: Legendary sports writer Herbert Warren Wind first used the term in a Sports Illustrated article on April 21, 1958, detailing The Masters that year. The inspiration for the nickname came from a jazz recording.
Comment: Jordan Spieth's quadruple bogey on "Golden Bell" during the final round of 2016 -- handing the green jacket to Danny Willett -- added another chapter to the legend of Amen Corner.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Devil's Triangle, holes 13-15 at Mahogany Run Golf Course on St. Thomas of Virgin Islands, was removed from the story. Hurricane damage closed the course for good.

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.
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Golf's Greatest Nicknames: The stories behind Amen Corner, The Bear Trap and other famous stretches of holes