Top 50 toughest golf courses in the U.S. according to your reviews

2018 is a big year for tough golf. The U.S. Open was staged at Shinnecock Hills, which delivered a seriously demanding and controversial tournament.

In July, The Open returns to Carnoustie, one of the most infamous challenges in the world, known for "Hogan's Alley" and Van de Velde's folly.

These two venues, especially under major championship conditions, can make even the game's best look foolish. But there are golf courses all over the country that will never host a professional event but are nevertheless plenty difficult for the amateur player.

We sought to find out which courses are the most difficult in America according to your ratings and reviews on Golf Advisor. When you submit a review, one of our fields is Course Difficulty. Golfers can select among the five options: Extremely Easy, Fairly Easy, Moderate, Somewhat Challenging and Extremely Challenging. We assigned a 1-5 value to these selections. While the field is optional, over 60% of your reviews include a difficulty score.

Golfers of all handicaps can rate courses on Golf Advisor, and they can review a course based on the tees they chose for the round. There are also many variables like weather, setup and conditions that can affect their perception of just how difficult the course was. A course's reputation and events it's held in the past can certainly impact a golfer's view of the difficulty. So courses with the highest slope/ratings or yardages from the tips aren't necessarily on this Top 50. In fact, there are some relatively short courses that tip out around 6,500 yards included here.

Here is the handicap breakdown from our golfers based on what they've selected in their profile:

As you can see, our sample size is dominated by mid- and high-handicappers. Only 4% hover around scratch, while over half of our community is in the 10-19 range.

What's interesting however is that the average difficultly rating from our golfers hardly varies at all from the scratch reviewers to the 20-handicaps. Each of the five handicap ranges have an average difficulty rating of around 3.4. By comparison, courses that made this Top 50 had difficulty scores of 4.61 and higher.

Among the Top 50 are many of the game's public major championship hosts, and while many architects both classic and modern have an entry, there is a heavy dose of Pete Dye designs. You can view the Top 50 toughest below. And click on each course to read more about what golfers have to say about the experience.

(Editor's note: Each course listed has offered some degree of public or stay-and-play access and has at least 10 difficulty ratings).

Top 50 toughest courses according to your reviews

Carmel, Ind.
Yardage: 7,073 | Slope/rating: 137/74.8
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
What they're saying: “Nice layout with fantastic fairways and a fair amount of heather. The greens could be faster, but I imagine they are already too difficult for the majority of players.” - SpartanGolfer11

Branson, Mo.
Yardage: 7,324 | Slope/Rating: 135/75.1
Architect: Chuck Smith & Bobby Clampett
What they're saying: “If you aren't a long hitter it can be brutal. Large greens that are hard to putt. Lots of elevation change. ” - Bogeyman47

Clio, Calif.
Yardage: 7,015 | Slope/Rating: 139/72.0
Architect: Robin Nelson
What they're saying: “Higher handicaps probably have a better shot at winning the lottery than hitting some of the greens, many of which are elevated, heavily undulating and surrounded by bunkers.” - Golf Advisor Senior Writer Jason Deegan

Bath, Mich.
Yardage: 7,318 | Slope/Rating: 145/76.4
Architect: Chris Lutzke
What they're saying: “Had a good round going till 17 and 18 what a challenge!” - dooder

Austin, Texas
Yardage: 6,611 | Slope/Rating: 128/72.0
Architects: Tom Kite & Roy Bechtol
What they're saying: "Beautiful course but extremely challenging. A lot of target golf meaning you really had to pick your spots due to all of the water trouble and tight fairways." - Jgutz

Asheboro, N.C.
Yardage: 6,543 | Slope/Rating: 144/72.1
Architect: Mike Strantz
What they're saying: "This course is challenging to say the least. You have to be really on top of your game to even have a chance." - Jgutz

Mesquite, Nev.
Yardage: 6,939 | Slope/Rating: 154/75.4
Architect: Dennis and John Rider
What they're saying: "It was like playing a video game, and I just wanted to see how ridiculous of a shot I could hit sometimes." - ToothySaw2, Texas Local Golf Advisor

Gordonsville, Va.
Yardage: 7,389 | Slope/Rating: 151/76.6
Architect: Ed Carton
What they're saying: "Layout lets you hit but the greens are challenging. It can also get long so play the right set of tees." - jiggygolf

University Place, Wash.
Yardage: 7,585 | Slope/Rating: 146/78.1
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
What they're saying: "I think lag-putting is the most important element to scoring well here as there are some dramatic slopes on the putting surfaces that are hard to discern." - BrandonWebb, Alabama Advisor

Bernardston, Mass.
Yardage: 7,007 | Slope/Rating: 141/73.8
Architect: Roger Rulewich & Robert Trent Jones Sr.
What they're saying: "Even the senior tees (over 6,000 yds.) presented a challenge but a fair one---the number 1 and 2 handicap holes deserve their rating and nailed me with a double bogey on #1 and bogey on #2." - rayging

Berlin, Md.
Yardage: 6,892 | Slope/Rating: 145/73.2
Architect: Joel Weiman
What they're saying: "Be a long hitter or play the forward tees. Certainly fair, but some challenging holes; 18th did me in. Very fast and true greens. And plenty of water on a hot day; more than most courses." - Roger8019099

Selbyville, Del.
Yardage: 7,545 | Slope/Rating: 148/76.4
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "Probably the hardest course I've ever played." - Steve1487663

Oakland Township, Mich.
Yardage: 7,339 | Slope/Rating: 144/76.8
Architect: Craig Schreiner
What they're saying: "You need to know this course to play it well. Lots of hidden hazards and blinds shots. " - HZ

Prescott, Ariz.
Yardage: 7,052 | Slope/Rating: 142/72.3
Architect: Randy Heckenkemper
What they're saying: "Course is carved through canyons. Lots and lots of elevation changes. Many narrow fairways. Lots of blind shots. Course management is a must, which is tough for first time playing it. Definitely not boring!" - GolferBecky

Beach Park, Ill.
Yardage: 7,031 | Slope/Rating: 141/74.2
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
What they're saying: "Tough track, played Thunderhawk approximately 10 times and shot only two good rounds here." - mcarlson0522

Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Yardage: 7,411 | Slope/Rating: 144/77.2
Architect: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
What they're saying: "Talk about elevation change!! For us it seemed like every downhill hole was also down wind, whereas all the uphill shots were into the wind. And wind there was. This course is known for wind and it delivered!!" - rayging

Estero, Fla.
Yardage: 7,393 | Slope/Rating: 153/77.6
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: “Greens were firm and undulating unlike any I’ve seen.” - strangr419

Benton Harbor, Mich.
Yardage: 6,852 | Slope/rating: 143/74.7
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "From the black tees the course has teeth, and wind is a major factor pretty much all the way around." - Ali1

Arcadia, Mich.
Yardage: 7,300 | Slope/rating: 147/75.4
Architect: Rick Smith
What they're saying: "Make sure not to leave your chips or approach shots just on the green - many false fronts and the ball will roll off. The only thing worst is to be in one the sand traps, especially one of those high (sod) wall ones." - Ballcrusher62, Local Golf Advisor

Tucson, Ariz.
Yardage: 7,849 | Slope/rating: 147/77.1
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "The greens here are ridiculous and I mean that in a good way. They have more levels humps and takes game to make sure you find the right spot to land your approach, and it takes game to give yourself the proper leave in the fairway to accomplish that." - azphotog11

La Jolla, Calif.
Yardage: 7,707 | Slope/rating: 144/78.2
Architect: William F. Bell, Rees Jones
What they're saying: "The South Course is difficult. The fairways are narrow, and the rough is sticky (and a little wet both times I've played). If you aren't driving the ball well... you're in for a long day. The greens are no picnic either." - toothysaw2, Local Golf Advisor

Rothbury, Mich.
Yardage: 6,900 | Slope/rating: 146/73.6
Architect: Arthur Hills
What they're saying: "Need to keep the ball straight, thick trees and lots of swamps." - gcpiotrowicz

Miami, Fla.
Yardage: 7,590 | Slope/rating: 146/77.4
Architect: Dick Wilson, Raymond Floyd, Gil Hanse
What they're saying: "The course is a beast. ... Water is adjacent to nearly every hole. ... The fairways are wide but errant shots will find balls lost in deep, deep Bermuda rough." - GreerGolf, Local Golf Advisor

Erin, Wisc.
Yardage: 7,800 | Slope/Rating: 145/77.9
Architects: Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry, Ron Whitten
What they're saying: "The rippling Kettle Moraine terrain and mostly elevated, undulating greens cause golfers - pro and amateur alike - plenty of problems throughout the round." - TimGavrichGA, Golf Advisor Staff

Bend, Ore.
Yardage: 7,379 | Slope/rating: 151/75.2
Architect: Jack Nicklaus
What they're saying: "Course is very challenging have to know where to hit the ball and have to know your distances and your ability." - Kelly8126745

Commented on

Just played Crumpin Fox (#41) for the first time today. Its ranking on here makes me feel better about the 92 I posted. And now I'm down the road from The Shattuck (#4) and if I get any closer to it, I'll break out in a cold sweat!

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Commented on

Did the reviewers fail to notice Tobacco Road in NC - another Mike Strantz course? It is much more difficult than Tot Hill Farm -- number 45 on your current list. Two of my friends think he must have been on acid when he designed it and they won't go back.

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Commented on

Love, Love that course!!!

Commented on

Tobacco was narrowly on the outside looking in

Commented on

Session in Beaufort SC
Butler in Oakbrook Illinois

Commented on

Jeff, do you mean in Beaufort?

Commented on

Sorry Jim, you would think that I could get you name right considering that my name is Jim.

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Commented on

Tobacco Road is one of my favorite North Carolina courses. Play the tees appropriate to your handicap and it is terrific. It is quite unique, but so was Mike Strantz.

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Commented on

Tobacco Road is my all-time favorite. Play it a few times and figure out how to get around.

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Top 50 toughest golf courses in the U.S. according to your reviews