A view from the fourth hole of Whistling Straits, a Pete Dye design in Wisconsin.

Top 50 toughest golf courses in the U.S.

Here's what over 350,000 of your reviews tell us are the most difficult public rounds of golf in the country.

They may not be the courses you want to play everyday, but every golfer from time to time wants to see how their game stacks up on the most difficult golf courses they can find.

We pored over more than 1 million reviews at Golf Advisor to uncover the most difficult public golf courses according to you, our reviewer community. When you write a review, one of the optional fields is "Course Difficulty." There are five choices, and we converted each option (from Extremely Easy to Extremely Difficult) into a numerical rating from 1 to 5 to determine an average difficulty score for each public golf course in the United States.

About 35% of our reviews have a difficulty rating, giving us more than 350,000 ratings dating back to September of 2012. Our community's skill level in golf is pretty reflective of the overall avid, amateur golf population:

The resulting 50 courses include watery southeast courses, undulating mountain courses and tactical desert courses. It's also extremely heavy in the usual architecture suspects: Pete Dye (7), Jack Nicklaus (9) and the Jones family tree (9).

If you've never written a review, we hope you'll join our community. You can get started right here.

Top 50 Toughest Public Golf Courses in the U.S. based on Golf Advisor reviews

  1. Farmingdale, N.Y.
    Yardage: 7,465 | Slope/Rating: 77.5/155
    Architect: A.W. Tillinghast
    What they're saying: "There is a mystique that can’t be defined about this course, but it’s always fun to try and describe it over a beer in the clubhouse after the last putt." - shandog31

  2. The Colony, Texas
    Yardage: 7,084 | Slope/Rating: 75.2/145
    Architect: Tripp Davis & Justin Leonard
    What they're saying: "There are bunkers and water in play on just about every hole. Many of the drives are intimidating and force you to choose which hazard you're most afraid of. The greens are also well protected, and many of them are small. Of course none of that was any easier with crazy wind." - toothysaw2

  3. Gaylord, Mich.
    Yardage: 7,028| Slope/Rating: 147/74.8
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr.
    What they're saying: " The view around the course is off the charts. The 5th hole par 5 may be the hardest hole in Michigan." -silguezi

  4. French Lick, Ind.
    Yardage: 8,102 | Slope/Rating: 80.0/148
    Architect: Pete Dye
    What they're saying: "It challenges your eye. It provokes a little self-pity. The greens are almost impossible. It brings out your 'left brain' creative self." - dwayneham

  5. Acme, Mich.
    Yardage: 7,078 | Slope/Rating: 76.1/150
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "Wide open fairways with difficult, technical approaches. Though missing the fairway will put you in a mogul filled rough (almost certainly a challenging lie). Hazards come into play on most holes." - Jonathon4403245

  6. La Quinta, Calif.
    Yardage: 7,300 | Slope/Rating: 82.5/154
    Architect: Pete Dye

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    What they're saying: "Stadium you face more than usual amounts of water plus huge, deep sand traps as tough obstacles. Throw in the typical Pete Dye moguls and you have a layout that is among the toughest I play." - nickesquire

  7. Pound Ridge, N.Y.
    Yardage: 7,165 | Slope/Rating: 75.9/148
    Architect: Pete Dye
    What they're saying: "Definitely not a course for inexperienced golfers. Course and fairways are very narrow ... A few holes you really have to drive ahead in your cart to figure out your next shot." - kvlad

  8. Yardage: 7,554 | Slope/Rating: 78.0/153
    Architect: Dick Wilson, Rees Jones
    What they're saying: " The closing stretch just does not let up. Coming into the house on those final holes, it's awfully easy to see a good round fall completely apart." - caknox1

  9. Sheboygan, Wisc.
    Yardage: 7,790| Slope/Rating: 77.2/152
    Architect: Pete Dye
    What they're saying: "Oh the Straits course what an amazing test of mental toughness throughout a round. This is a course that at some point and time you are going to end up in a horrible spot and just have to take your medicine." - dahlryan

  10. Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
    Yardage: 7,215| Slope/Rating: 76.4/155
    Architect: Pete Dye
    What they're saying: "I scored 18 shots higher here than I did at a similarly challenging course (Tobacco Road) just a few days before. To say I was disappointed with how I played would be an understatement but Pete Dye’s diabolical design of this course shoulders at least part of the blame." - Back9Ben

  11. Pawleys Island, S.C.
    Yardage: 7.026 | Slope/Rating: 75.2/150
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "Course can be challenging and has subtle nuances that playing multiple times would help recognize." - BubDillon

  12. San Antonio, Texas
    Yardage: 7,435 | Slope/Rating: 76.6/145
    Architect: Greg Norman
    What they're saying: " The course is tough, but sometimes tough can bring out the best. In this case, it brings out the best San Antonio has to offer." - joshsmith12

  13. Ellwood City, Pa. | Browse tee times & green fees
    Yardage: 7,103 | Slope/Rating: 147/74.3
    Architect: Michael Hurdzan & Dana Fry
    What they're saying: "Holes 11-18 are a roller coaster ride. Nos. 12-16 are as visually stimulating as they are challenging, and provide a stellar finish to the round." - BrandonWebb

  14. Sheboygan Falls, Wisc.
    Yardage: 7,354| Slope/Rating: 147/76.3
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "This course does not get the attention of the Kohler courses, but it is a Nicklaus design on an incredible piece of terrain." - bwernecke

  15. Providence Forge, Va.
    Yardage: 7,440 | Slope/Rating: 154/76.8
    Architect: Mike Strantz
    What they're saying: "Challenging course... generous fairways with punitive rough. Easier to play if you’ve been here before as there are many blind approach shots." - hokeptscs

  16. Beach Park, Ill.
    Yardage: 7,031 | Slope/Rating: 141/74.2
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
    What they're saying: "The course layout is very beautiful and tough, as a first time player I had trouble with what to hit off the tee, and there are many blind shots off the tee." - Wham49

  17. Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
    Yardage: 7,045| Slope/Rating: 75.2
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "What’s a real golf course ? The answer is the champ course, no mercy, no bail out, and tons of risk rewards opportunities!" - crickett

  18. Arcadia, Mich.
    Yardage: 7,300 | Slope/Rating: 75.7/146
    Architect: Rick Smith, Warren Henderson
    What they're saying: "Easing into the round with a short, benign Par-5, you’re eventually thrust into as demanding a golf course as you will find in Michigan." - BryanTweed16

  19. Pebble Beach, Calif.
    Yardage: 6,960 | Slope/Rating: 75.4/145
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr.
    What they're saying: "The first four holes might be the most challenging and beautiful anywhere." - arlene

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  20. University Place, Wash.
    Yardage: 7,791 | Slope/Rating 77.4/145
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
    What they're saying: "The course is very challenging with elevation changes and undulating greens. It is very easy to three putt here." - sooner90

  21. Miami, Fla. | Browse green fees and tee times
    Yardage: 7,590| Slope/Rating: 146/77.4
    Architect: Dick Wilson, Gil Hanse
    What they're saying: "Keep it in the fairway as the rough is deceptively hard to find your ball in, and the steepness of the slopes from greens to water makes any shots over or just off the green a surprising lost ball into water or rough!" - phojes10

  22. Naples, Fla.
    Yardage: 6,949 | Slope/Rating: 147/74.6
    Architect: Greg Norman
    What they're saying: "The Black course has no rough to speak of, but you have to keep it on the fairways to have any chance for a good round." - Hawkeye124

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  23. Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii
    Yardage: 7,310 | Slope/Rating: 153/78.2
    Architect: Dick Nugent
    What they're saying: "I have a 20 handicap and this was the most challenging course I’ve ever played. Bring at least a dozen balls because you’ll need them...lost 5 balls in the first 4 holes." - Ayeohh22

  24. Truckee, Calif.
    Yardage: 7,518 | Slope/Rating: 75.5/144
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "This is one of NorCal’s finest offerings.
    Great scenic layout, superbly maintained ... Pin placements were downright wicked. All in all though a great place to play." - Tjahan125

  25. Santa Cruz, Calif. | Browse Tee Times and Green Fees
    Yardage: 6,500 | Slope/Rating: 141/72.4
    Architect: Alister Mackenzie
    What they're saying: "There's not a bad hole on the course (even the BRUTALLY long par-3 3rd hole is fairly incredible even as it chews you up and spits you out) and the vibe at the course is perfect." - greebs

  26. Estero, Fla.
    Yardage: 7,393 | Slope/Rating: 153/77.6
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "One of the more visually mind challenging courses you'll play but still fair ... Needed a sports psychologist after the first 9 the first time I played it, but had troubles keeping it in play." - Meego

  27. Asheboro, N.C.
    Yardage: 6,543| Slope/Rating: 138/72.5
    Architect: Mike Strantz
    What they're saying: "The elevation changes off the tee box are dramatic as you fire your tee shot through a chute of trees to generous fairways that seem to funnel the ball into play." - StoicGolfer

  28. Glencoe, Ala.
    Yardage: 7,456| Slope/Rating: 146/75.9
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr.
    What they're saying: "As is usual with a RTJ set-up, there are very few flat spots on the green and almost all putts break one way or the other or both ways." - KJH88

  29. West Lafayette, Ind.
    Yardage: 7,456 | Slope/Rating: 146/76.5
    Architect: Pete Dye
    What they're saying: "Kampen is next to the perfect Indiana golf course. This is Pete Dye in all of his glory. I've played it twice now, and I've had my lunch eaten both times I've played it." - HoosierHacker89

  30. Durham, N.C.
    Yardage: 7,154 | Slope/Rating: 141/73.9
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr., Rees Jones
    What they're saying: "All you can eat from the back, but don't let the first couple of holes scare you. Lots of variety of shots and plenty of birdies in the middle of the course." - jnjordan3

  31. Grand Junction, Colo.
    Yardage: 7,007 | Slope/Rating: 137/72.7
    Architect: Jim Engh
    What they're saying: "Played it again for the first time in several years and I forgot how hard it was! Bring your "A" game on or around the greens, you are going to need it!" - crangel

  32. Marana, Ariz.
    Yardage: 7,849 | Slope/Rating: 141/77.1
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "The layout, it (is) very well thought out. I enjoy desert courses that reward shot placement so this course suited me in that way ... I really enjoyed the challenge of golf management on this course." - MMarlinS

  33. Bernardston, Mass.
    Yardage: 7,007 | Slope/Rating: 141/73.8
    Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr., Roger Rulewich
    What they're saying: "Several challenging over water holes and very long par 5s ... Overall great course." - mailman123

  34. Canton, Ohio
    Yardage: 7,015 | Slope/Rating: 139/74.0
    Architect: Brian Huntley
    What they're saying: "Having knowledge going into the round is a must as there are some blind tee shots and knowing how far you can or can't hit it is a huge help." GubJr

  35. Clio, Calif.
    Yardage: 7,015 | Slope/Rating: 139/72
    Architect: Robin Nelson
    What they're saying: "If you can hit precise and long shots like a single digit h-cap and also fade the ball off the tee you can score. If not, it will be a long day. Approx 12 tee shots need very straight or fade shot." - SteveLaf

  36. Erin, Wisc.
    Yardage: 7,735 | Slope/Rating: 145/77.9
    Architect: Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry, Ron Whitten
    What they're saying: "The fact that I had to take a few seconds to truly think about what shot I wanted to play and how to play it made Erin Hills the best course I have ever played." - Iamdiesel18

  37. Alpharetta, Ga.
    Yardage: 7,558| Slope/Rating: 77.2/149
    Architect: Rees Jones
    What they're saying: "Very tough layout that plays longer than the yardage on the card ... Some blind approaches to greens, especially on the very hilly back nine." - billbowerman

  38. Silvis, Ill. | Browse green fees and tee times
    Yardage: 7,066 | Slope/Rating: 142/74.8
    Architect: PGA Tour Design Services
    What they're saying: "The course conditions were outstanding. The greens were so smooth and like glass and definitely difficult to read. (Coolest thing I've seen having the green speed on the starter's table) The rough was LUSH. Wow, it was tough." - dahlryan

  39. Sanford, N.C.
    Yardage: 6,557 | Slope/Rating: 72.5/145
    Architect: Mike Strantz
    What they're saying: "The course is chock full of sandy waste areas, hills, and visually intimidating shots with blind approaches to greens. But I think it's far more visually intimidating than actually difficult." - DenisDotson

  40. Pebble Beach, Calif.
    Yardage: 7,075 | Slope/Rating: 148/75.9
    Architect: Jack Neville, Chandler Egan
    What they're saying: "We had an absolutely wonderful caddie (Bill - Scottish guy from St Andrews!). It was very windy but hey, that's part of what you sign up for there. It was a perfect experience in every way." - frankiedino

  41. Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
    Yardage: 7,596 | Slope/Rating: 77.0/144
    Architect: Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw
    What they're saying: "Trade winds so much fun, layout imagination is second to none and the architect gives you room to negotiate the tricky wind and incredible hills you will encounter." - JMarkH

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  42. Kiawah Island, S.C.
    Yardage: 7,356 | Slope/Rating: 144/77.3
    Architect: Pete Dye
    What they're saying: "I believe the secret to enjoying a course like this is not only the weather, getting a caddie who knows the course, and playing from the right tees. I scored the lowest score I have ever scored in competition to prove the point." - Bill2290371

  43. Bandon, Ore.
    Yardage: 6,663 | Slope/Rating: 73.0/142
    Architect: Tom Doak
    What they're saying: "You can hit most fairways without much trouble, but you need to put your tee shot in a spot that'll set you up with a good shot at the green." - noahjurik

  44. Sunriver, Ore.
    Yardage: 7,636 | Slope/Rating: 145/76.5
    Architect: Bob Cupp
    What they're saying: " You cross the Deschutes River on over half the holes with a backdrop of Mount Bachelor and Pulina Peak. The beauty of this course is spectacular, and the golf course design is as good as you will find." - cjohnson06

  45. Yardage: 7,201| Slope/Rating: 141/75.1
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: "The wind off the ocean makes this course very challenging. Gotta have a low stinger in your bag on some shots." - PROLWING

  46. Hilton Head Island, S.C. | Browse tee times and green fees
    Yardage: 7,099| Slope/Rating: 148/75.6
    Architect: Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: " Very tight course with tree lined fairways, but fair. You just can’t hit a huge slice or hook." - ishot73

  47. Mesquite, Nev.
    Yardage: 6,939 | Slope/Rating: 154/75.4
    Architect: Denis & John Rider
    What they're saying: "Tight layout but holes largely separated by canyons. Layout was fair. Not a tricked out target golf course, you just need to clear a mini Grand Canyon to reach the fairway." - Wllywnka

  48. Fort McDowell, Ariz.
    Yardage: 7,225 | Slope/Rating: 138/73.4
    Architect: Scott Miller
    What they're saying: "Cholla is shorter but requires more precise shots and club selection. Course knowledge is very helpful here." - hacksalot03

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  49. Somerset, Wisc.
    Yardage: 6,909 | Slope/Rating: 131/74.1
    Architect: Joel Goldstrand
    What they're saying: "One of the hardest courses I’ve ever played ... Somehow this course has every aspect of the game. Fescue, actual rough, seemingly welcoming fairways, water, and elevation." - seyi0960

  50. Selbyville, Del.
    Yardage: 7,525 | Slope/Rating: 148/76.4
    Architect: Jack Nicklaus
    What they're saying: 'Not one of the easier courses to play. Well protected greens.
    Fairway bunkers ask you to think your shot through. Pack an extra.ball or two. The water features don't give much back." - Book1073489

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Golfers' Choice
Golfer's Choice rankings are determined by our community of reviewers.
Commented on

Royal New Kent #15 on the hardest list. A friend, my wife and myself played there 9.1.23 we were in awe at the toughness. Mark and I played it well. He had 2 birdies. And I eagled the 16th from 191 out. We both broke 100. Mark at 95 and myself an 82 w only 1 lost ball. Loved the course. Made us think.

Commented on

I have played Bethpage Black twice and there is nothing that I have seen or played that is as tough. Every shot is dramatic and demanding. Most tough courses have the greens as the toughest part. At Bethpage you are not going to have your worries about 3 putting. The tee ball will have you thinking double bogey from the outset

Commented on

Wolf Creek in Mesquite, NV is the toughest course I have played on this list. Almost each hole is in its own canyon.
The second time I played it we played from the white tees and it was a little easier.
They do have warning signs that only expert golfers should play from the blue tees.
Even though I am a ten handicap, I should have heeded the warning.

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Commented on

Great River Golf Club - CT definitely up there as well. ... pound ridge is monster in difficulty FROM THE TIP compare to Bethpage BLACK

Commented on

Other than Bethpage Black....how about some courses for the rest of the world.....?

You need to be a trust fund baby to afford to play any of these.....Pebble....Spyglass...Bandon Dunes....?


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Commented on

Old America (#2 on the list) is definitely affordable.

Commented on

Try the Irish course at Whistling Straits....While not as many views of Lake Michigan, it is ALL you want in a Dye course at half the price...Fabulous.

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Commented on

Sorry ... The Quarry is not even the toughest course in Ohio and it’s probably not the toughest in Stark County. You have lost some credibility with your rankings.

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Commented on

Agree. Not sure how that appeared. I think Boulder Creek in Streetsboro, OH and Northstar in Columbus, OH are more difficult for sure.

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Commented on

Did you play from the tips?

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Commented on

I've played 7 of the courses on this list and 2 of the top-10 and I don't believe any of those are as difficult as Coyote Springs 1 hour north of Las Vegas. I average shooting 4 1/2 points over my 9 handicap there- and that's discounting the triple bogies and worse that don't figure into my posted scores. It's brawny, wide fairways seldom leave you flat lies, the approaches are treacherous, 12 holes have water in play and the greens are a hair's breadth away from having a clown mouth and a windmill. But it's also just flat gorgeous, perfectly maintained and an absolute treat to play. Even from the 6200 yard white tees it's a 70.6 rating and 139 slope. Masochists welcome.

Commented on

Just played Pawleys Plantation last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the course. Very challenging layout - the last 5 holes are brutal, but offer incredible views. Would highly recommend this course to anyone looking for a challenge in the South Myrtle to Pawleys Island location.

Commented on

Not sure what the single digit handicap golfer was drinking when he posted that the Red and Blue courses at Bethpage were better tracks, but that is simply ludicrous. Now the Red is a very nice layout and usually well maintained, but by no means is it as good a layout as the Black course. It's not just the rough that makes the Black course special, it's the elevation changes, the undulation and speed of the greens, the length and the contours of the course! Now I haven't played many of the other courses on the list, but as I moved down the list I fully expected the Black course to be in the top 5! I would have added the Keile course in Kauai to the list as well.

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