The Most Underrated Holes at Famous Courses

Each year when Masters week approaches, the golfing world transfixes its attention on Augusta National Golf Club. Golf enthusiasts picture the fairways and greens of Amen Corner or perhaps the club’s idyllic 16th hole. Similarly, when other widely acclaimed courses like TPC Sawgrass or the Old Course at St. Andrews come to mind, they conjure thoughts of island greens or “Road Holes.”

While the world’s most famous courses are inevitably home to world-famous holes, they are also comprised of exceptional par threes, par fours, and par fives that fly under the radar. In an attempt to shine a spotlight on those underrated holes, we surveyed a handful of golf’s leading course architects—Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, Rees Jones, and Bobby Weed—to collect their recommendations of great holes that are wrongfully overlooked at the world’s most preeminent courses.

Augusta National Golf Club

Hole 3—Par Four, 350 yards

“I love how that green is perched up onto that shelf and how much cross slope there is. It requires a super precise shot into the green. The hole requires a lot of choices off the tee, and it changes so much based on the hole location.” —Gil Hanse

Hole 6—Par Three, 180 yards

“As a drop shot par three, this hole would be famous elsewhere, and the wild contours of the green mean you must be very precise on the tee shot.” —Tom Doak

famous holes
7th hole, Augusta National (photo by Getty Images)

Hole 7—Par Four, 450 yards

“This hole was lengthened several years ago, so the trees more easily come into play off the tee as players are hitting longer, less-accurate clubs. And with this hole’s shallow green bunkered front and back, those players can get into a lot of trouble in a number of ways.” —Rees Jones

Hole 14—Par Four, 440 yards

“Its natural contours create sidehill fairway lies, so a premium is placed on well-placed tee shots. Approach shots that land short have little chance of holding the green thanks to a large false front. And the right and left corners of the three-tiered green are separated from the center by undulating slopes that do not reward overly conservative strokes.” —Bobby Weed

Old Course at St. Andrews

Hole 4—Par Four, 419 yards

“The hole tempts you to play down the narrow fairway on the right or forces you to bail left, making the second shot much harder. The mound in front of the green is one of my favorite features on any course.” —Tom Doak

Hole 12—Par Four, 316 yards

“When viewing the green from the tee box, players don’t see much danger. The fairway has a few pot bunkers that sit low because the hole was played in reverse many years ago. A well-positioned driving iron or fairway wood on this hole leaves a short pitch to a contoured green with a slope that offers creativity and excitement on approach shots.” —Bobby Weed

12th hole, Old Course at St. Andrews (photo courtesy St. Andrews Links Trust)

“The hole is quirky in nature with all those fairway bunkers that can’t be seen from the tee. You have to have blind faith in your line. You can lay back short of where those bunkers start, but then you’re coming in with a mid-iron. And the green is not dissimilar to No. 3 at Augusta—there’s a narrow shelf, and if you want to get close, the precision that’s required for your approach shot is off the charts.” —Gil Hanse

Hole 16—Par Four, 381 yards

“Everyone talks about hole 17, but No. 16 is under the radar because the landing area in the fairway is so tight. It’s not a long hole, but there’s out of bounds on the right and bunkers on the left. Today’s players don’t like to lay up and if they get into one of those bunkers, they’re going to lose a shot.” —Rees Jones

Pebble Beach Golf Links

Hole 4—Par Four, 326 yards

“It’s a nice introduction to the ocean, and the hole presents a lot of options. The bunker that cuts in off the left-hand side of the fairway creates a tiny target area to land your tee shot with a longer club.” —Gil Hanse

“Short par fours provide tremendous flexibility in a club’s daily setup and a player’s plan of attack, and the 4th hole at Pebble Beach epitomizes these attributes. From the tee box, the risk and reward of distance versus accuracy is joyfully on display. The Pacific Ocean hugs the right fairway; however, a bail out left leaves a difficult approach shot.” —Bobby Weed

Hole 9—Par Four, 481 yards

“In addition to being right on top of the cliff looking down at Carmel Beach, the 9th is a really good strategic hole. There’s a big slope in the landing area on the right that you want to try to catch, so you have to risk being very close to the cliff, but you want to be close to the cliff so you’re not hitting your second shot over the left front greenside bunker or at the water.” —Tom Doak

14th hole, Pebble Beach (photo by Joann Dost)

Hole 14—Par Five, 572 yards

“Everyone takes No. 14 for granted. It’s really a three-shot hole for most players because when you go for it in two, it’s hard to hold the green because it’s so perched. The fact that the green is so elevated with a false front means that even with a wedge you have to be very precise.” —Rees Jones

TPC Sawgrass

Hole 3—Par Three, 177 yards

“Trade winds off the nearby Atlantic Ocean affect club selection on this exposed 177-yard par three. Thick grass bunkers line the right side, and long, six-foot-deep bunkers protect the front and left sides of this 30-yard-long contoured green. Birdies are earned with precise approach shots and putting strokes.” —Bobby Weed

Hole 4—Par Four, 384 yards

“I remember walking off this hole during a round and thinking, ‘Okay, next time I play this hole I’m going to do things differently.’ The green is really contoured, so it’s important to be on the proper side of the fairway to hit into certain hole locations; and the brook that runs across the front of the green does so at an angle, so it’s deceiving. You might think your carry distance is 120 yards, but if you’re going for the left side of the green, it’s really 127 yards, so you can easily end up in the water.” —Gil Hanse

4th hole, TPC Sawgrass (photo courtesy TPC Sawgrass)

Hole 13—Par Three, 181 yards

“The 13th is not the hardest par three, but it might be the most underrated. The pitch of the green goes left into the water, so sometimes you can’t go for the pin. Even if you hit that ridge, it’s going to kick the ball. It’s the contours of the greens that get you.” —Rees Jones

Hole 14—Par Four, 481 yards

“The 14th is underappreciated for being one of the tougher holes out there. On most holes at Sawgrass you have some room left or right where you can miss and be in a waste bunker. But on this hole, there’s a big dune shoulder on the right, and I’ve seen a bunch of good players up on that hill not knowing what to do.” —Tom Doak

Pinehurst No. 2

Hole 5—Par Five, 576 yards

“It’s probably the toughest hole on the golf course and the most underrated one, as well. The green has the most pitch on it of any green on the course and with that pitch, even a good shot doesn’t get rewarded. The ball will keep rolling away from the target.” —Rees Jones

5th hole, Pinehurst No. 2 (photo courtesy of Pinehurst Resort)

Hole 9—Par Three, 191 yards

“A false front bunker and large right green side bunker provide visual intimidation on this, the shortest par three on the course, but good tee shots are rewarded. The deep, two-tiered green offers great pin placement variety and it places a premium on correctly identifying your putting line and speed.” —Bobby Weed

Hole 11—Par Four, 483 yards

“This hole has the best green complex of the bunch. With the flag front right you want to play to the outside of the dogleg; when the hole is in the back half, you want to play to the inside.” —Tom Doak

Hole 13—Par Four, 385 yards

“You want to hug the right side to get a good look at the green, but there’s a lot of open sand and fairway bunkers to contend with. The more out of position you are down the left, the less hospitable the green complex is to receiving shots and the more you have to play over the left greenside bunker. And because you’re hitting up to an elevated green, it’s hard to see what the contours of the green are doing.” —Gil Hanse


What holes do you think are most underrated at these famous courses?