Blind greens, brutal rough and sadistic bunkers: My hardest 10 Major courses
South Carolina coastal layout Kiawah Island plays host to this week’s USPGA Championship and could play as the longest course in major championship history. It promises to be a stiff test if the breeze picks up off the Atlantic ocean but how does it compare with the rest of the world’s toughest courses? James Corrigan picks the 10 tracks which give the world’s best sleepless nights. 10. Augusta National (Georgia. Masters: 1934-present) Next to Muirfield and perhaps Turnberry, the home of The Masters is the best course on the majors rota. When it was soft last November, Dustin Johnson made it look far too compliant with his record 20-under winning total. The faster conditions last month kept Hideki Matsuyama to 10-under. Demanding, unique and stunningly beautiful. 9. Royal Birkdale (Eng. Open: 1954, ’61, ’65, ’71, ’76, ’83, ’91, ’98. 2008, ’17) The best course in England is also the toughest if Mother Nature is in a links type of mood. Rolling through the dunes, the layout offers the complete challenge and the fact its Open winners include Palmer, Watson, Trevino, Harrington and Spieth – from a TV transport compound in 2017 – is no coincidence. If a links can be described as fair then this is it. Until the wind gets up and the rain plays tag-team like it did in 2008. Then it is cruel. 8. Olympic Club (San Fran. US Open: 1955, ’66, ’87, 98, 2012) The Lake Course in San Francisco staged the 1955 US Open, which many believe presented the toughest post-war major challenge. Little-known Jack Fleck famously shocked Ben Hogan that week, prevailing in a 36-hole play-off after both finished the regulation 72 holes in seven-over. The rough can be brutal, which is a problem as the fairways are tight. The slick, undulating greens only add to the torture. 7. Shinnecock Hills (NY. US Open: 1896, 1986, ’95, 2004, ’18) This brilliant Long Island layout really does need tricking up as the USGA stupidly did on the weekend of the 2004 US Open. Annoyed with the comparatively low scores of the first rounds, the officials neglected to water the greens and lost them, the par three seventh proving particularly farcical. If it is windy, then be prepared to be attacked from all directions.