I’m often asked about my favourite courses, but I thought it might be interesting to share some of my favourite holes from around the world here. So what goes into making a ‘favourite’? Well, there are some that I’ve picked because of the challenge they present, others that are in unique settings and others that are rich in history. There are some that I’ve always dreamed of playing on – but haven’t done yet – and others that I just have warm memories of spending time on with friends. Here’s my pick of just a few.
Old Course at St Andrews – The 1st (and the 18th)
I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever felt such pressure on a shot as I did on the first tee of the Old Course at St Andrews. I was lucky enough to play a round there back in 2008, and I have never played anywhere else where you feel the weight of so much history on your shoulders. Hands and shoulders tighten up, and you feel as if the whole town is watching you. But what a course this is: the oldest in the world, a wild and challenging setting, and most importantly it’s still open to all. The drive required for that first hole is only a short one, but it has 466 years of history behind it, and a lot of emotion for anyone who loves golf.
I also have to mention the approach to the 18th – possibly one of the most famous in golf – with the ‘Auld Grey Toon’ ominously close to the right hand side of the hole and the famous R&A Clubhouse in the background. Then of course there is the hole itself – another great short par 4. I remember that the green can most certainly be hit if the wind is on your side but danger lurks just short of the green in the form of the Valley of Sin. This gaping void in the hole has bested even the most talented players in the game and has also provided moments of sheer joy, such as Constantino Rocca’s monster putt in the 1995 Open Championship. Rocca’s two final shots on this hole perfectly summed up why this par 4 is such a great challenge and a worthy inclusion on any fantasy golf hole list.
Carnoustie Championship Course, The 14th
As you’d expect from a course that has hosted the Open, this is an unbelievably tough one. The 14th is an absolute beast – nicknamed ‘Spectacles’ thanks to the huge bunkers that lie in wait for the unsuspecting player – and if you land in the sand (as I did), you’re done. I spent a good few minutes desperately trying to escape, and even when you do there are more bunkers lurking by the green, which thankfully I managed to avoid. Despite this experience though, I’ve picked this hole because it is one that I’ll never forget – when I finally joined my friends on the green I had a real sense of achievement that I’d got there having only dropped a couple of shots. It was a special experience because it offered a valuable lesson in what a psychological game golf can be – one where something that under normal circumstances would be considered a failure can become a mini triumph when the course is as tough as this one.
Augusta National, The 18th
What golf fan hasn’t dreamt of walking up the final fairway at Augusta to the 18th, late on the afternoon of the final day of the Masters, with a lead as long as the shadows cast by the towering firs? This is a truly special course, and probably the number one ‘dream’ hole for any golfer. Unfortunately it remains a dream for me, but I’m determined to one day take on this iconic course. Not only is it in a stunningly beautiful setting – it has also been the scene of many legendary moments in the history of golf. So many of the game’s greatest players have pitted their wits against the legendary holes here, such as the 3rd, known as ‘Flowering Peach – a short par 4 with a savagely sloping green and four bunkers treacherous bunkers, or ‘Golden Bell’ the shortest hole but also one of the trickiest. But it has to be the 18th for me – to make that long walk up to the final green having completed this fantastic course must be a very special experience for any golfer.