Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Aerial view of Jumeirah Golf Estates  (Getty Images)
Aerial view of Jumeirah Golf Estates (Getty Images)

By Will Pearson, europeantour.com

As another year comes to a close, europeantour.com has crunched all the numbers to bring you this – a definitive guide to the 18 most testing, most challenging, most terrifying holes to feature in The 2015 Race to Dubai.

From the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City to Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, The European Tour travelled to almost every corner of the globe in the 2015 campaign, taking in a multitude of different countries and styles of golf courses in the process.

Excluding the Major Championships and the American World Golf Championships events, we have dug deep into the statistics and scorecards to identify a complete golf course’s worth of what are technically the hardest holes on The European Tour.

Hard hats on? Then let’s begin.

In descending order…

18) 9th at Delhi Golf Club

Tournament: Hero Indian Open

Par/length: 4/445 yards

Average: 4.40

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 25/147

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 8 – Mark Tullo, Abhinav Lohan

Narrow and bush-lined, the historic Delhi Golf Club has long hosted the Indian Open with the ninth hole one of two entries in the 18 hardest in The 2015 Race to Dubai. As a testament to just how difficult this tight par four is, eventual winner Anirban Lahiri was two over par on this hole alone during the course of the week back in February.

17) 2nd at Golf du Palais Royal

Tournament: Trophee Hassan II

Par/length: 3; 208 yards

Average: 3.40

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 28/155

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 7 – Richard Green

The first of two entries in this list for the unique Moroccan venue. One of four par threes at Golf du Palais Royal, situated in the grounds of the Royal Palace in Agadir, with each of that quartet measuring a testing 200 yards or above. Precision from the tee is key at the first of the four short holes with steep run-offs surrounding the raised putting surface. 2015 winner Richie Ramsay escaped with par here in each of the four rounds en route to victory.

16) 9th at PGA Sweden National

Tournament: Nordea Masters

Par/length: 4; 476 yards

Average: 4.42

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 33/178

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 7 – Seven players

With the deep blue yonder of a sizeable lake bordering the entire right hand side, and bunkers aplenty to gobble up even the slightly errant ball, the ninth is a brutally tough hole to close out the front nine at PGA Sweden National’s Lake Course. Swedish amateur Marcus Kinhult led after 36 holes this year and, as if to exemplify his massive potential, the 18 year old was a remarkable three under par on this par four for the week back in June.

15) 5th at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal

Tournament: Turkish Airlines Open

Par/length: 3; 224 yards

Average: 3.42

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 16/106

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 6 – Five players

With water right, two bunkers left plus bushes and trees beyond, the long par three fifth in Turkey proved a formidable foe in the first event of the 2015 Final Series. Indeed, winner Victor Dubuisson made double bogey here on the final day to slip out of the lead after the Frenchman found one of those aforementioned bushes to force a return to the tee. Visually intimidating, daunting pin positions. What’s not to love?!

14) 18th at Golf du Palais Royal

Tournament: Trophee Hassan II

Par/length: 4; 484 yards

Average: 4.43

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 31/168

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 7 – five players

With two bunkers down the right to be wary of from the tee, plus an elevated green which slopes viciously from back to front towards a dangerous bunker, there’s plenty to occupy the mind on the finishing hole in Morocco. With blue and black numbers peppering the cards of The European Tour’s finest this year, as in many before it, Messrs Pelle Edberg and Matteo Manassero bucked the trend by going two under on this hole over the week in Agadir.

13) 8th at Royal County Down Golf Club

Tournament: Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation

Par/length: 4; 429 yards

Average: 4.43

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 30/186

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 7 – Six players

One of the finest holes on one of the world’s great links courses and the first of two entries for Royal County Down. Sitting atop the dunes, the eighth is one of the highest points on the layout with its tight fairway, trouble down the left and right and a long, narrow green that is incredibly tough to find. Played into the wind most of the week back in May and briefly threatened to de-rail Soren Kjeldsen’s bid for victory as the Dane made a double bogey here during the final round before eventually winning in a play-off.

12) 18th at Genzon Golf Club

Tournament: Shenzhen International

Par/length: 4; 456 yards

Average: 4.43

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 29/141

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 9 – Benjamin Lein

The first of an astonishing three entries in the 18 most difficult holes in The 2015 Race to Dubai for Genzon Golf Club – proving without a doubt that the China layout is one of the most challenging seen on The European Tour. With the sizeable Dragon Lake dominating down the right hand side of the closing fairway, bunkers left, and a gargantuan putting surface to deal with, winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat holed a 12-foot birdie putt here in the first extra hole to beat home favourite Li Hao Tong to the title.

11) 11th at East London Golf Club

Tournament: Africa Open

Par/length: 4; 477 yards

Average: 4.44

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 26/189

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 8 – Tom Lewis

Played as a par five for the regular members, the 11th at East London is a lengthy, testing par four for the European Tour’s finest during the Africa Open. Despite the wide fairway, and prevailing helping wind, there are plenty of towering pine and gum trees ready to accept a wayward ball. Extraordinarily, England’s Seve Benson made eagle here on the third day.

10)  9th at Hong Kong Golf Club

Tournament: UBS Hong Kong Open

Par/length: 4; 493 yards

Average: 4.44

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 19/186

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 7 – Three players

Dogleg left, narrow as anything with trees encroaching either side of the fairway and almost 500 yards in length to boot. To put it another way, the world-class trio of winner Justin Rose, plus his Ryder Cup team-mates Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, were a combined seven over par on this hole in October. Testing.

9) 17th at Heritage Golf Club

Tournament: AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open

Par/length: 4; 463 yards

Average: 4.46

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 11/171

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 7 – Four players

Natural looking, spectacular and new to The Race to Dubai in 2015, Heritage Golf Club’s beauty sometimes belies a beastly test and nowhere is this so pronounced as on the par four 17th. It might look fairly straightforward from the tee but with a narrow fairway and rapid run-off areas complemented by thick vegetation, there is plenty of danger lurking. Of the miniscule 11 birdies to be made here across the week in May, Australian Kalem Richardson snared an impressive two.

8) 18th at Golf Resort Bad Griesbach

Tournament: Porsche European Open

Par/length: 4; 468 yards

Average: 4.47

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 33/184

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 7 – Three players

Like many holes at the sprawling resort at Bad Griesbach, water plays a key role in the 18th of the Beckenbauer Course. Winner Thongchai Jaidee managed to cover the par four in an even 16 strokes in late September – including a neat up-and-down on the 72nd hole – to claim a one-stroke victory over England’s Graeme Storm.

7) 14th at Delhi Golf Club

Tournament: Hero Indian Open

Par/length: 4; 476 yards

Average: 4.44

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse:  27/165

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 8 – David Gleeson

Played as a par four for the first time in 2014 after spending the majority of its life as a par five, the 14th at Delhi Golf Club is the layout’s second entry in this list. To exemplify just how tough this narrow, long hole is, only Romain Wattel and Chapchai Nirat were under par on the 14th over the four rounds in India.

6) 17th at the Old Course St Andrews

Tournament: Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Par/length: 4; 495 yards

Average: 4.48

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 7/94

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 8 – Jorge Campillo

Arguably one of the toughest holes in golf, worldwide, the ‘Road Hole’ on the Old Course at St Andrews is renowned for that famous tee shot over what used to be the old railway shed, for its lengthy approach into that long green guarded on the front left by that terrifying pot bunker and on the right by the road and out of bounds. Walk away with par – as winner Thorbjorn Olesen did in both rounds on the Old Course at this year’s championship – and you’ll be a very happy golfer.

5) 4th at Pretoria Country Club

Tournament: Tshwane Open

Par/length: 4; 511 yards

Average: 4.49

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 29/191

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 8 – Rhys Enoch

Well in excess of 500 yards with a vicious right to left dogleg to deal with, the fourth hole at Pretoria CC is a brute. Bearing in mind someone like Lucas Bjerregaard – one of the longest hitters on Tour – was two over par on this hole back in March, you quickly get a sense at just how tough it really is.

4) 15th at Genzon Golf Club

Tournament: Shenzhen International

Par/length: 4; 470 yards

Average: 4.51

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 20/178

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 8 – Three players

Genzon GC’s second entry with water, again, playing an important role. Separated by a small strip of fairway, deep fairway bunkers down the left hand side complicate matters, too, as winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat found out during the final day in April as the Thai had to chip out and settle for bogey. A similar fate befell many others on the same hole that week…

3) 15th at Royal County Down Golf Club

Tournament: Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation

Par/length: 4; 468 yards

Average: 4.52

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 16/207

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 8 – Thomas Pieters

The third longest par four on the course and the second of two entries in this list for Royal County Down. The dogleg 15th, with its upturned saucer of a green – unguarded by bunkers – played into the wind all week with trouble aplenty for the world-class field assembled in Newcastle. It’s revealing that all three of the players to make the sudden-death play-off – winner Soren Kjeldsen plus Eddie Pepperell and Bernd Wiesberger – made just one bogey on the 15th combined en route to their top finishes. Take a walk down this beast of a hole.

2) 5th at Genzon Golf Club

Tournament: Shenzhen International

Par/length: 4; 475 yards

Average: 4.56

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 17/200

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: 9 – Mu Hu

The third and final offering from Shenzhen International host venue Genzon GC comes up just short as the second most difficult hole in the entire 2015 Race to Dubai. On the World Feed, veteran television commentary Dougie Donnelly could often be heard saying, “He’ll take a par on this hole – anyone would.” With a big dogleg from right to left, thick foliage waiting either side of the fairway and a guaranteed long iron into a large green complex even when you do find the short stuff, it doesn’t take much to get in trouble on this most testing of par fours. Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg experienced the full gamut of emotions here back in April from a triple bogey seven on day one to a rare birdie on Sunday. Morten Orum Madsen didn’t enjoy the challenge either – the big Dane was seven over par for this hole for the week.

1) 18th at Le Golf National

Tournament: Alstom Open de France

Par/length: 4; 470 yards

Average: 4.60

Birdies or better vs bogeys or worse: 29/208

Highest score recorded in 2015 event: Felipe Aguilar – 10

Water, water everywhere… The final four holes on L’Albatros at Le Golf National feature plenty of the wet stuff making for a thrilling finish for the thousands of fans waiting in the grandstands and amphitheatre-esque stadium slopes that pervade the Versailles venue. But it is the closing hole of the layout which will host The 2018 Ryder Cup that tops the lot. Described by two-time Open de France winner Graeme McDowell as “one of the toughest par fours on The European Tour”, a long tee shot is needed for a short club into the island green. Too far left or too long and you’ll be in the drink but too far right and you’ll be in the thick rough. On the final day in 2015, just three birdies were made here with, fittingly, one of those coming from winner Bernd Wiesberger. Drum rolls concluded, countdown done - the par four 18th at Le Golf National was, officially, the hardest hole in The 2015 Race to Dubai.

So there you have it. It’s interesting to note that seven of the 18 hardest holes in The 2015 Race to Dubai were either the ninth or 18th holes, perhaps a revealing insight into golf course design.

The list consisted of 16 par fours and two par threes, with the entries coming from 12 different countries (three in China, two each in India, Ireland, Morocco and South Africa plus one each in France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Scotland, Sweden and Turkey).

At the other end of the spectrum, by the by, these were the five easiest holes in The 2015 Race to Dubai:

5) The par five 16th at Golf Club Milano; 72nd Open d’Italia

4) The par five third at Kingsbarns Golf Links; Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

3) The par five 14th at Golf Club Milano; 72nd Open d’Italia

2) The par five 14th at Carnoustie; Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

1) The par five sixth at Himmerland Golf Club; Made in Denmark

Also, these were the hardest holes across the four Major Championships in 2015:

9) The 240-yard par three fourth at Augusta; Masters Tournament; average 3.30

8) The 489-yard par four fourth at Whistling Straits; US PGA; average 4.32

6= The 541-yard par four 11th at Chambers Bay; US Open; average 4.35

6= The 174-yard par three 11th at the Old Course; The Open; average 3.35

5) The 505-yard par four 11th at Augusta; Masters Tournament; average 4.36

4) The 509-yard par four fourth at Chambers Bay; US Open; average 4.38

3) The 519-yard par four seventh at Chambers Bay; US Open; average 4.42

2) The 495-yard par four 17th at the Old Course; The Open; average 4.53

1) The 520-yard par four 18th at Whistling Straits; US PGA; average 4.54 

Finally, and just outside the top 18 hardest holes in The 2015 Race to Dubai, was the famous first at Wentworth with the par four coming in as the most difficult opening hole of the season.

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