Look, if you get punched in the face for a living, you’re a hardass. Period. But the eternally outspoken Conor McGregor takes things a step further with his brand of bravado and antagonism.
It’s a hard man who can give his opponent plenty of bulletin board material, whip him into a frenzy, and then go out and beat his face in.
McGregor boasts a 21-3 professional record with just one loss in the UFC (Nate Diaz forced him into submission in 2016). A formidable striker, he knocked Eddie Alvarez out in his most recent MMA action last November. The dude also has serious chin: McGregor has never been knocked out, and he endured a brutal five-round slugfest against Nate Diaz two bouts ago.
That said, there a handful of golf courses in the world just as hard as the Notorious One. For the most part, these aren’t courses you’ve heard of. Many of them are ill-suited to hold a PGA Tour event.
The Tour doesn’t want tournaments where the winning score is well over par. It’s no fun for players or fans (unless you’re a sadist). Among the considerations for a tour venue, extreme difficulty is well down the list.
We’ll use a consensus of expert opinions and the USGA’s course rating system to highlight nine courses harder than Conor McGregor.
The International (Pines Course) Bolton, MA
8,325, par 73; rating: 81.7
This 8,000-plus yard course has a par 6. What else do you need to know? The Robert Trent Jones-reworked course has three holes of longer than 650 yards. THE hardest course in the United States in terms of course rating, slope, and bogey rating. There are more diabolical courses on this lost, but the Pines Course’s length simply abuses golfers.
Oakmont, Oakmont, PA
7,255 yards, par 71; rating: 77.1
Phil Mickelson and Johnny Miller have both called Oakmont the toughest golf course in America. Henry Fownes’ Pittsburgh masterpiece certainly has the most difficult greens anywhere. Wicked fast, massively sloped, holing a putt at Oakmont is a chore. Of course, the greens are only half the battle, as the course’s abundance of bunkering penalizes the slightest miss off the tee.
Ko’Olau Golf Club; Kaneohe, HI
7,310 yards, par 72; rating: 78.2
Just take a look at this place, with its abundance of vegetation and ravenous ravines, could you imagine golfing your ball in this environment? 1999 U.S. Open champion Scott Simpson called the course the most difficult he’d ever seen. Ko’Olau was once the most difficult course in the United States before a 1999 easing.
Pikewood National; Morgantown, WV
7,588, par 72; 78.9
Winding through the mountains of West Virginia, thick forests and craggy rocks, Pikewood National is an extremely private course, so it’s not a shock we don’t hear more about it. Pikewood looks like a classic Rossian course broken up and scattered amid the mountains. Dow Finsterwald called the course the most challenging and beautiful he’d played.
Oak Tree National; Edmond, OK
7,412, par 71; Rating: 79.3
Pete Dye, the game’s most diabolical designer, received a mandate from the course owners to build the toughest course possible. Oak Tree National is the sadistic result. Site of the 2014 U.S. Senior Open, only four players broke par for the week.
Winged Foot (West Course), Mamaroneck, NY
7,264 yards, par 72; rating: 76.1
The 1974 U.S. Open at the venue was known as “The Massacre at Winged Foot.” Death on a battlefield could be less violent than teeing it up at this particular venue. Jack Nicklaus famously rated the course a “12” on the 1-10 difficulty scale. Missing the green at Winged Foot virtually guarantees bogey.
Kiawah Island Resort (Ocean), Kiawah Island, SC
7,873 yards, par 72; rating: 79.2
Another Pete Dye track, Kiawah Island was tough on everyone except Rory McIlroy at the 2012 PGA Championship. Built ahead of the 1991 “War on the Shore” Ryder Cup, Raymond Floyd suggested the original layout (it’s been softened twice) wouldn’t see a sub-80 score in tournament play.
Rich Harvest Farms; Sugar Grove, IL
7,656 yards, par 72; rating: 79.1
The aptly named Jerry Rich, computer billionaire, designed and build Rich Harvest Farms himself. Considering his total lack of course design experience, it’s a masterpiece…and an extremely difficult one. Host of the 2009 Solheim Cup and several top-tier amateur competitions, this course could one day host a U.S. Open and inflict plenty of misery on the world’s best golfers.
Jade Dragon; Yunnan, China
8,454, par 72; rating: 76.9
The world’s longest golf course! At more than 8,400 yards, China’s Jade Dragon is a long, winding, green beast indeed. The course is home to a 525-yard par 4 and a 270-yard par 3. While it’s situated at 10,000 feet above sea level, you’d need to drive the ball 400 yards for this course to be manageable.