In a 70-year career, Robert Trent Jones Sr (1906-2000) designed or remodelled more than 400 golf courses. James R Hansen, author of a new biography of the golf architect, picks five of his most challenging holes, each from a different continent, where even top golfers have struggled to reach par.
1. Spyglass Hill Golf Club (1966)
Pebble Beach, California, first hole, par five. Though officially the third toughest hole on a layout that many consider Trent Jones’s most challenging, it is hard to imagine a more difficult par on any starting hole in golf. After the tee shot, the golfer faces a keen dog-leg left that plays downhill to an extremely well-bunkered green. The first time Jack Nicklaus played the hole in competition at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am in 1967 he made a double bogey seven.
2. Valderrama Golf Club (1974)
Sotogrande, Cádiz, Spain, 16th hole, par four. The position of the tee shot needs to be precise to have a line into the green through the tight corridor of trees on this hole appropriately nicknamed muy dificil (very difficult). The key to playing this, and Valderrama’s other apparently straight holes, is to work out the optimum landing areas for the tee shots and play them as slight dog-legs.
3. Royal Golf Dar es Salaam (1970)
Red Course, Rabat, Morocco, ninth hole, par three. Trent Jones designed a number of holes with island greens and none proved more treacherous than the notorious ninth on the Red Course, one of 81 holes he built for Hassan II, king of Morocco and a golf fanatic. While attending the king’s birthday party in 1971, Trent Jones was nearly killed during an unsuccessful coup d’état.
4. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (1966)
Kamuela, Hawaii, third hole, par three. One of Trent Jones’s greatest creations. Playing at 210 yards from the back tee, in his own words, there was “no more glorious challenge than to … be faced with a full carry over the surf pounding below, the ocean breezes whipping around you.”
5. Club El Rincón de Cajicá (1962)
Bogotá, Columbia, 16th hole, par five. This may be the hardest hole in all golf. This massive par five is a near 90 degree dog-leg left with bunkers guarding the inside corner. Little lakes almost surround a very small green. A par is more than difficult, and bogeys far from easy.
‘A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones Sr and the Making of Modern Golf’ by James R Hansen is published by Gotham Penguin on May 13, $32