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The 25 best finishing holes in golf

Golfweek logo Golfweek 2/27/2020 Rick Suter

a man standing on top of a grass covered field with Saltram House in the background © Provided by Golfweek If a golf course is considered a work of art, where 18 holes and all their surroundings come together on one canvas to form a unique experience, then the 18th hole would be the artist’s signature. The last of the round, a course’s finishing hole typically sets an iconic tone, the postcard shot of each specific course, if you will. It’s where majors (and money games) are won and lost, and where the final putt erupts in cheers and flashbulbs (or beers).

Which finishing holes are the best?

The argument can very much teeter on the objective vs. subjective, so the entire dynamic – from scoring average to history to layout – was considered when deciding that these 25 were some of the best in golf.

Pebble Beach

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(David Cannon/Getty Images)

The final hole at historic Pebble Beach is one of the most recognizable in golf. From the Cypress tree in the middle of the fairway to the Pacific waves crashing against the sea wall, the par-5 18th has stood as the ultimate finishing hole. It’s wild to think it started out as an unremarkable par 4.

Riviera Country Club

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(Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Just a few hours down the coast from Pebble Beach is another finishing hole that has been a deciding factor of many tournaments. The 18th at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, begins with a semi-blind tee shot and ends with a testy approach to a small green that rests against a natural amphitheater.

Old Course at St Andrews

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Stepping up to the 18th tee box at St. Andrews is a follow-up act some 600 years in the making. The historic finishing hole has been part of 29 British Opens, and the unique par 4 will undoubtedly be a factor during the 2021 Open. Though it’s not the longest (playing in the 350-360 yard range), the open layout and large putting surface make it a real test.

Doral Golf Resort & Spa

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(Photo by Stan Badz/PGA Tour)

The “Blue Monster” has lived up to its name for some time now, challenging golfers with water on the left side and trees on the right and massive bunkers hugging the green. A revamp in 2014-15 by Gil Hanse added more length and challenges, and though the course hasn’t hosted a PGA Tour event since 2016, the final hole is still one of the best in golf.

TPC Sawgrass

a person flying through the air on a golf course: May 12, 2018; Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA; Jordan Spieth plays his shot from the 18th tee during the third round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Golfweek May 12, 2018; Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA; Jordan Spieth plays his shot from the 18th tee during the third round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

(Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports)

One of the most notable one-two punches in golf, the difficult 17th (island green) is only a warm-up to an equally touchy final hole at TPC Sawgrass. The 462-yard par 4 has water on the left and trees on the right, and a tiered green that makes the second shot just as challenging as the tee shot. A par here during the final round (any round, really) feels like a birdie.

Harbour Town Golf Links

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Consistently in the top as one of the PGA Tour’s most difficult par 4s, the 472-yard 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links is one of the best (and often headache-inducing) finishing holes. Golfers must carry their tee shot over the marsh from the Calibogue Sound, and then hit a lengthier approach shot to a tiny green that is also protected by the water on the left. The signature lighthouse and surroundings make for a beautiful view, but that won’t lessen the tendency for average and even professional golfers to post a crooked number.

Augusta National

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(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

A tradition unlike any other wouldn’t be the case without a great finishing hole. The 18th at Augusta National delivers with a par 4 – known as “Holly” – that forces a golfer to be pinpoint accurate from tee box to final putt. Trees to the left force golfers to deal with fairway bunkers (some 330-plus yards to carry) and the approach to the elevated green isn’t any easier. It truly is a Masters-worthy finale.

Oakmont Country Club

a large green field with trees in the background: Oakmont's 18th green © Provided by Golfweek Oakmont's 18th green

(USA TODAY Sports)

At nearly 500 yards, the 18th at Oakmont Country Club is not only one of the most historic finishing holes in golf, but it’s also one of the most difficult. The classic clubhouse makes for an eye-catching backdrop, with an old school feel that takes you back to the early 1900s when the course was constructed. But don’t get too sidetracked: True to Oakmont form, golfers must hit the fairway from the tee to have a manageable uphill approach.

Bay Hill

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The finishing hole at Bay Hill is simply a gut check for the golfers – true to form when you think about its designer, Arnold Palmer. The 445-yard par 4 isn’t the most tormenting tee shot, but the extremely long and narrow green and the water protecting up the right side makes the approach as challenging as any in golf. Most golfers would be thrilled to par the hole – though most wouldn’t mind having a little Robert Gamez luck either.

Plantation Course at Kapalua

a group of people in a field with a mountain in the background: LAHAINA, HI - JANUARY 06: Dustin Johnson of the United States plays a shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 6, 2018 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) © Provided by Golfweek LAHAINA, HI - JANUARY 06: Dustin Johnson of the United States plays a shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 6, 2018 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

It’s hard to beat the view from the 18th at Kapalua. And at over 660 yards, it’s a view golfers will spend quite a bit of time enjoying. While longer hitters on tour have hit the green in two shots, the length and ocean-adjacent conditions make this hole a challenge, one that lives up to its billing as being among the top 100 most difficult scoring par 5s in golf.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

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(Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

Conquering the 18th at Shinnecock Hills has certainly been a factor when crowning a champion during the majors hosted there. A real test that begins with a partially blind tee shot, golfers must deal with bunkers, rough and a back-to-front sloping green with a false front and more sand.

Founded in 1891, the course has that old-timey feel you’d associate with a course that’s hosting The Open – but this one happens to be in Upstate New York.

Quail Hollow Club

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The 494-yard 18th at Quail Hollow has a small creek that winds its way up the left side and trees and a bunker line the narrow fairway to the right. The last leg of the “Green Mile,” which includes Nos. 16 and 17, too, it’s one of the most difficult par 4s in golf and makes for an incredible finishing hole.

Carnoustie Golf Links

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(Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

The hole that famously made Jean Van de Velde a household name back in 1999, the 18th at Carnoustie is one of the most difficult finishing holes in golf. At 444 yards, the par 4 is lined by a watery way – known as Barry Burn – that snakes through the entire hole, wreaking havoc from the tee shot to the approach. And if the water hazard doesn’t cast you into Bogey Land, then the several bunkers that also line the hole and green will surely do the job.

Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club

Hanbury Hall with a grassy field: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

(Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club)

Though it’s not the longest of finishing holes on this list, the 18th at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club is one of the most breathtaking. Like Oakmont, the 18th’s backdrop is the iconic clubhouse, the same that would have been the setting when Tony Jacklin won The Open there in 1969. And don’t be fooled by the distance – as almost expected, the par 4 is littered with bunkers, two sets of them diagonally cut across the fairway, making for a tedious tee shot.

Whistling Straits

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(Whistling Straits)

Known as “Dyeabolical,” the 18th at Whistling Straits is as eye-catching as it is double bogey-inducing. From the back tees, the hole can play over 500 yards. Different areas drop off into what seems like never-ending ravines, and the dunes and different elevations make it play more like a 600-yard par 5. A par here would be a trophy moment for any novice golfer.

Muirfield Village Golf Club

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(Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

The 484-yard 18th at Muirfield is one of the toughest finishing holes around, ranked No. 1 in 2019 (4.276). Designed by one of the greats, Jack Nicklaus, the lengthy par 4 tests golfers from tee box to the final putt, with bunkers lining the fairway to the right and in front of the green. The uphill approach to a multi-tiered green that rests in front of the clubhouse makes for one of the classic finishers at one of the PGA’s most prestigious tournaments (The Memorial).

Torrey Pines (North Course)

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(Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports)

Another lengthy finisher that gave golfers headaches in 2019 (4.218), the 18th at Torrey Pine’s North Course is the perfect setup for a pressure-filled final hole. Golfers need to control the drive up the left side of the narrow fairway while avoiding a bunker, and then must deal with a longer second shot into the two-tiered green.

Congressional Country Club (Blue Course)

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(Getty Images)

Take in the incredible backdrop of the clubhouse before you begin your tee-off regimen because the 18th at Congressional’s Blue Course will require every bit of concentration and perfection a golfer can muster. At 523 yards, this par 4 asks a lot. Even a lengthier drive that perfectly catches the downhill slope will still leave a 200-plus yard second into the peninsula green. This is another hole that arguably would be a par 5 for the average golfer.

Bethpage State Park (Black Course)

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The 18th at Bethpage Black isn’t overwhelming, although the 411-yard par 4 ranked in the top 20 for most difficult finishing holes in 2019. But the layout is one of the best. Bunkers line the fairway that is also dotted with fescue on both sides. The uphill approach set against the clubhouse makes for another aesthetically pleasing view. Not bad for a state park.

Valhalla Golf Club

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(USA TODAY Sports)

Carrying the name “Gahm Over,” a fun nod and wordplay to designer Dwight Gahm, the 18th at Valhalla is a perfect finishing hole. The par 5 isn’t too monstrous at 542 yards – but the bunkers on the left side of the fairway and the lagoon on the right add stress to the tee shot. It’s the approach shots, however, that give this hole its namesake. A large bunker sits at the center of the multi-tiered green, and makes for quite a test depending on the hole location.

Winged Foot Golf Club (West Course)

a crowd of people in a field: The 18th green at Winged Foot Golf Club. © Provided by Golfweek The 18th green at Winged Foot Golf Club.

(Getty Images)

The 450-yard 18th at Winged Foot became (unfortunate) history during the 2006 U.S. Open, when Phil Mickelson’s double-bogey paved the way for Geoff Ogilvy’s victory. All that aside, though, the hole is worthy of a major championship finisher. The dogleg left is protected by bunkers, making for a tedious tee shot, and the approach to the elevated green only adds to the difficulty. (Ironically, most average golfer would be happy with a double-bogey.)

Medinah Country Club (No. 3)

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Although the 449-yard finisher at Medinah seems pretty straightforward – a few bunkers down the right add some pressure to the tee shot, but it’s manageable – the elevated green and surrounding bunkers make the approach more difficult. This finishing hole makes this list because, from tee box to green, it’s one of the best layouts. From the water behind the tee box to the centuries-old trees that line the fairway and wrap behind the elevated green, the design (which dates back to the 1920s) is quite the eye-catcher.

Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead Course)

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The picture is worth a thousand words (strokes?). The 18th at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course is a majestic, tree-lined test, and the uphill tee shot needs to be perfect if you’re going to avoid the bunkers on either side of the fairway. Sand also comes into play during the approach—one trap in the front and one in the back right—that makes accuracy into the sloping green a must. This was the 10th-toughest finisher in 2019 (4.199).

Inverness Club

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A sub-400-yard finisher? Yes, indeed. The 18th at Inverness is the perfect example of using elevations and sand (a whole bunch of sand) to make the finale a stressful one for golfers – both professional and amateur. Dotted with ten bunkers from the fairway to the green, accuracy is crucial during the tee shot and the approach. Although the par 4 is only 358 yards, bogey here isn’t uncommon, especially if your shot lands in one of the deep bunkers (including Tway’s Trap, the sizeable green-side bunker that Bob Tway famously holed out from to win the1986 PGA Championship over Greg Norman).

Old Course at Royal Troon

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How straight can you hit it off the tee? It’s a simple question—that oftentimes has a difficult answer – and makes for one of the best types of finishing holes in golf. The 18th at Royal Troon’s Old Course is a straight shot. Thick rough and four deep bunkers – three on the left and one the right – make hitting the target off the tee a must. Five more bunkers protect the green, which sits in from of the historic clubhouse (and out of bounds). The championship tees play at 464 yards, which adds a little length to the accuracy test. Like St. Andrews, the history of the game (this course founded in 1876) only heightens the experience.

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