Old Course at St. Andrews
When American Golfer Scott Hoch said a few years back that the Old Course at St Andrews was "the worst piece of mess" he'd ever seen, it nearly created an international incident. Hoch's words were rude and insensitive, but was he wrong? Tiger Woods exposed the revered Home of Golf as obsolete at the 2000 British Open, when his long drives took fairway bunkers out of play, and depending on the wind, there were up to four par-4 holes he could reach with his driver. Woods shot 19 under, the lowest score in major championship history, despite playing conservatively through Sunday's final nine.
The Old Course is the world's most famous links and perhaps its most fun layout, but it's nae much for the British Open. British pro Lee Westwood once admitted the Old Course wasn't in "his top 200." "In the east of Scotland?" asked fellow English pro Mark James, also no fan of the Old Course. "No," Westwood deadpanned, "in Fife!" What they meant to say, we believe, is that the Old Course is the worst piece of mess they'd ever seen.
Shinnecock Hills, a windswept track on the tip of Long Island, is not only America's best links, but it's also America's best course. It would be No. 1 in the rankings, too, if the New York-based magazine editors who rule those lists weren't members at Pine Valley and/or Winged Foot, sucking up to Augusta National or looking to score some tee times at Pebble Beach. Shinnecock is an absolute killer, which makes it the perfect place to play the U.S. Open, golf's ultimate survival test. (The Open returns there in 2004.) Shinnecock's opening hole is relatively easy, assuming you find the fairway. After that, lad, lash down your kilties, especially on a collection of par-3s that rival Augusta National's in difficulty. The last guy who won the Open there in 1995 hit a four-wood to the 18th green in the final round. Now that's a manly par 4. That guy, Corey Pavin, got his 4...and finished at even par for 72 holes. Raymond Floyd was a meager one under par when he won the '86 Open at Shinnecock Ousting winds raked the '95 Open's third round so hard that second-round leader Greg Norman shot 74 and remained in first place. He called that 74 the equivalent of a 62 in normal conditions. Asked about Tom Lehman's third-round 67, Norman replied, "He shot 59." Said Lehman, "You can't tame this course. You can only survive it."
Or maybe not. At the '95 Open, a 145-pound amateur named Tiger Woods completed only 23 holes. He injured his wrist slashing out of Shinnecock's ferocious fescue on the 6th hole and quit rather than take another rip from the rough. That's another reason Shinnecock Hills is underrated: It's the only course in the world to score a TKO against Woods.