5 scariest shots at Whistling Straits, as attempted by 3 average golfers

At 7,790 yards, with course and slope ratings of 77.2 and 152, respectively, Whistling Straits is rife with daunting drives, slippery putts, mouth-puckering approaches and hazards plucked from your darkest nightmares. But not all its challenges are created equal. Having faced a frightening array of them on a recent tour of this year’s Ryder Cup site, two of my colleagues and I drew up an entirely subjective (yet indisputable) list of the 5 most fearsome shots on the property. (Listed yardages are from the tips.)

No. 4, par-4, 494 yards: Tee shot

From the tips of this 494-yard par-4, the fairway looks absurdly slender. Ridiculously remote, too. That combo of length and visual intimidation (behold the pot bunkers if you stray on the stout carry to the short grass) help explain the hole’s rating as the number-one index on the course. Fear factor: 8 of 10.

The knee-knocking view from the back tees at 4.

No. 6, par-4, 409 yards: Escaping the greenside bunker

The shortest par-4 on the course is named the Gremlin’s Ear, in reference to the shape of its two-lobed green. Wedged between those lobes is a sod-walled bunker that is deeper than it is wide. Depending on where your errant approaches settles, you might not have the wiggle room to take a backswing. Gremlin’s Ear? More like an orifice in the devil’s derriere. Fear factor: 7 out of 10

Good luck.

No. 8, par-4, 506 yards: Approach

Sand dunes to the left. Deep bunkers and Lake Michigan to the right. A hanging lie from a tilted fairway toward an infinity green that drops off to the water. Aside from that, it’s a pretty simple shot. Fear factor: 7 out of 10

Long no good, right no good.

No. 12, par-3, 163 yards: Putt to front-left hole from back-right of green

Every tried reading Homer in ancient Greek? Easier that than trying to figure out the zigs and zags in this cross-country journey, where leaving your first putt short, in three-putt territory, is just as likely as running it downhill and off the green.  Fear factor: 6 out of 10

Four-putt territory.

No. 18, par-4, 520 yards: Approach

Few par-4s of more than 500 yards (this one measures 520) are apt to leave you with an easy second shot. This one is further complicated by swirling winds that often require an extra club while requiring a carry over Seven Mile Creek. Fear factor: 9 out of 10, or with a Ryder Cup match on the line: 100 out of 10.  

The all-carry approach at 18.

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A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.