Course Rater Confidential: What was the best golf hole you played for the first time in 2020?

GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. The goal is not only to entertain you but also to give you a better understanding of how to understand and appreciate golf course architecture. You can see GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World ranking here, and our Top 100 Courses in the U.S. here. Meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.

Though this past year did not allow for the kind of travel many of us might have liked, a number of our course raters still managed to get out and about. Here, as part of our 2020 recap, we’ll let them break down the most memorable of golf architecture and golf courses in 2020.

Forget golf course, what was the best golf hole you played for the first time in 2020, and why?

Steve Lapper (has played 84 of the World Top 100): Nearly stumped, I have to go with the 5th hole at Madison Golf Club. It’s a polarizing and awkward par-4, with a blind tee shot over a partly sunken major suburban N.J. road — you aim between telephone poles, trying not to hit the transformer box — to a roller-coaster fairway then up to a tricky, tilted green. It was pure, unconventional quirk.

Thomas Brown (has played 95 of the World Top 100): Wait, is this a trick question on signature holes? I find myself charmed by sequences of three or four holes together rather than just a single point on the course, but if one stood out, then the 5th hole at Lancaster Country Club is it. The William Flynn-designed par-4 is a right-to-left draw into a sloping fairway down to the green. The approach requires a center-struck iron shot over a narrow tributary from the Conestoga River. Our next opportunity to see Lancaster is when the U.S. Women’s Open returns in 2024.

Michael Pelliccione (has played 60 of the World Top 100): Tough question but I’m a sucker for a good downhill par-4. Maybe it’s the fact that my weak butter-cut stays in the air for a few seconds longer. The two that come to mind that I was fortunate to play were the 10th at The Kirtland Country Club and the 9th at Huntingdon Valley Country Club.

Joe Andriole (has played all of the World Top 100): I was privileged to see Rolling Rock, in Pennsylvania, for the first time this year and was absolutely charmed by the nine Donald Ross holes. They exude minimalism, but the green complexes make the holes so complex and vexing: they appear easy but don’t play so. Of the lot, I would choose the 2nd hole, maybe based on the day’s hole location.

Tim Gallant (has played 62 of the World Top 100): Oof! This is tough. Runner-up goes to the splendid par-3 10th on Berkshire’s Red course near London, England. But the best hole I played this year was the wild and wonderful 3rd hole at Murcar Golf Club. A par-4 that plays semi-blind to a multi-terraced fairway before giving way to a green tucked between dunes on both sides. It has to be seen to be believed.

Adam Messix (has played all of the World Top 100): It was a tough year for seeing new courses, but I managed to see St. George’s Golf & Country Club in New York in late fall and what a treat it was. There are so many cool holes and features, but I loved the par-5 6th and how it weaves its way around, tricking the player into the right-hand side of the fairway when the preferred line is from the left.

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