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    This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, visit

    Golf in Louisville began in 1886, when tobacco businessman George C. Patton and a handful of colleagues opened a six-hole course and a clubhouse on South Third Street. Nine years later, the city opened Cherokee Golf Course, the fifth public golf course ever in the United States. As golf’s popularity grew in the early-20th century, the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. began producing golf clubs in 1916. H&B’s clubs never sold like its Slugger baseball bats, but New Albany, Indiana, native Fuzzy Zoeller used H&B clubs to win the 1979 Masters Tournament and the 1984 U.S. Open.

    Metro Parks operates Louisville’s public courses. Private courses are a different beast entirely, requiring an expensive membership to play. Outsiders can find a member willing to take them (Craigslist, anyone?) or speak with one of the public course’s PGA professionals, who should have the connections to dig up a guest pass.

    We talked to those same golf pros to help us determine the nine most difficult holes in town, most of which are in the (far) East End.

    Charlie Vettiner Golf Course No. 18

    Length: 544 yards

    Par: 5

    Course type: Public

    10207 Mary Dell Lane

    With an uphill tee shot over a lake and a long fairway, this hole is capped off by what PGA pro Mark Kemper describes as a “deceptively undulating” green guarded by three large sand traps. Golfers need a powerful stroke and the finesse to hit an accurate approach shot onto the green to make par.

    Seneca Golf Course No. 3

    Length: 584 yards

    Par: 5

    Course type: Public

    2300 Pee Wee Reese Road

    A long par 5, this hole is relatively straightforward until the green, which features a large ridge running across the middle. The ground is steeply sloped on either side, making an accurate putt nearly impossible if the approach shot lands on the wrong half of the green.

    Big Spring Country Club No. 11

    Length: 463 yards

    Par: 4

    Course type: Private

    5901 Dutchmans Lane

    Before Valhalla Golf Club opened in 1986, Big Spring boasted the premier golf course in the city. The club held the 1952 PGA Championship. On No. 11, an accurate tee shot is extremely important to get around the sand trap and trees that hug the right side of the fairway.

    Persimmon Ridge Golf Course No. 13

    Length: 388 yards

    Par: 4

    Course type: Private

    72 Persimmon Ridge Drive

    This hole plays more like 460 or 470 yards as serious golfers hug the right edge of the fairway, away from a lake that runs along the opposite side. Alternatively, casual golfers can skip this hole altogether and go fishing in the lake, a popular attraction for the residents of Persimmon Ridge’s upscale neighborhood.

    Valhalla Golf Club No. 6,
    aka “The Bear”

    Length: 474 yards

    Par: 4

    Course type: Private

    15503 Shelbyville Road

    Floyds Fork creek cuts across the fairway, limiting the distance of a tee shot. To make up for the shortened drive, a 225-yard second shot is necessary to reach the green, which is difficult even with a 3-wood. On the other hand, you’re playing on one of the finest courses in the world. Valhalla hosted the Ryder Cup in 2008 and the PGA Championship in 1996, 2000. (The PGA returns to Valhalla this month.) Tiger Woods won there on his historic 2000 campaign, winning a record three out of golf’s four major championships in one year. So savor every frustrating moment.

    Hurstbourne Country Club No. 2

    Length: 455 yards

    Par: 4

    Course type: Private

    9000 Hurstbourne Club Lane

    Hurstbourne No. 2 is evil. Pure evil. Golfers have to show restraint, as almost any tee shot longer than 200 yards lands either in the tight out-of-bounds area or in the large bunker on the left side of the fairway. That bunker seems to have a golf ball magnet buried in the sand. Any ball hit to the right side of the fairway must contend with giant trees that line the grass’ edge like paparazzi leaning over a barricade to desperately snap a photo of a red-carpet star. A well-placed tee shot leaves the golfer with another tough hit: 220 yards over a second lake and past the two NFL lineman-sized bunkers guarding a hilly green. Shooting below par on this hole is nothing short of a miracle.

    Renaissance Fun Park No. 3 (Red Course)

    Length: Five yards or so

    Par: 3

    Course type: Mini-golf

    201 Park Place Drive

    Ambitious putters usually try hitting a hard shot along the hill at the first turn. This launches the ball out of bounds onto an adjacent hole and can be extremely embarrassing for anyone trying to show off on a date, or so I’ve heard.

    Long Run Golf Course No. 14

    Length: 470 yards

    Par: 4

    Course type: Public

    1605 Flat Rock Road

    Landscape architects Miller, Wihry and Brooks originally designed this course to have nine easy holes. In the early 1980s, however, the city decided to cut into the thick woods just east of the course and built a back nine. These new tree-enclosed holes are furiously difficult, especially No. 14. The fairway curves down into a valley and then rises back up to an elevated green, which requires a grueling, uphill, 200-yard approach shot.

    Long Run Golf Course No. 15

    Length: 478 yards

    Par: 4

    Like a one-two punch, this long par 4 follows Long Run’s No. 14. An approach shot over a lake lands the ball on a “turtleback” green, which means that a hill in the middle of the green rolls any errant putts away from the hole. Turtleback greens are golf’s way of giving players the middle finger. There is no good way to play this hole; only a golfer with an immaculate short game can shoot a birdie. 

    Written by Will Ryan

    Photograph courtesy of

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