Due to its reputation as a luxurious pastime, many people underestimate how demanding golf can be as a sport. It demands flexibility, stability, control and power, as well as strength and technique.
With the huge range of courses across the world, there are countless options for practicing your swing, at home and abroad. As well as more reliable weather, high altitude golfing and tee-ing off in the desert are just a few of the unique and challenging experiences you can find if you go a little further afield.
If you are looking for a little adventure abroad, here are some of the world's most difficult holes to whet your appetite:
Cape Kidnappers (pictured above), New Zealand 15th Hole - a scenic course with a deadly drop
You can take your pick of difficult holes on this course but the 15 stands out as the hardest. You’ll need a head for heights to take on this hole; it has a 70ft drop on one side and a 500ft cliff on the other, making it a challenge not to lose your ball for good.
The rest of course at Cape Kidnapper is pretty spectacular, designed by renowned golf architect Tom Doak. It is divided into rocky 'fingers' of land which give the course a rugged appearance and make all the more challenging. Its cliff top location adds some drama to the mix.
Pebble Beach, USA 8th Hole - to golf like the greats
Another tough hole from across the pond is Pebble Beach's 8th. Stunning in appearance, it looks out over Monterey Bay and is famed as much for its beauty as its difficultness. The stretch is 416 yards long and the par four hole is surrounded by cliffs. The course falls off dramatically on the right hand side where the edge of the hole meets the cliffs and shots that go too far right will find a similar fate. In addition, throughout the year the course is battered by strong winds and rain.
Elfego Baca Shootout - a one hole course with unrivalled views of New Mexico
This golfing competition is held annually in Socorro, New Mexico. The shootout is named after the area’s former sheriff, Elfego Baca, who had an unorthodox attitude to keeping law and order in the area during the days of the Wild West.
The course only consists of one hole, which is not a hole in the strict sense but a 50ft patch of dirt. This doesn’t sound overly difficult but as soon as you prepare to tee off, 2550ft up the side of a mountain, you become a lot less confident. The starting point is three miles from the green and the landscape is so arid and uneven that entrants are allowed to tee up before every shot. The current record for this super long hole is 9 strokes but the score card goes up to 75.
Golden Bell, Augusta USA 12th Hole - to pit yourself against the professionals
Despite being the shortest hole on the course, at 155 yards, hole 12 is rife with difficulty. Sandwiched in between three bunkers and Rae’s creek, keeping your ball on this course is one of its main issues. Jack Nicklaus advises golfers to ‘aim over that front bunker’ when attempting hole 12 so ‘that if you come up with a hair short you’re in the bunker not the water.’ If that wasn’t hard enough, hole 12 is plagued by extreme winds and a very slick, fast green.
Legend Golf and Safari Resort 19th hole, South Africa – for making an entrance by helicopter and the chance to win $1 million
The 19th hole on this course has been labelled 'extreme' by some of the world's top golfers. Separate from the main golf course on the resort, this hole is situated at the top of a mountain and is only accessible by helicopter, which is provided by the resort. This Par three hole is 430 metres long and the resort is offering a prize of $1 million to anyone who can achieve a hole in one.
If you're planning on booking a flight (from London) to pit yourself against some of the world's trickiest golf courses, it's worth considering the cost of taking your golfing equipment on board a flight.
Heathrow parking specialists Purple Parking have put together a handy golf baggage allowance chart so that you'll have all the information you need when booking your flight for your golfing holiday.
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