It has the makings of a publicity stunt, but having one of the longest golf holes in America is also about pride. Course owners and golf pros are pleased to divulge the yardage of their longest hole, from back tee to cup. And, when asked, most add with a hint of uncertainty, “I think we have the longest hole, right?” and then, reassuringly: “It’s really not as hard as it looks.”
Another slightly comforting piece of information when there is no sign of a flag down the fairway: On most of these holes, you can take one more swing than usual to get your ball onto the green. The USGA guidelines are such that any hole 691 yards and longer from the back tees or 591 and longer from the ladies’ tees can be considered a par 6. If you have never heard of a par 6, you are not alone; there are very few of them in the U.S., but most courses with that kind of yardage take advantage of the extra swing (seven of our top ten are par 6), although some golfers don’t need it.
One man playing at the longest hole at Meadows Farms in Locust Grove, Virginia double eagled the 841-yard hole, sinking it in three shots. “He was a long hitter,” general manager Bobby Lewis said. “We were shocked, but we did verify it.”
Bill Meadows, aka “Farmer,” conceived of the longest hole in the late 1990s. At first, the course designer was skeptical, but when he realized it would be a challenge, he went with it. “You have to design it so it’s not something golfers dread,” said Bill Ward Jr., designer of Meadow Farm’s longest hole, as well as a couple of other par 6 holes. “That’s the hardest part—make it look very difficult, but have it be relatively easy.”
Who is it not easy for? Landscapers. The upkeep of a long hole is expensive. Chocolay Golf Club in Marquette, Michigan has had a 1007-yard hole “laid out” for over three years. Golf pro Dennis Kargela said he is not sure if the novelty of it would bring in enough business to cover maintenance costs. The hole would require 50 sprinkler heads and a few 50-pound bags of fertilizer. Aerating it would take twice as long as any of their other holes. “We’re considering reshaping and cutting it down for that reason,” he said.
Veteran record holders at this point, the Meadow Farms landscaping team has managed. “Other than the fairway being long, and so much more to cut, it’s a great hole,” said Meadow Farms’ superintendent Bucky Wheeler, who has been mowing, and playing, the hole for 14 years. “I’ve birdied it before, but I took a ten on it before too. It hurt me to write that ten on the scorecard.”