Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Oakmont's Church Pew bunker ranks among golf's toughest features

The U.S. Open returns to Oakmont this week, bringing the infamous Church Pew bunkers back into the national spotlight. A series of ridges designed to bring you to your knees, the Church Pews rank among golf’s most notable features. In their honor, let’s consider more of the most challenging and distinctive features in golf.

The Church Pews. (Getty)

Church Pews, Oakmont: The 12 mounds that make up the pews lie between the third and fourth fairways, luring wayward drives their way. So difficult and shaped that even a sideways pitch is a challenge, the Pews are enough to make a grown man renounce the game.

Rae's Creek. (AP)

Rae’s Creek, Augusta: The gentle, winding creek that traces the far reaches of Augusta National doesn’t seem like trouble. But the fierce slope of the 12th green and the long carry of the 13th fairway bring the creek into play, and as Jordan Spieth can tell you, a lot of hopes can drown in that little creek.

The Island Green. (Reuters)

Island Green, TPC Sawgrass: Gimmicky? Sure. An unfair test late in the day for a would-be major tournament? Probably. But the Island Green, the focus of a million go-for-it motivational break room posters, remains probably the most recognizable hole in golf.

Hell Bunker. (Getty)

Hell, St. Andrews: The Old Course at St. Andrews has an entire array of bunkers with appropriately ominous names, like The Coffins and the Principal’s Nose, but none is more vicious than Hell, ten feet deep and more than 300 square yards. You end up in Hell, you’re going to pay for your swinging sins.

Devil's [Redacted]. (AP)

Devil’s [Redacted], Pine Valley: The 10th at Pine Valley doesn’t appear too treacherous, a shortish par 3 with only a little bunker guarding the front. But there’s a reason that bunker, six feet deep, is called the Devil’s … well, let’s say “Tailpipe,” since we’re a family website. End up there, and you're looking at an impossible chip up to the green and a face full of sand.

The Basement. (AP)

The Basement, Chambers Bay: Nine feet deep, its slopes so steep that it requires stairs to descend, the Basement on the 18th of Chambers Bay sits in perfect position to destroy rounds, tournaments, hopes, dreams, the will to go on living. Here, for instance, is Tiger Woods descending into The Basement:

 

Cypress Point. (Getty)

The Surf, Cypress Point: The 16th at Cypress Point is another deceptive par 3; once you’ve finished gawking at the beauty of this majesty, all you’ve got to deal with is the rushing of the surf and the treacherous rocks that line the entire hole, with zero room for error. No big deal.

Barry Burn. (Getty)

Barry Burn, Carnoustie: More than a creek, not quite a river, this waterway wends through Carnoustie. On the 18th hole, players must cross it three different times before reaching the green; it’s the site of golf’s most famous collapse—the 1999 meltdown of Jean van de Velde at the Open Championship. And the Barry Burn rolls on, blissfully unconcerned with the carnage in its wake.

The bunker at Whistling Straits. (AP)

The Bunkers, Whistling Straits: The bunkers at Whistling Straits are both more and less than your typical sand bunkers: more because they are everywhere within seemingly a hundred-mile radius of the course, and less because the gallery often walks right through them … as Dustin Johnson, who famously grounded his club in a “bunker” in the 2010 PGA Championship, can attest.

The Blue Monster. (Getty)

The Blue Monster, Doral: The entire course at Trump Doral goes by the “Blue Monster” designation now, but it stems from that vicious 18th hole, an intimidating tee shot with water filling up your view and luring your tee shot wayward into two separate, distinct inlets. Shots at the 18th regularly end up half a stroke more than the par-4; the Blue Monster has no mercy.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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