Every weekend golfer has that story. A story about one hole where using a putter for each shot would have been just as effective as using the woods and irons in the bag. We rarely see that kind of dreadful experience on the PGA Tour, but it happens. What is the highest score on a single hole in PGA Tour history?
7 (Tie). Kevin Na, 2011 Valero Texas Open — 16
Kevin Na starts off the list for the highest score on a single hole in PGA Tour history with a 16 on the par-4 9th hole at the 2011 Valero Texas Open at the TPC San Antonio. After hitting his tee shot right, he hit a provisional then proceeded to find the first ball and declared it unplayable. He re-teed and once again found the trees and brush. In his second visit to the woods, Na managed to hit a shot that ricocheted off of his body, and he completely whiffed on another attempted shot.
Hilariously, the next year Na returned to the 2012 Valero Texas Open, and cleared a portion of the woods with a chainsaw and left his shirt from the 2011 tournament as a sacrifice to the golf gods.
7 (Tie). Gary McCord, 1986 Fed Ex St. Jude Classic — 16
The former golfer-turned-announcer recorded a 16 on the par-5 16th at Colonial Club in Memphis, during the 1986 Fed Ex St. Jude Classic. After his tee shot struck a tree, McCord had a little over 200 yards remaining to clear the water and reach the green. He proceeded to deposit five consecutive approach shots in the drink. He finally switched from a 4-iron to a 3-iron and then sank a challenging 25-foot putt to record a 16.
6. George Bayer, 1957 Kentucky Derby Open — 17
George Bayer starred as a football player at the University of Washington before being drafted in the 20th round of the 1949 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. After football, Bayer pursued a career in golf and had some success winning three PGA Tour events. In the 1957 Kentucky Derby Open, Bayer, who would sometimes openly get frustrated with his game, became so exasperated on one hole he chipped the ball up the 17th with a 7-iron en route to recording a score of 17. The PGA Tour gave him a 30-day suspension for “unsportsmanlike conduct.”
5. John Daly, 1998 Bay Hill Invitational — 18
John Daly earned his spot on the list for single highest score on the 6th hole at Bay Hill, a par-5, 543-yard hole with a lake between the tee box and the green. Daly hit his tee shot in the water, then took a drop 30 yards from the tee box. He then pulled out a 3-wood and hit five consecutive shots into the drink.
When Daly cleared the water on his sixth shot, it plugged into the bank and he had to take a drop and another penalty stroke. He was lying 14 when his 6-iron shot landed on the rocks lining the water and bounced into a nearby trap. He blasted out of the trap and then two-putted to card an 18.
2 (Tie). Ray Ainsley, 1938 U.S. Open — 19
At Cherry Hills Country Club on the par-4 16th, Ray Ainsley’s approach shot landed in a creek next to the green. Bizarrely, Ainsley opted to hit the submerged ball. Each time he took a hack, the current moved the ball further downstream. Eventually, he punched the ball out sending it past the hole and behind a tree on the other side of the green. He chipped up on to the green and putted in for his 19.
2 (Tie). Dale Douglass, 1963 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am — 19
In the final round of the 1963 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, Dale Douglass sliced his tee shot on the par-4 10th hole and it landed on the beach. After numerous swings and multiple unplayable lies, Douglass reached the fairway lying 14. With his 15th shot he deposited the ball in the green-side bunker. A couple shots later and two putts, Douglass recorded a 19.
2 (Tie). Hans Merrell, 1959 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am — 19
On the par-3 16th hole at Cypress Point, Hans Merrell’s tee shot landed on the beach, approximately 75 feet below the green. Merrell laced his second shot into the ice plant vegetation, which covered a large portion of the beach area. After his third shot traveled about a foot, Merrell took four more hacks before declaring the ball unplayable.
He took a drop back on the beach and then proceeded to hit it right back into the ice plant. After a couple more whacks and another drop on the sand, Merrell reached the green on his 16th shot. He barely missed a 20-foot putt before carding a 19.
1. Tommy Armour, 1927 Shawnee Open — 23
Topping the list for highest score on a single hole in PGA Tour history is three-time major champion winner Tommy Armour. Ironically, it happened a week after Armour narrowly defeated Bobby Jones in the 1927 U.S. Open. On a par-5 at the Shawnee Open, Armour finished the hole with an 18-over score and became the first golfer in PGA Tour history to record an “archaeopteryx,” the term used to describe a single-hole score of 15 or more over par.
Armour’s record score shows even the best players in the world are human and can have a horrible hole every once in a while. And weekend golfers can all relate because they know all-too-often exactly what that feels like.