By RANDY YOUNGMAN
Supposedly, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest known golf course in the United States started in California and was so long that it stretched over the state line – across many state lines, in fact – all the way to the East Coast.
It was a one-hole course that covered 3,397.7 miles from coast to coast and was played only once, by Floyd Rood, who needed nearly 13 months to finish.
Rood, formerly a teaching professional at St. Mary Golf Club in Berwick, La., began his “round” off the Pacific Coast in California on Sept. 14, 1963 and hacked his way across the continental United States, finally reaching the Atlantic Coast on Oct. 3, 1964, presumably celebrating with a tap-in into the Florida surf.
In case you’re wondering, Rood said he needed 114,737 strokes to play the course, which was tricked up with National Park-sized bunkers such as the Grand Canyon and forced carries over entire mountain ranges and winding rivers such as the 1,900-mile Rio Grande. (Sounds as if Pete Dye designed the course, doesn’t it?)
Along the way, Rood reported that he lost 3,511 golf balls. So if the entire country were played as a lateral hazard, that means par has been established at 18,248. We’ll also call it the course record.
If that’s the longest “course” in the world, the longest individual hole in the world – that is, a traditional golf hole with a tee and a flagstick – currently is believed to be No. 3 at Gunsan Club in the North Jeolla Province of South Korea. It’s 1,100 yards long. (“It’s a par-7!” Ladies European Tour player Florentyna Parker wrote on Twitter in 2018 after making par: “Driver, 3 wood, 3 wood, 3 wood, 5 wood and 2 putts = par.”)
Before that, the longest golf hole in the world had been a 1,007-yard, par-6 at Chocolay Downs in Michigan, which broke the previous record of a 964-yard, par-7 at Satsuki Golf Course in Sano, Japan, which broke the previous record of a 948-yard, par-7 at Koolan Island Golf Club in western Australia. Get the idea? Everybody wants to build the longest golf hole in the world.
But here at California Golf, we’re more interested in the longest courses and longest holes in the Golden State. Those seem to change regularly, too, and are subject to debate, of course.
Current leader in the clubhouse, so to speak, is Martis Camp in the Northern California golf mecca of Truckee, an ultra-exclusive private club with as many mansions and palatial estates as Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks. From the back tees, Martis Camp stretches to 7,707 yards, including the 645-yard 10th.
Not so fast.
Before we crown Martis Camp as the state’s longest, the South Course at Torrey Pines in La Jolla has something to say. The scorecard says Torrey South measures 7,698 yards from the tips, where the PGA Tour players tee it up annually in the Farmers Insurance Open, but there’s an asterisk. In the recent $14 million renovation of the course to prepare for the 2021 U.S. Open, architect Rees Jones has added new teeboxes on the par-4 10th and 15th holes that will add nearly 100 yards to the course yardage, according to Scott Bentley, the golf course manager for the City of San Diego.
And Bentley says the new Open yardage will be 7,802 yards, which includes back-to-back par-5s that top 600 yards: No. 9 (614 yards) and No. 13 (620 yards).
So we have a new leader in the state of California! (Or soon will.) Sorry, Martis.
Coming in at No. 3 is an oldie but goodie: the South Course at Los Serranos Country Club in Chino Hills. Formerly known and promoted as “California’s Longest Golf Course” from the black tees known as “Jack’s Blacks,” Los Serranos South measures 7,628 yards, thanks to the longest hole in California – the signature, 677-yard, par-5 18th. (More on that later.)
Rounding out the top five longest courses in California are Old Greenwood in Truckee (7,518 yards), where the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship will be played in July, and sister course Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing (7,466 yards, including three par-5s topping 600 yards).
SilverRock Resort in LaQuinta used to crack the top five when it measured 7,578 yards as part of the PGA Tour’s Humana Challenge rotation from 2008-11. But after the Humana (formerly the Bob Hope Classic and currently the American Express Championship) was reduced from five rounds and four courses to four rounds and three courses, SilverRock was dropped from the rota and the course was shortened to 7,239 yards.
Honorable mention in California’s unofficial Longest Course Competition go to The Club at Ruby Hill in Pleasanton (7,448 yards); Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon, The Legends Course (7,442 yards); The Madison Club in La Quinta (7,426 yards); Fall River Valley Golf & Country Club in Fall River Mills (7,402 yards); Barona Creek Golf Course in Lakeside (7,393 yards); The Champions Course at Morongo (7,377); Indian Wells Golf Resort, Players Course (7,376); and CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin (7,360 yards).
LONGEST HOLES: The longest hole in the state of California, as previously mentioned, is the dogleg-left, 677-yard, par-5 finishing hole at Los Serrano South. As if length isn’t daunting enough, the green is guarded in the front by a large lake that forces many players to lay up on their third shot rather than trying to clear the hazard from long distance. It requires three long, well-struck shots to reach the green in regulation.
Here is the tale of the tape of some of California’s longest par-5s. You will need the latest technology to try to conquer these:
- Los Serranos South, Chino Hills: No. 18, 677 yards. Good luck.
- Fall River Valley Golf & Country Club, Fall River Mills: No. 3, 672 yards. Longest hole on a course nestled between the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges in northeast California in Shasta County. Surrounded by mountains in all four directions.
- The Olympic Club (Lake Course), San Francisco: No. 16, 670 yards. Don’t mention this dogleg-left to Jim Furyk, who lost the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic after he butchered the hole in the final round.
- Mission Hills Country Club (Dinah Shore Tournament Course), Rancho Mirage: No. 18, 646 yards. Aside from a group of eight members who play from the tips every week, the back tees are rarely used. The next teebox is at 531 yards. (Note: SilverRock’s 12th used to be 658 yards before the re-design.)
- The Madison Club, La Quinta: No. 14, 645 yards. The longer the hole, the more time to order filet mignon or lobster or caviar or Louis XIII cognac. Seriously. That’s how exclusive this private club is.
Tie: Martis Camp, Truckee: No. 10, 645 yards. It’s easy to be distracted looking at all of the mansions on the course.
- Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing, Truckee: No. 3, 641 yards, featuring a barranca that must be traversed on your second or third shot. The course has two other 600-yarders: No. 7, 624; and No. 18, 613.
- Strawberry Farms GC, Irvine: No. 12, 630 yards. The longest par-5 in Orange County. Playing from the tips, not even Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy or John Daly could get home in two on this gargantuan, dogleg-right that plays into the wind and then uphill to the flag.
- Indian Wells Golf Resort (Players Course): No. 9, 626 yards.Like its sister Celebrity Course, The Players is ranked in GolfWeek’s Top 25 Courses You Can Play. Celebrity is the “The Beauty” and Players is “The Beast.” This hole is course’s ultimate beast.
- Talega Golf Club, San Clemente: No. 13, 624 yards. It’s a diabolical hole, because a well-struck driver down the right side of the fairway often will bounce into a ravine 250 yards from the tee. The fairway is also sloped left to right, which can kick a seemingly great drive wickedly to the right and into trouble.