David Bryce is a freelance writer and long-time golfer who concedes that the most hazardous part of his game are the fat, imported cigars he likes to smoke. When he’s not working on this putt, you can usually find him blogging or yelling at the television.
On occasion, heated debates take place over USGA’s Rule 26: The Water Hazard. The one aspect never contested is the unending belief that water hazards are inherently tricky. And that they’re responsible for millions of dollars lost in sunken white balls across the world (though fishing them out is a pretty hefty underground racket).
At my local course, Thousand Hills, the Ozarks create their own hazards, one of which is avoiding driving you ball into the Branson cabins. Amongst unique worldwide water hazards, two distinctive types stick out: those bearing predators and those featuring impossibly wide gaps.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most interesting of both…
The lake along the 15th fairway of Carbrook Golf Club in Queensland, Australia gets a lot of press. Home to a handful of bull sharks rumored to have washed ashore during a flood several years ago, this is no urban legend. Said to be 8-10 feet long, they’re real, they’re hungry, and they’ve basically become the mascot and flagship for the entire course. Though slightly unnerving, the sharks have yet to attack a player.
Being built in the crater of an extinct volcano isn’t the dangerous feature of the Lost City Golf Course in Sun City, South Africa. The pond along the 13th hole that contains nearly 40 adult Nile crocodiles definitely is, however. Amid some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet, the snapping snouts rarely come into play, but that’s no reason to drop your guard.
Upon entering Skukuza Golf Course in Kruger National Park, South Africa, a sign warns, “Beware: Dangerous Animals. Enter at Your Own Risk.” Naturally, if you’re here, you’ve already signed the safety waiver and are expecting a little danger. This course introduces a new peril: hungry hippopotami, widely thought to be the most dangerous animal in Africa. While warthogs and lions have been known to wander onto the greens, this entire course circles around Lake Panic, where the 8,000 lb. beasts eyeball every move you make.
Set along a beautiful, expansive lake, the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho features a par-3 floating 14th hole. Unique for its mobility, this isn’t an actual island and can be moved according to computerized tracks. Assuming you land on the green, the Putter Boat takes you for a little ride and afterward, whether you sunk the ball or not, you’re issued a Certificate of Achievement for just playing. This is also the only course I’ve played out of all listed here.
At the world-class Cypress Point Club, a private course in Pebble Beach, California, an ocean stands between you and the 16th hole. Literally, the Pacific Ocean. Requiring a 231-yard drive amidst crashing waves, coastal wind and dive-bombing seagulls, even professionals often list this as one of the most intimidating tee-offs in the world.
Boasting the only natural island water hazard in the world, the Pacifico Golf Course in Punta Mita, Mexico is also exquisitely picturesque. Known as the Tail of the Whale, hole 3B is on an offshore atoll where the green was designed by none other than Jack Nicklaus. At low tide, you can walk to the island on a sandbar; the rest of the time, an amphibious golf cart shuttles you to finish the hole.