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Experts rate the Northland's toughest holes

An intimidating 200-yard tee shot over a lake, an undulating elevated green and a tee box with a panoramic view of Lake Superior mark the defining attributes of three top holes in Northeastern Minnesota.

An intimidating 200-yard tee shot over a lake, an undulating elevated green and a tee box with a panoramic view of Lake Superior mark the defining attributes of three top holes in Northeastern Minnesota.

These dynamic holes make golfers gulp, cringe and/or cherish their rounds.

The News Tribune Nine is a collection of these remarkable holes compiled from 15 interviews with area golf course professionals and avid golfers. The following nine holes were selected based on popular opinion within unique criteria.

Most difficult: No. 10 -- Northland Country Club

Northland Country Club isn't friendly to golfers when they make the turn to No. 10.

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The 409-yard par 4 is a challenging dogleg right to an elevated green that sits nearly 40 yards above the fairway.

"You have to hit two exceptionally good shots to get to the green," Pokegama Golf Course pro Bob Cahill said. "You also can't tell if the hole is front, middle or back. The green also doesn't look sloped, but it is."

Added Anderson, "In my opinion, [No. 10] is the most difficult hole in the Northland."

Most scenic: No. 15 -- Northland Country club

Picking the most scenic area golf hole is like selecting the shiniest diamond.

With holes placed in dense forests or with breathtaking vistas of Lake Superior, there are many legitimate picks, but No. 15 at Northland Country Club stands above the rest -- literally.

The 411-yard par 4 boasts a 60-yard drop from tee to green with an expansive view of Duluth's east end, Lake Superior and across the lake to Wisconsin.

"It's a beautiful hole," O'Connor said, "and one of the best views around."

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Toughest Green: No. 5 -- The Wilderness

Mesaba Country Club professional Gary Yeager laughed when players grumbled about the tough greens at The Wilderness near Tower.

"The [players] would complain about the number of three putts they had, and I thought, 'They are just high handicappers,' " Yeager said. "The first time I went, I was amazed at how tough they are. It is fun to play though."

In particular, the long and narrow No. 5 green is a rollercoaster that can leave golfers queasy.

"It starts out level and it swells up to a higher tier," Wilderness pro Ryan Peterson said. "Then it dips and goes higher to another tier, and it's a little left to right at that point."

Whew!

Northland's amen corner: Nos. 17-18 -- The Quarry

During the Masters golf tournament in 1958, Sports Illustrated writer Herbert Warren Wind coined the phrase "Amen Corner" to describe holes 11-13 at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club.

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On those challenging holes, golf great Ben Crenshaw said, "Either you're saying prayers or saying thanks. It's so rough on you emotionally."

The Northland's version of Amen Corner is found at The Quarry at Giants Ridge -- holes No. 17 and No. 18.

After a challenging first 16 holes, The Quarry caps it with the 220-yard par-3 No. 17 and the 468-yard par-4 No. 18.

The difficulty starts with the tee shots. On 17, it must clear a pond, while on 18, a dogleg left, it must be placed between the two sand traps to the left and the abandoned mine pit to the right.

"Golfers need precision to play those holes," Kendall said. "There is a lot of trouble on those holes, and people need to be accurate with where they are putting the golf ball."

Deceptively tough: No. 9 -- Enger Park Golf Course

Superior's Jason Pendleton found out how No. 9 at Enger Park Golf Course can sneak up and ruin a round.

Pendleton led the 2007 Reidar Lund Skyline Memorial tournament by one stroke before putting two shots into the pond on the 550-yard par 5.

The mishap opened the door for Reed Kolquist to win his record-setting ninth Reidar Lund amateur title.

"There is water on the left that you can't see from the fairway," Anderson said. "I've seen a bunch of big numbers on that hole."

Most difficult par 3: No. 17 -- Ridgeview Country Club

The waterfall to the left of No. 17 at Ridgeview Country Club can be the only pleasant thing for golfers on the 165-yard par 3.

If golfers get their tee shot over the pond and onto the elevated green, the hope is to keep it in front of the hole.

"If you get above the hole, it is very difficult to keep the putt on the green," Enger Park Golf Course professional Steve Anderson said. "If you get above the hole, the only thing that stops [the ball] is the cup."

Best story: No. 12 -- Lester Park Golf course

Jeff Sundin can still see the ball go in the hole during his double eagle on the 487-yard par-5 No. 12 at Lester Park Golf Course.

"I remember it vividly," said Sundin of the feat from July 2005. "When it hit the green, it curved and followed a break right into the hole."

Sundin's playing partner, John Youngman, who has two holes-in-one, said, "He bombed a drive, hit an iron, and it went in. That is one of the coolest things I've seen."

Most difficult shot over water: No. 17 -- The Legend

From the farthest tees, it's 226 yards to the pin with a 200-yard shot over a bay of Wynne Lake.

Gulp!

No. 17 on The Legend course at Giants Ridge in Biwabik was a nearly unanimous pick for the most difficult carry over water.

"It is daunting knowing you have to carry it so far," Ridgeview Country Club professional Eddie Carlson said.

What adds to the scary scope of the par 3 is that the green has water to the front and left.

"There is no room for error," Northland Country Club pro Joe O'Connor said.

Avid golfer Jeff Sundin, however, won't be intimidated by the hole.

Despite how bad his round might be going or the pending difficulty of clearing No. 17's water, the Duluthian will play from the back tees -- even if it's roped off.

"You have to play from back there," Sundin said. "I've almost had a few birdies, but it's difficult just to clear the water. That lake has to be filled full of balls."

Giants Ridge professional John Kendall said par on No. 17 could be the best number on your scorecard at The Legend.

"It is pretty rewarding to walk away with a 3 from right there," Kendall said.

Local experts include:

Enger Park Golf Course professional Steve Anderson

Pokegama Golf Course pro Bob Cahill

Ridgeview Country Club pro Eddie Carlson

Northland Country Club pro Joe O'Connor

Giants Ridge pro John Kendall

The Wilderness pro Ryan Peterson

Duluth golfers Jeff Sundin and John Youngman

Mesaba Country Club pro Gary Yeager

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