The vaunted Horrible Horseshoe — Colonial’s third, fourth and fifth holes — is frequently mentioned in the same conversations with Amen Corner at Augusta National Golf Club, 8-9-10 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Green Mile at Quail Hollow Club and the closing three holes at TPC Sawgrass among the great stretches of holes in the game of golf.
The Horrible Horseshoe was designed by Perry Maxwell prior to the 1941 U.S. Open that was contested at Colonial Country Club as an adjustment to John Bredemus’ original 18-hole layout that had opened in 1936.
“They are three incredibly great and difficult golf holes that require completely different tee shots,” said Whispering Pines Golf Club PGA head professional Chris Rowe, who is well-versed with the Horrible Horseshoe from his years as a teaching professional at Colonial. “On hole three, you really need to hit a high draw and the fourth hole is a brutal par-3 that’s playing 247 yards and that means you are hitting long irons or hybrids into a par-3. Then the fifth hole is one of the best driving holes in Texas and you really need to hit a cut driver just to hold the fairway since the it slopes back toward the range.
“When I was a pro there at Colonial and the same goes for PGA Tour guys this week,” Rowe continued. “After the first two holes, you had better be under par or you’re going to be over par when you finish five.”
Statistically over 72 years, the average player during the tournament goes through the Horrible Horseshoe 1-over par, translating into those who play those holes even par have picked up at shot on the entire field.
Holes 3-4-5 literally wrap around the driving range in the shape of a horseshoe are unique among golf’s famous three-hole stretches because they arrive so early in the round while many of the others are either at the turn or in the closing stages.
“The place that it (Horrible Horseshoe) comes in the round has a lot to do with its difficulty,” 1992 U.S. Open champion Tom Kite said. “You start out with an easy par-5 and a relatively easy short par-4 and then all of a sudden it’s like ‘wow’ here we go! The game really changes a lot when you step up on that third tee and 3-4-5 can mess up a round very quickly if you’re not careful.”
Kite is currently playing on the PGA Tour Champions and while he did not don the Colonial plaid jacket, he had a run in the 80s where he finished in the top 10 at Colonial six times in a nine year period.
Kite won his U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach Golf Links and compared 8-9-10 — the stretch that has been dubbed the Cliffs of Doom by Golf Magazine and the Abalone Corner by the late Dan Jenkins — to the famous tract at Colonial.
“If you get the weather at 8-9-10 at Pebble Beach, if you get some winds off the ocean, those would be harder holes,” Kite said. “With Pebble under calm conditions, I’m not so sure that 3-4-5 at Colonial is not more difficult.”
The question many Colonial fans would like to know is how the Horrible Horseshoe compares to the famed Amen Corner at the Masters.
“I think day in and day out, Amen Corner is the easier of those three between it, the three holes at Pebble Beach and 3-4-5 at Colonial,” Kite added. “What ends up happening at Amen Corner is it’s a little bit tricky if you catch some gusts and certainly the timing of when you come through there and having a chance to win a golf tournament of that magnitude plays a huge factor in how well you play those holes.”