Highest Scores on a Single Hole in PGA Tour History

What is the worst score ever made on a single hole during a PGA Tour tournament? The answer is 19, and that record is shared by three golfers.

No golfer has yet taken 20 or more strokes on one hole during an official PGA Tour tournament. If that surprises you, you've probably heard that Tommy Armour once scored a 23 on a single hole. But the story about Armour's 23 is just a tall tale — it never happened. We've also seen other articles that claim a golfer named Ray Ainsley once score 23 on a single hole. Ainsley does, in fact, share the all-time record, but with a 19, not a 23.

Note that the PGA Tour's "official records" for single-hole scores only go back to 1983. News accounts and major championship recordbooks are the sources for golfers on the list below whose disaster holes pre-date 1983.

The Record: 19 Is Worst Score on One Hole on PGA Tour

Three golfers share the all-time PGA Tour record for most strokes on one hole. That record-high score is 19, and the three golfers are Dale Douglass, Hans Merrell and Ray Ainsley.

The aforementioned Ainsley was the first to post a single-hole 19. It happened during the 1938 U.S. Open when he hit his ball into a flowing creek at Cherry Hills Country Club near Denver. Not understanding the rules, he thought he had to play it as it lie — so he kept whacking at the ball even though the creek's current kept carrying it farther from the hole. (We tell the full, funny story in this article about Ainsley.)

Merrell's disaster happened on a par-3 hole, the 16th at Cypress Point during the 1959 tournament now called the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. That hole is nearly all carry over the Pacific Ocean, but Merrell didn't even hit a ball into water. His tee shot was short and he tried playing from the beach 75 feet below the green. His second stroke sent his ball into thick ice plant, and it was all downhill from there with many hacks and several penalties.

The most-recent 19 is Douglass' during the 1963 Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but at Pebble Beach's No. 10 hole. Douglass' tee shot went over the cliffside edge of the hole and into a nook of the cliffside. Once he extricated the ball from there, it rolled down onto the beach. Fourteen strokes (including penalties) later, he finally had it back on the fairway, then hit into a bunker. Asked by the media afterward how he managed to score 19, Douglass gave the blow-by-blow but then summarized: "I was on the green in 17 and two-putted."

Merrell and Ainsley were club pros who managed to get into the field at their respective tournaments. Douglass, at the time of his 19, was just starting on a long career that included three PGA Tour wins followed by a lucrative Senior Tour career. He won the 1986 U.S. Senior Open.

The List: Highest Single-Hole Scores on PGA Tour

These are all the known scores of 15 or more on a single hole scored during an official PGA Tour tournament.
  • 19 — Dale Douglass on par-4 10th hole at Pebble Beach during the 1963 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am
  • 19 — Hans Merrell on par-3 16th at Cypress Point during the 1959 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am
  • 19 — Ray Ainsley on par-4 16th hole at Cherry Hills during the 1938 U.S. Open
  • 18 — John Daly on par-5 16th hole at Bay Hill Club during the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational
  • 18 — Willie Chisholm on par-3 eighth hole at Brae Burn Country Club during the 1919 U.S. Open
  • 17 — George Bayer on par-4 17th hole at Seneca Golf Club during the 1957 Kentucky Derby Open
  • 16 — Kevin Na on par-4 ninth hole at TPC San Antonio during the 2011 Valero Texas Open
  • 16 — Gary McCord on par-5 16th hole at Colonial Country Club during the 1986 FedEx St. Jude Classic
  • 16 — Ed Oliver on par-3 16th hole at Cypress Point during the 1954 Bing Crosby Pro-Am
  • 15 — Bill Collins on par-4 17th hole at Wellshire Golf Club during the 1958 Denver Open
  • 15 — Herman Tissie on par-3 eighth hole at Royal Troon during 1950 British Open
John Daly's 18 during the 1998 tournament now known as the Arnold Palmer Invitational was a true Tin Cup (affiliate link) moment. He hit his drive into a lake, took a drop, and proceded to hit four consecutive 3-wood shots into the water. He just kept going and going ... and going. After finally clearing the water, his ball embedded in a bank and he needed another drop. Then his approach to the green ricocheted off rocks and into sand.

Willie Chisholm's 18 in the 1919 U.S. Open was the major championship record until Ainsley's 19. His playing partner, Jim Barnes, was Chisholm's marker. When Chisholm asked Barnes what his stroke count was for the hole, Barnes told him 18. "Jim, that cannot be so," Chisholm replied, "you must have counted the echoes."

George Bayer's 17 in the 1957 Kentucky Derby Invitational is unique on the list because it was intentional. Bayer (plus three others in that tournament) asked the tour to let him withdraw after making the cut — he was out of contention and just wanted to get a jump on travel to the next tournament. The tour denied his request: You make the cut, you play out the tournament. So Bayer, known at that time for his anger, intentionally played poorly. In the third round, on the par-4 17th hole, Bayer used a 7-iron to chip the ball off the tee. Then he did the same thing all the way up the hole, basically just bumping the ball forward with his 7-iron to the green. Bayer was suspended by the tour, but reinstated after apologizing. (Read the full story of the 1957 Kentucky Derby Invitational incident.)

The most-recent score of 15 or more during a PGA Tour tournament is Kevin Na's 16 at the 2011 Texas Open. That is the score featured in the video at the top of this page. Na hit into thick woods and had a very difficult time getting out. At one point his ball ricocheted off branches and hit him (that's a penalty). At another point, he whiffed trying to play a left-handed shot.

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