A 22-handicap took on Firestone Country Club’s 667-yard ‘Monster.’ How’d that go?

I took on The Monster. I did it by sand, by sea, by air and by grass (both long and short). I experienced just about all it has to offer and lived to tell the tale — well, barely.

Hi, I’m Ryan. Nice to meet you. I’m a 22 handicap when it comes to golf. What that basically means is that I’m not great, or maybe average-ish. The normal average for a male handicap often hovers around 13 or 14, so out of people who keep an official handicap rating, I’m about 8-9 strokes above that, though not many people keep handicaps until their scores begin to come down to that range.

I have no ego when it comes to my golf game and enjoy the ever-evolving process of improvement. To get an idea of where my game is, I recently broke 90 for the first time in many years, shooting an 87 at Mallard Creek that, for me, was a pretty outstanding day and a nice personal milestone.

But, basically, I’m someone who might get absolutely crushed by a very, very difficult golf hole.

So, meet The Monster: the 16th hole on The South Course at Firestone Country Club, where the 2024 Kaulig Companies Championship will be held next month, and where Tiger Woods roamed in dominating fashion for so many years.

The Monster is, well, aptly named. It’s a behemoth of a golf hole, even for the pros. Today, fully extended (or when this monster stands on its hind legs, one could say), it measures an almost ridiculous 667 yards. It’s a winding fairway armed with sand traps and trees that leads into an approach shot over water. In other words, it’s a golf hole that more so resembles a shark’s mouth lined with rows and rows of teeth.

To put it another way, it’s downright mean when someone like me tees it up. I am not armed with a 340-yard drive like others. It’s not nice. It’s cruel. There should be some sort of a crime involved when it’s 667 yards and still, somehow, only a par 5 instead a par 7 or par 8, which would offer some mercy. But, no, this hole is ruthless.

It’s also a great deal of fun to play and an enjoyable challenge nestled on one side of a pristine golf course.

The Monster 16th hole on the South Course at Firestone Country Club.
The Monster 16th at Firestone South: A 667-yard behemoth golf hole
Technically, the hole in its entirely measured 666 yards when it was lengthened in 2003, but they didn’t want that number associated with the course, so it’s now listed at 667. But does one yard really matter at that distance? It’s a long, long way.

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I had the pleasure of being able to play Firestone’s South Course Monday afternoon as part of Media Day leading into the tournament next month. We played most of the day from the white tees, which basically just means that for some amateur golfers, the course creates a challenging but fair obstacle, as it’s much shorter than how the course will be set up for the tournament.

But for The Monster 16th, we played the tips, meaning we teed it off right where the pros would. Could we have taken one of the longest golf holes on the planet and just played the white tees on No. 16 as well? Sure. But that doesn’t end with the same level of amusement in seeing what would happen to an average Joe like me.

As expected, I got roughed up (but had a fantastic time in the process).

The Monster chewed me up in just about every way possible. The course is in excellent condition, as it always is, though thankfully the greens are still manageable. They won’t speed them up for another few weeks. That would have added another layer of trouble for us.

Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal plays the 16th hole of Firestone Golf Club’s South Course, nicknamed “The Monster,” on Monday in Akron.
Now before getting into the carnage that ensued for me on No. 16, I should note that this all occurred on a day I felt I played pretty well for my level/handicap (just to the set the stage for where I stood playing level-wise).

Overall, I shot a 97, which for me at a course like Firestone is a fine day. I also hit one of the best shots of my life on the par-3 15th, sticking an 8-iron to within maybe six or seven feet and then sinking the birdie putt (my only one of the day). So I walked to the 16th tee ready for the challenge ahead of me and feeling good about my swing.

As we walked to the tees at No. 16, the markers in the back indicating where to tee off were there and waiting. But those are simply the furthest tees that were set up for the day, and for course members and guests — those weren’t the championship tees that will be featured for the Kaulig Companies Championship. So we still had 30 or 40 more yards to walk until we were all the way in the back of the tee box. I can’t give you an exact location because I wasn’t sure if we were still in Akron.

Oh, and just to make this more fun, we were playing into the wind — you know, just to add to the hilarity of the task at hand.

And then, standing at the top of the ridge looking at the endless challenge ahead of me, my golf-centric beating began. And, boy, did it get ugly.

Shot No. 1: Driver, 667 yards to go.

I grew up playing baseball and, like many who did, I often fight a pretty wicked slice with my driver (where the ball tails hard to the right). That problem especially pops up when I try to swing too hard.

And when you know you’re almost 700 yards from the hole, how do you block that out mentally and just swing nice and easy? I couldn’t. I’m sorry, reader, I wasn’t strong enough to not be tempted into trying to mash it.

I put an OK swing on it, but couldn’t avoid the slice. I ended up in the rough on the right side, along the trees, after a drive of about 210 yards, which is a bit short for me but not bad. It’s playable, so I’ll take it. After all, there’s a long way to go, so I wasn’t overly worried about being set up perfectly for the next shot, as long as I put a good swing on it.

Shot No. 2: 4-hybrid, 457 yards to go
Oh, no. I did not, in fact, put a good swing on it.

Again falling into the trap of The Monster and swinging too hard, I basically chunked my second shot straight into a fairway bunker. This was the first time The Monster sank its teeth into me.

Shot No. 3: 9-iron from the sand, 410 yards to go

Being in the sand in this spot could have turned into a true disaster, but I actually made some great contact to get it back into the fairway. Whew. We’re back on track after our little beach excursion.

Shot No. 4: 9-iron, 320 yards to go
I was back in the fairway, and with one of the best views on the entire course as the rest of the hole snakes downward toward the water and the green. But I was still nowhere close to the actual hole. Around this spot sits a sprinkler head with “JUST HIT IT” written on it, a joke for anyone who might ask about their distance to the hole from here.

The idea here is simply to hit a nice, easy shot into the fairway landing area to set up your final approach over the water.

The Monster 16th hole on the South Course at Firestone Country Club, June 24, 2024.
And, yikes, I totally mishit this one. With how the trees are arranged, you want to stay a little left as you approach the green, which is protected by water in the middle and on the right side — I went dead right, again into the rough and the trees. That one was on me. I picked my head up a bit too early (probably mentally trying to see it too soon to view where it was headed) and bladed it.

Shot No. 5 (and 6): 4-hybrid, 200 yards to go
OK, pulling a hybrid here was a little aggressive, but we didn’t come all this way just to play everything safe, right?

Fortune favors the bold, or so I was told.

From this spot, along the right side of the rough/trees, there isn’t much of an angle to the green. The water juts out all the way from the right, so the only real safe area is to the left. So I tried to hit a hybrid as close to the water as possible to set up an easier chip.

I put a pretty good swing on it, but didn’t pull it left quite far enough. Just at the very end of the water’s reach, almost to safety, I watched my golf ball disappear into a watery grave. Had it traveled a couple of yards to the left, it would have been perfect. But The Monster is cruel, calculated and unforgiving. I’m convinced the course architect knew, one day, I’d hit it right there, so they had to extend the water area just a few more feet.

Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal tees off at the 17th hole of Firestone Golf Club’s South Course on Monday in Akron.
At this point I’d been in the sand, the rough and the water, all within the same, long journey from our tee box that felt like a four-mile hike back up the ridge.

Shot No. 7: 55-degree wedge, 30 yards to go

So after having to “drop” for the sixth stroke, all I had to do was place a chip shot onto the green, and with the water still lurking as ever present danger. Fun! Not intimidating at all! It’s easy to see why so many have put multiple balls into the water back-to-back.

Almost surprising myself that I didn’t send another ball to the depths of the lake, I chipped it onto the green, only for it to roll a few feet into the fringe on the far side. But being past the worst of the hazards, I could wipe some sweat from my brow and breathe a little easier — unless I were to accidentally chip my ball over the green coming from the other direction and back into the water.

The Monster 16th hole on the South Course at Firestone Country Club.
Shot No. 8: 55-degree wedge, green side rough
OK, thankfully, I didn’t do that. I chipped it a bit short of the hole, but we finally were on the dance floor.

Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal putts from the fringe on the 16th hole of Firestone Golf Club’s South Course on Monday in Akron.
Shot No. 9: Putter, 8 feet
After a grinding journey of nearly 700 yards, during which I was bruised, bloodied and beat up, and after dealing with grass, sand, trees and water, I reached the green, still standing but a little shaky.

Here, I landed one shot against The Monster. I mercifully one-putted, sinking roughly an 8-foot putt to finish the hole with nine strokes. The Monster landed haymaker after haymaker, but I could walk off the green feeling like I landed one punch as I was on the way down. (Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

Walking away with a 9 on the scoreboard is a victory for me, in all honestly. It could have gone much worse. Paul Bonderson in 1962 and Curtis Strange in 1986 both carded 10s on the 16th at Firestone.

The Monster 16th has stood the test of time, still tormenting any poor soul who dares to try to conquer it. I could not slay this monster this time, but I did live to tell the tale.

Count your days, Monster. We’ll meet again. And I’ll probably end up with a 10 or 11 that time and walk away missing a couple of golf balls. But it’ll be fun either way.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at Follow him on Threads at @ByRyanLewis.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek