Galveston County is home to 11 golf courses offering unique challenges, but there are five holes that offer a true test of a player’s abilities.

First hole

Moody Gardens

From any of the five tee boxes, the first hole at Moody Gardens provides a generous landing area, despite the presence of an out-of-bounds fence running the length of the left side of the hole. From there, some players will attempt to reach the large receptive green and putt for eagle. Most, however, will consider an easy layup to about 130 yards, or getting into real scoring range at 90 yards by challenging the narrowing fairway neck. The third shot must be well placed to avoid a highly probable three-putt or worse. Have a satisfying birdie, an effortless and calming par; or go for it and bring ecstatic eagle and disastrous double-bogey into the mix.

Fourth hole

Magnolia Creek

The fourth on the Scotland nine at Magnolia Creek Golf Course makes the top-five because it’s reminiscent of a true links hole and serves as a gateway for three consecutive holes that will bring a smile if you’ve actually played in Scotland or provide a preview if you’re thinking about it.

Play from the forward tees at 366 yards, or at intermediate yardages of 411 and 447 — or back at 477 — depending on the strength of your game and how feisty you’re feeling that day.

Avoid bunkers left and right off the tee and drill your approach through the green’s front gap or over one of two bunkers. Struggle here and the next two holes can finish you off both mentally and physically.

12th hole

Galveston Country Club

The par-five 12th at Galveston Country Club has a lot of character, as well as multiple personalities. With water left and right off the tee, the visual is more punitive than the shot. It’s a three-shot hole with options on the second and third shots in terms of position and distance. The undulating green is guarded by bunkers, but don’t be too quick to carry them too far (especially left) or even more trouble is in store. There is temptation to cut the dogleg left, just skirting the large and lovely palm at the corner. A slight miscue here and a big number looms.

17th hole

Bayou Golf Club

The 17th at Bayou Golf Club in Texas City urges the player to take a chance. At 403 to 457 yards, it’s a long par four no matter how you slice it. And if you slice it off the tee, this left-turning dogleg can play to infinity. Successfully cut the corner, and the approach leaves you to fear only the water on the right side of the elevated green. Par here is always satisfying.

Ninth hole

Harbour course

South Shore Harbour

No. 9 on the Harbour course at South Shore Harbour’s 27-hole facility is a chance to exhale and regroup mid-round or cap off a comfortable back nine. A small island green waits at the end of a journey ranging from a scant 392 yards to 501 yards from the back tees on this par five.

Therein lies the rub — of the green. Send your approach in low and it can easily run through the green into the water beyond. Hit it high into the prevailing wind and it can balloon, falling into the water guarding the front. Take your time to make note of distance and wind, and you should have no more than a pitching wedge safely into position for par. Get greedy and go for this par five in two shots and you might need a double at the 19th to recover.

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