Kau Sai Chau Sai Kung, Hong Kong Hole 14, par 3, 187 metres 'Some golf holes are so difficult, they're fun. Others are an exhausting, exhilarating challenge. And then there's that special breed of hole that seems almost ridiculous - which is where the 14th at Kau Sai Chau's north course fits in.' So says British magazine Today's Golfer about the hole it has just ranked 12th hardest in the world in its latest edition. Not many Hong Kong players would disagree. From the moment you climb up to the elevated tee, perched on a natural rock table, and gaze across the sea inlet to the green some 187 metres in the distance, the doubts start creeping into your mind. Somehow, you have got to hit a long-iron or five-wood all the way to the green - and hold it there. Finish short or left and you are wet. Right is dead, and heavy rough will grab anything long. Throw in some wind off the South China Sea and you are wishing you had put an old ball on the tee. Knock the ball on the green and you will be doing Leonardo DiCaprio 'King of the World' impersonations. The pain doesn't end on the tee. Once you have reached the green, says golf director Mark Reeves, sweeping undulations and subtle curves ensure that two putts are no certainty. As Today's Golfer concludes: 'Designer Gary Player must have woken up like a bear with a sore head the day he penned in plans for this little number.' Ocean Dunes Phan Thiet, Vietnam Hole 9, par 3, 135 metres Unlike many tough par 3s, this little gem does not rely on water or length to strike fear into the hearts of players. At 135 metres off the back tees, most golfers will be pulling no more than a short to mid-iron from the bag. No, this hole relies entirely on its natural setting. Tall trees down either side of the narrow fairway form a verdant corridor to the elevated green. With sunlight streaming through the leafy canopy, it almost feels as if you are in nature's cathedral. First-time players tend to aim left of the three-tiered green, as a large sand dune sits to the right, and another guards the front. However, this can be a dangerous play. Too far left and you are down in a hollow, littered with pine needles and about three metres below the pin. Get up and down from there and you deserve a medal. The avenue of trees also gives the false impression of being sheltered. 'You may not feel any wind on the tee,' says director of golf Jeff Pulchalski. 'But ocean breezes often whip in from the right, over the treetops and across the green.' This makes for interesting club selection. 'On calm days, you can hit a high ball at the pin. But when the wind picks up, you are tempted to punch in a low ball and take your chances.' Designed by Nick Faldo, this little beauty was understandably rated one of the best 500 golf holes in the world by US Golf Magazine. Palm Meadows Gold Coast, Australia Hole 18, par 5, 523 metres Great finishing holes do two things: they test the nerve of leaders coming down the stretch, and they create opportunities for chasing players to throw caution to the wind in a final lunge for victory. The final hole at Palm Meadows - one of the best public courses in Australia on Queensland's Gold Coast - does just that. A massive lake stretches down the right side of the hole, and how much of it you take on with your drive is entirely up to you. The boldest line across the water requires a carry of about 250 metres. The further left you aim, the less carry required. Once you have safely negotiated the drive, you face a second choice: lay up in front of the water guarding the three-tier green, or go for glory. The sensible option is a three wood from the tee, followed by an easy mid-iron and a wedge to the green. But everything changes when the result of the match rests on the last hole. Such was the case in 1989, when Curtis Strange and Rodger Davis went head to head in a play-off for the Palm Meadows Cup. Defending champion Strange took the safe route for par. But Davis followed a strong drive with a glorious three-iron onto the green for a birdie four and the tournament. Greg Norman later described Davis' second shot as one of the best he had ever seen. In 2003, Strange generously nominated the hole for American Golf Digest's review of the world's top 500 golf holes. A plaque commemorating Digest's decision now sits on the tee-box. Bangkok Golf Club Thailand Hole 17, par 5, 513 metres It's unlikely that all-girl band TLC used the 17th hole at the Bangkok Golf Club as the inspiration for the hit single Waterfalls. But it's hard not to think of the lyric 'Don't go chasing waterfalls' when facing your third shot into this unique par 5. In what is probably the only hole of its kind in Asia, one waterfall cascades from the front edge of the elevated green, while a second, larger waterfall looms at the back.There is not a lot of danger off the tee. The fairway is generously wide, with a large trap on the left. You have to leave your second shot just short of the water, hopefully within wedge-range. Getting on in two is not an option, no matter how well you hit the ball. And then the fun begins. As club manager Tony Choy explains, a successful approach requires a high, accurate shot that lands softly. 'The green is hard and shallow, with trouble on all sides. Short or long left means a watery grave. Over the green is OB [out of bounds]. And right will put you in a very steep bunker.' Dreamt up by owner Khun Sirichai Bulakul as 'a special feature' for the course, the waterfalls are not always in operation. Why? According to Mr Choy, it simply takes too long for average players to negotiate their way onto the green. Nirwana Bali Golf Course Indonesia Hole 7, par 3, 195 metres Great golf courses and great golf holes owe much to the way they exist in harmony with their natural surroundings. Nirwana Bali is one of the best examples you will find anywhere in Asia. Says designer Greg Norman: 'When I first saw the site, I was immediately taken by the dramatic location, the fascinating local culture and the rolling hills covered with rice paddies. I was determined to keep all these features while building a golf course that would challenge even the world's best.' It's a picture postcard hole that lives in the memory. From the elevated tee, you are separated from the green by a swathe of ocean. Along the shoreline, sitting atop a rocky outcrop is the magnificent Tanah Lot, an ancient Hindu sea temple. Golfers must fly the ball virtually all the way to the green, a daunting 195 metres from the Shark tees and a less formidable 131 metres from the front markers. Fall short and reload. Go long into the rough and you'll be happy with bogey. Like many coastal courses, the wind is almost always a factor. Quite often, it blows straight off the Indian Ocean, funneling balls towards the big bunkers which protect the green front and right. Be brave, trust your swing, and if that doesn't work, enjoy the view! Gulf Harbour Auckland, New Zealand Hole 16, par 4, 424 metres A '100 per cent pure challenge' is the only way to describe the signature hole at the Gulf Harbour golf course in New Zealand, a destination renowned for adrenalin-pumping sports. Crafted by master designer Robert Trent Jones, it boasts a spectacular natural setting, straddling a cliff top overlooking the Hauraki Gulf. Back in 2003, it offered a perfect vantage point to watch Switzerland's Alinghi outsail Team New Zealand and win the America's Cup. From the elevated tee, golfers must strike a mighty blow if they are to clear the chasm that confronts them, as waves from the Pacific Ocean crash on the rocks below. A carry of 240 metres from the front mark - forget the back tee - puts it beyond the reach of most mere mortals, but that doesn't stop many players from giving it a crack. The reward for 'crossing the ditch' (as Kiwis fondly refer to the stretch of water between New Zealand and Australia) is a lofted iron into the green. Anything short is a gift to the sea. Taking the safer route - aiming left and letting the ball funnel back to the middle of the steeply sloping fairway - is merely a way of delaying the pain. From there, you will have to hit a shot of about 180 metres to an elevated green on the point of the cliff top on the Whangaparoa Peninsula. And then there is the wind. 'On a calm day, this is a tough golf hole,' says head professional Mike Duncumb. 'But into a headwind, it's a brute. Suddenly, five becomes a very good score.'