What is the highest single hole score in a major golf championship?

The highest single hole score in a major golf championship is the 15-over-par 19 recorded by Raymond Ainsley on the sixteenth hole at Cherry Hills Country Club in the second round of the 1938 US Open. A hitherto unheralded professional, based at Ojai Country Club in Southern California, Ainsley hooked his tee shot on the 441-yard par 4 into the rough and found the so-called ‘Little Dry Creek’, which runs up the left side of the green, with his second shot.

Despite its name, Little Dry Creek was, in fact, five feet wide and filled with shallow, but fast flowing, water. Unbeknown to Ainsley, he could have taken a drop, at penalty of one stroke – he later confessed, ‘I thought it was a two-stroke penalty to start with’ – he chose to play his ball from the sandy creek bed. After three unsuccessful attempts, Ainsley lost his temper and starting swiping at his ball ‘like a wild man’ as the current carried it further and further downstream. After nearly half an hour, he managed to return his ball to dry land – albeit to a greenside bunker – and emerged from the creek, covered from head-to-toe in sand and soaked to the skin.

His subsequent bunker shot ‘airmailed’ the green, to the tune of 50 yards, and after further altercations with a tree, or two, Ainsley finally reached the putting surface in 17 strokes. Two putts later, he signed for a 19, which contributed to a 25-over-par total of 96, compared with 76 in his opening round the day before. Had he taken a drop and chipped in for par, he would still have missed the cut by two strokes.