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Position on Golf Digest's List
Stunning Architecture & Landscapes with interesting holes
- West Coast
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Show only Jordan's favorite golf courses:
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta National Golf Course is considered by many to be the best golf course in the US (and possiblity the world), and it’s a personal favorite of mine. The Masters is the only golf major held at the same course every year, and it takes a truly brilliant track like Augusta National to keep viewers on the edge of their seats each and every year.
It's hard not to be left breathless by Augusta, especially for first time visitors. Simply entering the grounds and walking the course should be on every golfer’s bucket list, even if you can only go to a Masters practice round. The golf course beautiful, fun, and challenging all at the same time. It’s impeccably maintained and will require imagination and precision with every club in your bag.
It’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite hole, but mine would have to be the 11th. It kicks off Amen Corner with a bang, requiring a long, accurate drive and a risk/reward second shot that can produce a birdie or double bogey with equal frequency.
Credit photo Boston Public Library.
Pine Valley Golf Club
Located in Pine Valley, NJ, Pine Valley Golf Club is Augusta National’s main challenger for best golf course in the country; it’s frequently named by Golf Magazine as the #1 golf course in the world. Designed by George Crump, it’s the only course he ever designed, though he did consult extensively with such notable golf course architects as A.W. Tillinghast and H.S. Colt for their assistance in getting it perfect.
And get it perfect they did: it’s a course with a grand scope and a new adventure on every hole. In Johnny Miller’s words, “There are no weak holes. Every single one is a masterpiece.”
It’s an incredibly difficult test of golf, and shooting near par at Pine Valley is a true accomplishment. Fairways and greens are surrounded by unraked bunkers, and no part of the course is considered out of bounds. If you ever have an invitation to play there, I suggest dropping everything to take advantage of it!
Credit Photo Dom Furore, for GolfDigest.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach Golf Links is widely considered to be the best public golf course in America, for good reason. It’s built upon one of the best landscapes in golf, perched gorgeously along the Pacific coast. The ocean is in play on the fourth through tenth holes; if you’re not playing particularly well, it can be tempting to leave your clubs behind and spend the rest of the day taking in the scenery on the beach below!
Some of the inland holes aren’t as memorable as the stretch along the oceanfront, and the poa annua greens can get bumpy and difficult to read. These are minor quibbles, however, as Pebble Beach is a truly memorable experience. Every golfer should make the pilgrimage at least once in their life to play the course that’s hosted so many memorable professional championships, including US Open victories for Jack Nicklaus (1972), Tom Watson (1982) and Tiger Woods (2000).
Credit Photo Pebble Beach Golf Course
Oakmont Country Club
Located in Plum and Oakmont, Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh, Oakmont Country Club is considered by many to be the quintessential US Open course. The 2nd hole will show you what Oakmont Country Club is all about: narrow fairways, lightning fast greens, and extremely challenging bunkers. Oakmont is one of the best challenges in US golf.
Cypress Point Club
Cypress Point, like Pebble Beach, is located on the Monterey Peninsula of California. It’s one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world, with only 275 members and generally about eight groups playing the course each day.
Regarded as one of architect Alister Mackenzie’s signature masterpieces, Cypress Point is best known for its gorgeous finishing stretch along the Pacific Ocean, especially the par 3 16th which requires a precise, 230 yard tee shot over the ocean to a green guarded by excellent bunkering.
Over the course of the exquisite 18 holes, you’ll get a taste of dunes golf, mountainous woods and oceanside cliffs. If you can manage to garner an invitation to Cypress Point, it’s worth mortgaging the farm to make it.
Located in Bandon Dunes Resort, Oregon, the Pacific Dunes is another personal favorite of mine: it’s beautiful - almost distractingly so - and offers a tantalizing combination of challenge and variety.
The distinctive Tom Doak design offers beautiful views of the Pacific ocean on almost every hole. The greens appear to be relatively flat, but they are actually very challenging, and you’ll need to a huge amount of shot variety to score well. My favorite hole? It’s the long par-4 4th, with a large green that slopes perilously towards the Pacific.
Bandon Dunes is a walking-only resort, so I’d suggest taking a caddy to help preserve your energy and assist you in navigating the hilly course and reading the deceptive greens.
Credit Photo Bandon Dunes Golf.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Located in Southampton, NY, many consider 2018 US Open host Shinnecock Hills as the premier links-style course in the US. It’s hard not to love this course: the classic American architecture and landscape, the very pleasant clubhouse experience, the history, and some of the best holes in the world.
The par-3s rival Pine Valley’s for the distinction of the best collection of par-3s in the world. Good tee shots can be rewarded with birdies, but errant shots will have you scrambling to avoid double bogey or worse. The deeply undulating greens are incredibly challenging: they’re relatively small and remarkably well-bunkered, and you’ll always need to take the wind into account when reading the breaks. Another favorite of mine.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort Ocean Course
The Ocean Course, located in Kiawah Island, SC, was designed by Pete Dye specifically for the 1991 Ryder Cup. The most interesting thing about the Ocean Course is how challenging it was built: every single green is tricky with slopes, every bunker is a sand dune, and every hole is well-guarded by sawgrass.
From the championship tees, you’ll have to carry the ball over 240 yards just to reach the fairway on several holes. And you’ll be at the mercy of constant winds blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the almost punishing difficulty, it is particularly beautiful with majestic views of the Atlantic. If the wind is blowing hard, it may be the most difficult course in the world. You may want to move up a set of tee boxes on windy days!
Merion Golf Club (East)
Another personal favorite of mine is Merion East, located in Ardmore, PA. It might not have the length or beautiful view of others on this list, but it’s known as one of the most thorough test of golf in the world despite its fairly small footprint.
The first tee, located mere steps from the clubhouse, has seen the start of some of golf’s most historic moments, including five US Opens. The iconic wicker basket pins and beautiful, British-style bunkers are the signatures of Merion’s East course. It’s also quite challenging, with each and every shot demanding serious concentration.
While it’s not as long as other US Open courses, it requires a great variety of long and short shots due to the punitive hazards bordering every fairway and green. The 241-yard par-3 17th and huge 521-yard par-4 18th hole combine for one of my all-time favorite closing stretches in golf.
The Straits course at Whistling Straits was built on an abandoned army base along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan, so you can imagine the incredible views it provides. It is arguably one of the most beautiful courses in the world, and one of the most challenging.
In fact, I think Pete Dye made it a little too stressful at times with difficult sightlines and nearly 1,000 bunkers flanking the holes. You’ll definitely want to take a caddy or you may find yourself on the tee wondering where on Earth the fairway is!
However, it is still one of the best courses in the country, with several holes giving you a great view of Lake Michigan. It’s hosted the PGA Championship three times and will host the 2020 Ryder Cup. If you’re up for the challenge, Whistling Straits will give you a memorable experience and all the golf you can handle.
National Golf Links of America
The Long Island, NY National Golf Links of America is course is one of America's finest thanks to its classic architecture and clevercourse design courtesy of CB Macdonald. Many of the holes are modeled after famous British Isles designs, while others make great use of the local landscape to produce unique, interesting challenges.
My personal favorite is the 7th hole, “St. Andrews", a par-5 modeled after the “Road Hole” 17th at St. Andrews. Host of the 2013 Walker Cup, the National Golf Links of America is a beautiful, fun, and challenging course to play if you can manage to get an invite from one of the members.
The Shadow Creek Golf Course, located in North Las Vegas, is one of the most expensive courses ever built with a reported $60 million budget. The result of that enormous amount of money? A combination of the over-the-top Las Vegas feel with amazing landscapes built by moving millions of tons of dirt around.
Tom Fazio designed a truly excellent course with every hole offering entirely different challenges. Fairway bunkers are well-placed and the man-made waterfalls, streams and rocky outcroppings make for plenty of eye candy in the Vegas desert. The dogleg left par-4 first hole is my personal favorite, with a truly breathtaking tee shot and long stretch of green.
Credit Photo The Henebrys.
Sand Hills Golf Club
The Sand Hills Golf Club is located in Mullen,Nebraska. The unique thing about this course is that very little design was imposed upon it, as most of it follows the natural, rolling landscape. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw let the lovely land speak for itself, moving very little land during construction. The course blends seamlessly into the surrounding landscape, harkening back to the origins of golf in Scotland.
The course is also unique that the hole handicapping (which indicates which are the most difficult or easiest holes on the course) changes every day based on wind direction and strength. My personal favorite hole? The shrot par-3 17th, with its truly mesmerizing view.
Credit Photo Dom Furore.
The first course to open at the now-legendary walking-only golf resort in Bandon Dunes, OR, Bandon Dunes is the most forgiving of the courses at the resort. With expansive ocean views and wide, lush fairways, it’s a great way to get a golf trip started before moving on to the more difficult courses at the facility.
My favorites are the 15th and 16th hole with stunning ocean views over the Oregon cliffs. The remote location, windy cliffside views and classic architecture will have you feeling like you’re playing a classic Scottish course.
Fishers Island Club
In my opinion, the Fishers Island Club offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the US: amazing water views, steep slopes down to the beach, and amazingly designed holes and bunkers. Often referred to as the “Cypress Point of the East” because of its waterfront location, the Seth Raynor design is reminiscent of Shinnecock Hills with its combination of classic British holes and unique designs.
It’s a challenging experience with holes 2-12 being one of the best stretches I have experienced. There are some less distinct holes, such as the friendly first one, but overall I have no complaints. Simply one of the most interesting and beautiful courses in the US.
Bethpage State Park Black
The Bethpage State Park, located in Farmingdale, New York, features five lovely golf courses. The Black course is by far its most famous and difficult design, with a notorious sign warning players “The Black course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.” It has been the host of many notable tournaments from the 2002 and 2009 US Opens to the 2011 and 2016 Barclays. It will also host the 2019 PGA and 2024 Ryder Cup, showing that there’s no question about the challenge it presents.
The Bethpage Black is long and lush, with small and surprisingly flat greens. Its length and prolific, strategic bunkering make it one of the hardest courses I’ve ever played, but I actually always have fun on the Black. There’s plenty of risk/reward to keep your mind engaged and there are just enough birdie holes to salvage a good score on a bad day. The 8th hole, for me, is the most notable (and challenging) one, a long par 3 that’s well-guarded with a pond in front and a huge bunker behind the narrow, shallow green.
Winged Foot Golf Club West
Perhaps A.W. Tillinghast’s defining achievement, the West Course at Winged Foot is so well-designed that all holes will demand your highest level of concentration. There are no gimme holes and every one has the potential to derail a round, much like the 18th did to Phil Mickelson’s US Open hopes in 2006.
The back nine holes just might be the most varied nine holes in the world, offering serious challenge and demanding all kinds of shots to score well. The greens are some of the most interesting I’ve ever putted.
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Spyglass Hill is Pebble Beach’s sister course, and is consistently ranked in the top 10 public courses in the world. Located on the Monterey Peninsula less than 20 minutes than Pebble, Spyglass Hill is a links-style golf course that starts out with an oceanside stretch before diverging into the Del Monte forest.
The opening five holes is one of golf’s most beautiful and challenging stretches, with stunning oceanside views. Although it is not as iconic as Pebble Beach, it’s a very challenging course that’s well worth your time during a Monterey Peninsula golf trip. The par-4 4th hole, with its long, slim green surrounded by ice plants, is one of the most memorable I’ve ever played.
Credit Photo The Pebble Beach Company.
Oak Hill Country Club (East)
Located in Rochester, NY, the Oak Hill Country Club is notable for hosting the 1989 US Open, where the par-3 sixth hole became the scene of four aces in just two hours. Originally designed by Donald Ross and “refreshed” by Tom Fazio, Oak Hill’s East course has hosted numerous major championships due to its fair but challenging nature. It’s difficult but not punishing, rewarding good shots and remaining scoreable for golfers with good short games.
The Fazio redesign in the ‘70s gave the course a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character, as the original Donald Ross holes are intermingled with some controversial Fazio trademarks. The fairways are relatively narrow, but the real challenge lies in the elevated, undulating greens. It’s a very beautiful course set in an astonishing natural landscape.
Located in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass features what may be the most iconic green in golf: the island green on the 17th hole. Every year, the Players Championship hinges on whether the pros can hit the green on the short but daunting hole. A miss means penalty strokes and likely double bogey, while hitting the green gives you a great birdie opportunity.
But there’s more to Pete Dye’s signature course than one island green: the Stadium Course provides lots of sparkling white bunkers and features dangerous water hazards on almost every hole. Straight hitters will find a lot to love here, while those who spray the ball everywhere might go through a dozen balls on the front nine alone! It’s a fun, tough test of ballstriking.
After your round, enjoy dinner on the clubhouse patio and watch the golfers come up the challenging 18th hole for one of the nicest post-round experiences you could ask for.
Credit Photo TPC Sawgrass.
Crystal Downs Country Club
Crystal Downs is located in Frankfort, Michigan, and is notable for its zig-zagging fairways and dogleg greens. Despite its consistently high ranking in the top 25 courses in the US, it flies under the radar because it’s a private club, off the beaten path, and has never hosted a major championship. It is arguably the toughest 6,500-yard course in the world, due to sharp doglegs that will punish all but the best tee shots.
The steeply sloped putting surfaces are arguably too steep for how fast the greens are, so birdie opportunities can become 3- or 4-putts in a hurry. Crystal Downs remains one of Alister MacKenzie’s best designs, a historic gem tucked away in the Michigan hills.
Credit Photo L.C. Lambrecht.
When the Coore/Crenshaw designed Bandon Trails opened in 2005, the Bandon Dunes resort went from merely an attractive golf destination to an absolute must-visit for all golfers. While it doesn’t get the attention of Bandon Dunes or Pacific Dunes due to being an inland rather than seaside course, Bandon Trails is a remarkably beautiful course and an incredibly fair test of golf.
The fairways are huge and wide, but if you miss them you’ll find it very hard to manage a par. There are short par 4s and giant par 5s, blending in beautifully to the natural dunes and Pacific Northwest evergreen forests. If you’re planning a pilgrimage to Bandon Dunes, make sure the Trails course is on your itinerary.
Credit Photo Bandon Trails.
Seminole Golf Club
The crown jewel of Juno Beach, FL, Seminole Golf Club was designed by the legendary Donald Ross in the 1920s. While it’s relatively short compared to most of the top courses in the country, the small, sharply sloped greens and treacherous areas surrounding the greens will test your mettle on every hole.
The elevation changes courtesy of natural sand dunes provide a great deal of variety from hole-to-hole, and the course is currently undergoing a Coore/Crenshaw restoration that will add over 100 bunkers that had been lost in a 1947 renovation.
The par-4 18th hole is my personal favorite, stretching along the Atlantic ocean to a well-bunkered and very hard-to-hold green. It’s a beautiful way to cap a memorable round on one of the world’s most exclusive layouts.
Blackwolf Run River
Regarded by many as Pete Dye’s best design, the Blackwolf Run River course is sister to the Whistling Straits course complex in Kohler, WI. It features some of the best-designed, and most challenging holes in the US, or even in the world: the boomerang-shaped par-5 11th hole, the brutal par-4 18th (named “Dyehard”), and the big dogleg par-5 8th hole.
Every hole features drastic elevation changes and Pete Dye’s signature deceptive sightlines and bunkering. It’s kept in impeccable condition and there’s water on nearly every hole. The mountainous Wisconsin vistas provide plenty of eye candy to distract you from the fact that you’ll probably lose a half a dozen balls over the course of your round.
Credit Photo Blackwolf Run.
Chicago Golf Club
Chicago Golf Club, located in Wheaton, IL, is the oldest 18-hole golf course in the country and one of the five founding clubs of the USGA. Designed by CB Macdonald in 1892, Chicago Golf Club is as classic as golf courses get. It’s long and straight, with well-placed fairway bunkers, squared off greens and impeccable conditions. However, as inviting and straightforward as the course looks, it punishes those who don’t play strategically sound golf.
The flat, open course really brings the wind into play on every hole, and that’s what can really make the course hard. Play it on a calm day and you’ll find it remarkably easy, but most days the wind will wreak havoc with your score. Just being on the course feels special and historic, as it’s a very old and very exclusive country club. It’s one of the most fun, old-school courses I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
It's notoriously difficult to play for non-members, however. It keeps such a low profile that it doesn't even have an official website. Your best bet to take in this classic course may be visiting when it hosts a championship, such as the US Women's Senior Open in 2018.
Credit Photo David Alexander/Getty Images
The Streamsong Red course is a stone-cold stunner from the Coore/Crenshaw design team. It’s one of the newer golf courses on this list, having opened in 2012. Unlike most Florida courses, Streamsong Red features some fairly extreme elevation changes and Coore/Crenshaws signature implementation of natural landscape features to define the course’s design and routing.
My favorite hole is the short par 4 9th, a masterpiece of risk/reward golf with a hard-sloping left-to-right green complex. One of my favorite courses in the South, Streamsong Red presents a fair and mesmerizingly beautiful challenge for all handicap levels.
Credit Photo Streamsong Resort.
Pasatiempo Golf Course
Located in Santa Cruz, California, Pasatiempo was designed by the great Alister Mackenzie and opened in 1929. Tom Doak was recently tasked with restoring the course to its original design and did so to much acclaim in 2007. Pasatiempo offers elaborate and challenging greens, and the back nine is among the most challenging in the world. Although it measures a mere 6,500 yards, it is extremely brutal, showing that length doesn't always equal difficulty.
While Mackenzie certainly has more famous layouts to his name, Pasatiempo shouldn’t be overlooked. Even though it’s semi-private, it’s public-accessible and one of the best courses in the US. It lacks a single signature hole, but the overall strength of the 18 makes it one of the country’s most attractive golf destinations with its classic, timeless feel.
Muirfield Village Golf Club
Muirfield Village Golf Course is Jack Nicklaus' pet project. Named after Muirfield, Scotland (site of his first British Open Championship), the course opened in 1974 in Dublin, Ohio, and has hosted championships as diverse as the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and US Amateur. Nicklaus has altered the course on a nearly annual basis to accommodate for new technology and to make sure it remains a tough test for the best golfers in the world.
The course varies nicely from hole-to-hole, with grand elevation changes and large, sweeping breaks on the greens. However, due to Jack's steady refinement of the design, it's managed to remain both challenging to tour players but accessible to the average golfer - as long as you select the proper set of tees for your game.
Muirfield Village is one of my favorite courses in the Midwest for its beauty and balance.
Credit Photo Jim Mandeville.
Pete Dye Course (French Lick Resort)
One of his newest and most distinctive creations, the Pete Dye Course at French Lick opened in 2009. It combines gorgeous natural landscapes with Pete Dye’s fantastic design, and the result is one of the most beautiful courses in the US.
It's also one of the longest courses on this list at slightly over 8,100 yards from the championship tees, and it can play even longer if the wind is blowing hard! The jawdropping vistas and impeccable course conditions make for a truly memorable, almost surreal experience for golfers of any level.
Credit Photo French Lick.
The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel)
The Clyde & Squirrel course at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, is the legendary site of then-unknown Francis Ouimet's US Open victory in 1913 that's been immortalized in the book/movie "The Greatest Game Ever Played." As the flagship course at the oldest golf club in the United States, the Clyde/Squirrel course is well deserving of its status. The course feels plucked from the Scottish Highlands, hardly the landscape you imagine for a course just outside of Boston.
The course practically oozes historical significance as you walk past Ouimet's house or relive the clinching putt Justin Leonard made at the 1999 Ryder Cup. After a refreshing update from Gil Hanse in advance of the 2013 US Amateur, it has some of the best-designed holes in the world, the 18th being my favorite: challenging and beautiful at the same time, with great bunkering and a beautiful clubhouse backdrop.
Credit Photo LC Lambrecht.
Oakland Hills Country Club South
Affectionately known as "The Monster", the South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club was designed by the legendary Donald Ross and remodeled by Robert Trent Jones prior to hosting the 1951 US Open (where it gained its well-deserved nickname). Overall, the course has hosted 17 major championships, including six US Opens.
Many will say the stretch from the 7th to the 11th holes is one of the best-designed stretches in US golf, and I agree. The course is set to close for two years to undergo a Gil Hanse redesign starting in 2019, with plans to remove a number of trees and restore the greens to be closer to Ross' original design. Hanse has a stellar reputation for updating courses while maintaining their character, so I have high hopes that it will remain one of the country's true gems.
Credit Photo Oakland Hills.
Friar’s Head Golf Club
Located in Riverhead, New York, not far from Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, Friar's Head opened to much acclaim in 2003 and has seen its reputation grow every year since. A Coore/Crenshaw design, its inspired routing unifies the disparate landscapes of dunes, meadows and farmland into a beautiful whole. The genius of the design sneaks up on you slowly before really jumping out at you when you reach 15, a long par 4 that winds down the hill back to Long Island Sound.
The huge, diabolical greens and even larger bunkers will test every bit of your mettle while the unique and stunning par 5s will linger in your memory long after your round. A true triumph of design from one of America's best living golf course design groups.
Wade Hampton Golf Club
Designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1987, Wade Hampton Golf Club immediately became renowned as one of America's best mountain golf courses. Fazio's distinctive design manages to hide most of the residences from the golfer, creating a singularly beautiful course integrated beautifully into the mountainside. Perhaps he spent a little extra time on it as he's a resident of the community himself.
Fazio routed several streams underground to increase the playability of the course, and included numerous sets of tees to suit all levels of golfer. Water hazards still abound, and the fairways are challengingly narrow. Fazio's design company recently refreshed the course in 2018 and the greens are now better than ever. To top it all off, the clubhouse is one of my favorite in the US, very classic and elegant.
Tom Fazio and developer Warren Stephens fell in love with the beautiful piece of Arkansas land where they built Alotian Club in 2001 and opened the course in 2004. Each hole is a distinctive masterpiece with dramatic elevation shifts and perfect conditions everywhere.
The bunkers are beautiful and challenging, and the massive pine-straw lined fairways are reminiscent of Augusta. My favorite hole is the sixth, an impressive par-3 that cascades a jaw-dropping 85 feet from tee to green.
Credit Photo The Alotian Club.
My favorite course in Hawaii, located in Kapalua, Maui. It was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw on an old pineapple farm and boasts some of the best natural landscapes in golf. It travels up and down Maui's mountainside, with ocean views everywhere you look. When I played there in early February one year, whales breached regularly just off the coast beyond the greens. Truly an inspiring and amazing sight!
The Kapalua Plantation Course hosts the PGA Tour Tournament of Champions every January, so you may be familiar with many of the holes. However, even the best HDTV can't do justice to the beauty of the setting, so this should really be on your list of courses to see and play in person. The 17th and 18th holes bound down the mountain to the clubhouse, creating one of the most picturesque and memorable finishing stretches I've ever played.
Credit Photo Kapalua Golf.
Harbour Town Golf Links
Located on Hilton Head Island, the Par-71 Harbour Town is best known as the host of the RBC Heritage PGA Tour stop, played every year the week after The Masters. The list of winners tells you all you need to know about the course: ball-strikers like Matt Kuchar, Boo Weekley, and Branden Grace have all found success there, showing that you needn't be a bomber to play well there. In fact, the course is all about placement and strategy -- simply hitting fairways isn't enough, as overhanging trees may still be blocking out your line to the green. Shorter, straighter hitters will find a lot to love here.
The signature par-4 16th hole features a giant waste bunker running down the left side of the hole. Designer Pete Dye famously dumped all the excavated land in the bunker and covered it in sand, creating a distinctive and massive hazard you'll be wise to avoid.
Harbour Town's reputation as the best course on Hilton Head Island and one of the best layouts on the PGA Tour is well-deserved. A fair test for all styles of play.
Credit Photo Sea Pines.
Forest Dunes Golf Club
The original 18 holes at Forest Dunes is a remarkable Tom Weiskopf design, beautiful enough to garner comparisons to Augusta and Pine Valley in the same breath. The pine trees and extensive bunkering provide a lovely setting for a memorable round of golf that cleverly combines short par 4s and 5s with longer, more challenging holes.
For a resort course, the conditions are incredible: bright white sand and perfectly manicured fairways and greens make for plenty of eye candy not often found on public-accessible courses.
Together with the newly designed Tom Doak course "The Loop", Forest Dunes is gaining a reputation as one of the best golf destinations not only in the Midwest, but in the country.
Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club
Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club, located in Harrison, ID with beautiful views of Lake Coeur d'Alene, is a spectacular layout that'll have you dreaming of the next time you'll be able to play it again. Perhaps Tom Fazio's most heralded course design, it's distinctive in that it doesn't adhere to the Fazio cliches, and actually plays more like a Coore/Crenshaw design, nestled beautifully into its natural setting.
Drive-able par-4s and dramatically located par-3s with bunkers that feel like they've been created naturally over the ages by wind and rain highlight the stunning course. Fazio himself commented that you may not want to hit your shot as you're too distracted by the natural beauty of the views.
Prairie Dunes Country Club
Prairie Dunes truly represents what golf in Kansas should be: prairie grasses, expansive sand dunes, constant wind, and ubiquitous yucca plants. Prairie Dunes opened as a 9-hole course in 1937 and expanded to 18 holes twenty years later. The course is laid naturally into the 480-acre setting and a Coore/Crenshaw refresher in 2008 restored it to its original beauty.
The large, sloping green complexes are some of the best in the world with numerous pin position options keeping things interesting round after round. The everpresent Kansas wind is the course's main defense against par. It's a difficult tee time to achieve as Prairie Dunes is a private club, but if you can manage it, it's worth the trip to play what Jack Nicklaus called "Pine Valley of the Midwest."
The Olympic Club (Lake Course)
The Lake Course at The Olympic Club, site of Webb Simpson's 2012 US Open Victory, winds through the coastal forests of San Francisco. Once narrowly tree-lined, the course underwent a redesign in anticipation of the 2007 US Amateur Championship that added significant length and removed numerous trees.
The course has a great variety of par-4s, from long and narrow to the drive-able 7th hole. My favorite hole is the deceptively difficult 18th: a narrow downhill tee shot must find the fairway to have any chance of holding the sharply sloping green. While it's under 350 yards long, making a par 4 is a significant achievement!
With constant wind blowing in off the Pacific Ocean, the Lake Course can be a brutal test of golf. As the host of the 2021 US Women's Open, the Lake Course should once again prove itself to be yet another coastal California gem.
Often known as ‘The Lake’, the San Francisco course was the host to the 2012 US Open, and will host the 2021 US Women’s Open. The Lake is highly regarded as one of the finest layout in the US.
It is a very challenging course, if not brutal, demanding serious thinking on every hole, and absolutely requiring the ability to adapt with heavy winds coming off of the ocean at virtually all times.
Credit Photo The Olympic Club.
The Honors Course
Another course designed by Pete Dye, located in Ooltewah, Tennessee. The Honors Course features all the hallmarks of a classic Pete Dye design: lots of hazards and punishment for any shot that goes offline. Miss a fairway and you may find yourself in deep native grass or one of the numerous water hazards. The greens feature sharp slopes and multiple tiers, giving multiple different options for interesting pin placements.
The Honors Course is widely regarded as the best course in Tennessee and has had the distinction of hosting multiple USGA championships, including the 1991 US Amateur and 2005 US Mid-Amateur. It's a challenging course that will punish offline shots, but bring your A-game and you'll find there are many birdies to be made.
Credit Photo Dan Reynolds.
Manele Golf Course
Another one of my personal favorites in Hawaii, the Manele Golf Course (previously called The Challenge at Manele), is simply one of the most beautiful courses in the US. Located a short ferry-ride from Maui on the island of Lanai, it's available to the public as long as you're a guest at the Four Seasons resort in Lanai. It features three incredibly beautiful ocean-cove holes, including my favorite, the par-4 17th. It's a dogleg right par-4 that requires your tee shot to carry the cliffs, while your approach must find a green that juts out into the ocean on a lovely peninsula.
Once you take in the views at the par-3 12th, you'll understand why Bill Gates rented out the course to have his nuptials right there on the 12th green! Manele Golf Course is one of the most underrated, underappreciated courses in the country. It may be the most gorgeous setting of any course I've ever played.
Credit Photo Four Seasons.
The Cascades at Omni Homestead Resort
The Cascades Course at Omni Homestead Resort is located in the Allegheny Mountains in Hot Springs, VA. Widely regarded as one of the best mountain courses in the country, it's beautifully nestled into the valley between two mountains. Tall trees and dense woods line the demanding holes which will test every aspect of your game. You'll need to be long and precise, with a solid short game and excellent touch on and around the greens.
You'll find yourself using all fourteen clubs in your bag and thinking your way around every hole. You'll need to hit straight shots, draws and fades, as each hole presents a distinct and unique challenge. The routing is brilliant, with no hole resembling any other but all somehow combining into a unified golf experience. Cascades is one of the best publicly accessible courses on the East Coast and a golf destination that's well worth your while.
Credit Photo Omni Hotels.
Peachtree Golf Club
The Peachtree Golf Club, located, in Atlanta, was a design collaboration between Robert Trent Jones and the great amateur Bobby Jones. An attempt to recapture the magic that Bobby and Alister Mackenzie found at nearby Augusta, Peachtree does bear a passing resemblance to the Masters host course, with dramatic rolling hills and hardly any flat lies to be found.
The historic clubhouse is one of the only buildings left standing after General Sherman burned down most of Atlanta during the Civil War, which adds an aura of timelessness to the experience. The giant green complexes and a recent renovation to remove some overgrown trees and implement resilient zoysia grass make for a memorable experience at Peachtree.
Credit Photo Peach Tree Golf & Country Club.
The Golf Club
The Golf Club in New Albany, Ohio, is one of Pete Dye's earliest creations. It's inspired by the natural terrain of the landscape and is a prime example of his love of deceptive sightlines and misdirection. He recently refreshed the course in 2013, but it retains all of its original charm.
Railroad ties abound, creating interesting and daunting hazards, and elevated greens will challenge you to hit high, soft-landing approach shots. With no major tournaments hosted and a generic name, The Golf Club flies under the radar - and that's how they like it. If you can garner an invite, you'll enjoy an understated but brilliant round of golf.
Credit Photo The Golf Club.
Southern Hills Country Club
A historic course located in Tulsa, OK that was built during the Great Depression. Constructed in the dustbowl during the Great Depression, it's designer Perry Maxwell's greatest design. Remarkably, the construction costs were significantly below the budget of $90,000, a testament to how well Maxwell integrated the course into the natural terrain of the land.
Southern Hills has hosted three US Opens and four PGA Championships, so there's plenty of major golf drama and history to relive as you make your way through the curving doglegs and undulating greens. The numerous doglegs provide risk/reward opportunities depending on how bold you want to be off the tee, but miss the fairway and you'll find yourself scrambling for a good score.
The course is closing for 10 months in 2018 for Gil Hanse to lengthen it to a more modern championship length, as its maximum of 7100 yards simply isn't enough to challenge the best golfers in the world anymore. It's in good hands, however, and I'm confident it'll retain its standing as one of the Midwest's best courses upon reopening in 2019.
Credit Photo Southern Hills.
Baltusrol Golf Club (Lower Course)
Originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast, Baltusrol Golf Club's Lower Course more reflects Robert Trent Jones and his son Rees Jones' design philosophy: huge fairways, punishing rough and very difficult green complexes with visually appealing but punitive bunkering.
While it's not the most varied or exciting course, Baltusrol exhibits all the hallmarks of a tough US Open course but lacks variety or a signature hole. The extensive greenside bunkers require precise iron shots that fly long and land softly - there aren't many options for how to play each hole. Jones shows you what you need to do and requires precise execution to avoid bogey.
That said, the course is always very well-maintained and tests your game sternly. And it's always a treat to play a course where legends like Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson have won major championships.
Pikewood National Golf Club
Originally designed by Robert Gwynne and John Raese, two mining company officers, Pikewood National is located in Morgantown, Western Virginia. Advertised as "pure golf for purists", it's a walking-only golf course with no cart paths or homes visible. The signature par-3 fifth hole utilizes a beautiful natural waterfall as its backdrop, and the routing of the course winds through forests, rapids, and giant natural stone foundations.
It's a long, difficult course but unquestionably beautiful and architecturally interesting, a distinct achievement from first-time golf course designers. The forward tees are a gigantic 6900 yards, so short hitters may feel the course is too long and difficult. Elite amateur players will find a lot to love, however. My favorite hole is the par-5 8th, a dogleg right with stunning vistas. Autumn is the best time to play the course, as the colorful fall forests will leaving you gaping at the natural beauty.
Sebonack Golf Club
Expectations were sky high for Sebonack Golf Course upon its opening in 2006: it was a design collaboration between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak, and located within view of two of golf's legendary courses, Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America. Fortunately, it's lived up to the expectations with a brilliant routing along the water and perfect conditions. The greens are classic Doak, small and tough to read, and Nicklaus' influence is shown in the fairness of the holes. High-handicap members find the course playable while scratch golfers enjoy plenty of treachery in their quest for par.
With a grand clubhouse majestically perched in front of the beautiful Peconic Bay, Sebonack Golf Club is an instant Long Island classic, destined to become an icon of American golf.
The Highland Course at Primland
With a stunning backdrop in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Dan, Virginia, the Highland Course at Primland is one of the East Coast's premier public courses. A mountain course to rival the nearby Cascades, Primland features tip-top conditioning, large and complex greens and some of the prettiest par-3s I've ever played. The intimidating par-3s all require a hefty carry over gorgeous gorges, so you may want to bring a few extra balls with you.
My favorite hole is the long par-4 18th, a terrifying tee shot tempered by the incredible views. With a slope of 145, the course is very difficult so shorter hitters will likely want to play from the forward tees to properly enjoy the experience.
The greens are fast and true, and each and every hole could enjoy the distinction of being a "signature hole" at any other golf course.
Capitol Hill (Judge Course)
One of the highlights of the Robert Trent Jones golf trail, the Judge Course at Capitol Hill in Prattville, AL grabs your attention from the first tee shot and continues to impress throughout the round. With a 200-foot drop from tee to fairway, the first hole is not only the signature hole of the course but possibly of the entire RTJ trail.
The rest of the course wanders alongside the Alabama River with water hazards dominating 14 of the 18 holes. My favorite is the par-3 6th, a lovely tee shot that's all carry to a bulkhead-encased island green. Whether you're making your way across the entire RTJ trail or just looking for a great one-off golf destination, Capitol Hill delivers the best public golf Alabama has to offer.
Chena Bend Golf Course
Alaska is known more for grizzly bears than golf courses, but should you find yourself in the northernmost state wanting to hit the links, you do have some attractive options. The best one is Chena Bend, located at the military base Ft Wainwright in Fairbanks and open to civilians at a remarkably reasonable rates. From the tips, the course stretches past 7100 yards and offers a complete, fair challenge to golfers at all levels.
Rounds can sometimes stretch out past 6 hours, and you'll need to allow for extra time to get past gate security, so plan to make a full day of it. And if it's too cold to play, they do offer an indoor 18 hole golf simulator to help you get through the long Alaskan winter.
Troon North (Pinnacle)
Troon North in Scottsdale, AZ may be the premier desert golf destination in the world. Designed by Tom Weiskopf, Troon North has 36 incredible holes to choose from. In my opinion, the Pinnacle edges out the Monument course, but both are well worth your time. It's an excellent destination for a wintertime buddies golf trip. The distinctive adobe clubhouse is a great place to unwind and enjoy some air conditioning after your round.
The greens suffer from typical resort golf issues, most notably unrepaired ball marks (I'll never understand why golfers don't go out of their way to fix their ball marks), but that's a small quibble at a course that's situated among lovely rocky outcroppings and cactus-lined fairways. The tee boxes offer striking views and the greens, once you fix the ball marks, roll true. Originally designed and recently renovated by Tom Weiskopf, Troon North is one of my favorite places to visit in Arizona.
The Broadmoor (East)
Located in Colorado Springs, CO, and the site of Jack Nicklaus' first US Amateur victory, the Broadmoor Golf Club East course is one of the best mountain layouts I've had the pleasure of playing. Tee-to-green it's a difficult but fair layout, though if the greens are fast they can border on unfair. As the host of the 2018 US Senior Open, the Broadmoor has their greens running lightning fast. You have to be sure you keep the ball below the hole, as downhill putts can and do roll off the green and 3-putts abound.
The difficulty of the greens notwithstanding, the East course offers sensational Rocky Mountain views and dramatic elevation changes. With 9 holes designed by Donald Ross and the other 9 by Robert Trent Jones, there's a nice variety but surprising unity to the round. One of my favorite golf destinations and one of the best in Colorado.
Lake of Isles (North)
Lake of Isles in North Stonington, CT, offers two Rees Jones-designed golf courses, one public and one private. Fortunately, the publicly accessible North Course is the superior layout. Rees Jones' style can be overly punishing, with numerous forced carries and large, deep bunkers surrounding elevated greens, but it makes for a picturesque experience.
Despite the difficulty, the course is quite beautiful and its signature long dogleg par-4 18th hole is a memorable finish to a tough round. If you have trouble carrying your tee shots 180 yards, you'll want to skip Lake of Isles, but better players will find a lot to like. With long drives from greens to tees, it's not a course for walkers or traditionalists.
Bayside Resort Golf Club
One of the best courses in the Ocean City area is Bayside Resort Golf Club in Selbyville, DE. A Jack Nicklaus-designed layout that opened in 2005, Bayside was built amongst coastal wetlands and retains many of the natural features of the land. Together with Nicklaus' signature precise bunkering, there's a lot of hazards to get into but also plenty of beauty and great golf to enjoy.
The holes that aren't marsh-lined or bordered by the waters of Assawoman Bay are tree-lined, so you'll need to keep your tee shots under control to enjoy a round here. Fortunately, most of the fairways are wide and receptive.
Bayside resort is great for a family trip because there's plenty to do for the non-golfers in the group, like kayaking and nature trails. The course is particularly gorgeous early in the morning, so get your day off to an early start to take advantage of the whole resort.
Ravisloe Country Club
Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood, IL, a formerly-private club featuring a fantastic Donald Ross layout, is one of the hidden gems of the Chicago area. It was a private club for 100 years before undergoing a restoration and opening up to the public in 2009.
Some people look at the scorecard and think it can't be long enough to offer a proper challenge, but they'd be missing out on some fantastic, interesting holes with daunting greens complexes and deep, difficult bunkers.
Get overly aggressive on a short par 4 and you'll find yourself struggling to make bogey. The well-placed fairway bunkers will challenge you to hit driver or lay up and make your approach shot more difficult. And the steeply sloping greens will punish you if you leave yourself above the hole. Ravisloe is a real treat that flies under the radar, giving the public a chance to experience old-school country club golf at a very reasonable rate.
My favorite hole is the short par 4 18th. It dares you to hit driver and punishes you with bunkers and hazards if you don't thread the needle to a tight sliver of fairway. Or you can lay up, but you'll have a tough mid-iron shot to a very small green. The line between a closing birdie and a round-destroying double bogey is paper-thin.
Kearney Hill Golf Links
Kentucky is a state known more for bourbon and horse racing than golf, but it boasts one of the best deals in the country in Kearney Hill Golf Links. It's a Pete and PB Dye designed course deemed good enough by the USGA to host the 1997 US Public Links championship, and yet even the weekend rates run under $35/person walking. In an era when the best public courses command greens fees of $300-500, to get on a Dye layout for $100 is a bargain. Kearney Hill beats that by a mile!
And the golf is nothing to sneeze at. A taste of Scottish Links golf in Lexington, Kearney Hill is always at the mercy of the day's prevailing wind. Fortunately, most of the long holes tend to play downwind. My favorite is the absolutely treacherous par-4 16th hole. A water hazard guards the entire left side of the fairway, but two cleverly placed trees guard the green from approach shots from the right. So you're tempted to try to hug the left off the tee or find yourself laying up on a par 4. Dastardly, but so much fun.
If you're on a distillery tour through bourbon country and are looking to make a golf detour, Kearney Hill Golf Links is a surprisingly good choice.
Spirit Hollow Golf Course
Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, IA, is the result of a lifelong dream of developer Randy Winegard. Built on a 400 acre plot of land that had intrigued Winegard since he was a young boy, Spirit Hollow is a stunningly beautiful course that's always in incredible condition. While some designers rely on manufacturing beauty, all architect Rick Jacobson had to do with Spirit Hollow was preserve the natural beauty of the existing landscape.
Dramatic tee shot after dramatic tee shot highlight the round, with elevated tees providing breathtaking vistas. The tees offer incredible variety for all levels of golfer, allowing you to play the course at 5000, 6000, 6500, or 7500 yards. The thick rough and abundant trees put a premium on hitting the fairway. It's definitely a thinker's golf course, as you'll want to do more than just grab driver on every tee box.
The rates of everything, from golf to food to beer, are very reasonable, and the practice area is expansive. Iowa isn't the first state you think of when you think of golf destinations, but Spirit Hollow does its part in changing that perception. One of the best hidden gems in the country.
Located just 15 minutes from the bustle and jazz of New Orleans, TPC Louisiana may as well be on the other side of the country: it feels like an isolated nature preserve, quiet and lush. Home of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic golf tournament, TPC Louisiana is regarded as one of the better-designed TPC courses in the country. It's situated along the Mississippi River delta and makes great use of the wetlands for both scenery and course design.
Like many other TPC courses, it's a Pete Dye original. Love him or hate him, his courses are distinctive, interesting and always feature great scenery. My favorite hole is the 18th, a long par-5 with water running down the left side and the lovely clubhouse as a backdrop. Together with several short par 4s, you'll find there are birdies out here if you keep your ball out of the water.
Sunday River Golf Club
Robert Trent Jones, Jr. describes Sunday River Golf Club as his "mountain golf masterpiece", and it's hard to disagree with him. Since opening in 2005, it immediately became my favorite golf course in Maine.
Maine is an underrated vacation destination, harboring some of the most beautiful and stunning rocky shorelines in the whole country. Sunday River is in the western mountains of Maine, however, and displays just how gorgeous the inland parts of the state can be. As with any good mountain course, there are dramatic elevation changes and majestic alpine views. It's especially stunning in the fall.
Located just three hours from Boston and two from Portland, Sunday River is a great day trip option that offers some of the best golf in New England.
Bulle Rock is yet another Pete Dye masterpiece, located in Havre de Grace, MD, about an hour northeast of Baltimore. It's easily the best public layout in Maryland, with a number of memorable and challenging holes. An abundance of doglegs and risk/reward tee shots will have you thinking hard and using every club in your bag.
The monstrous 665-yard par-5 11th hole is truly majestic. It winds left off the tee and the layup is no laughing matter with a smattering of bunkers protecting the narrow, sloping fairway. Go long with your approach to the green and you may find a hidden water hazard back there, but walk off with par and you'll be patting yourself on the back!
Bulle Rock hosted the LPGA Championship from 2005-2009 and always resulted in a great event, especially in 2005 when the legendary Annika Sorenstam took home the trophy. It's one of the best options within driving distance from the nation's capital.
Giants Ridge (Quarry Course)
The Quarry at Giants Ridge is part of a great 36-hole destination in Biwabik, MN. Architect Jeff Brauer calls it "my finest and most unique course", and it's easy to see why: built on the former site of a mine/quarry, the course winds through forests and wetlands. The unique land offers a great variety hole-to-hole, with blind shots, elevated tees, forced carries, and huge waste areas highlighting the challenges presented by The Quarry.
A well-designed short par 4 is one of the most fun aspects of golf, and The Quarry sports two of them: #10, where a driver over water provides an easier approach than a safer layup, and #13 with a split fairway daring you to be aggressive.
Playing during the offseason can be risky, as the brutal Minnesota winters sometimes wreak havoc with the conditions. But once the grass has had a bit of time to grow, the grounds crew gets the course in great shape and delivers a memorable round of golf.