This article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of LINKS.
Dan Hicks is best known to golfers as the lead play-by-play announcer on Golf Channel and NBC’s golf telecasts, but he also handles a number of other duties at the Peacock Network, including Notre Dame football, NFL games, and the Olympics. In fact, he will be in Sochi for the Winter Olympics to host alpine skiing (the Games will preempt NBC’s usual coverage of the WGC Accenture Match Play from his hometown of Tucson). He’ll be back in the golf booth during the PGA Tour’s Florida swing in March.
Married to ESPN anchor Hannah Storm, with whom he has three daughters, the Winged Foot eight handicapper used to get in more golf on the road, but his busy schedule of late has limited his play. “If the time is right and the course is right,” he says, “I will make time.” During the Florida swing, for instance, he tries to play Seminole and Indian Creek, typically with producers Tommy Roy and Tom Randolph, as well as Gary Koch (Johnny Miller will occasionally come along). The courses below would also definitely warrant making time.
1. Shinnecock Hills, Southampton, N.Y.
“It’s got the IT factor. A lot of the times when you’re discussing courses it just kind of comes down to the feel and whether it has IT or not, and Shinnecock’s got it. The shotmaking that course requires is second to none, but you stand in that clubhouse and look down and it just takes your breath away.”
2. Pine Valley, Pine Valley, N.J.
“Again, it’s the feel and shotmaking. I love the ruggedness. It allows you to score, but if you get into trouble it’s probably one of the most penal golf courses I’ve ever seen. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, it’ll crush you.”
3. Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Calif.
“It’s another one with the IT factor. All 18 holes aren’t the best, but it’s the greatest crescendo of a golf course I’ve ever seen from 11 to 17. Even with the downer hole at 18, it still is unbelievably dramatic.”
4. Winged Foot (West), Mamaroneck, N.Y.
“I’m a little biased because I’m a member, but it’s got the best greens I’ve ever seen. The West course gets all the attention because of the U.S. Opens, but you can put East down as well. Ask any member what their preference is and they will have a very hard time telling you East or West.”
5. Oakmont, Oakmont, Pa.
“Every time I’ve gone back there for various championships, I am reminded how incredible it is, not that I need to be reminded. There aren’t a lot of courses that are that difficult that you can still fall in love with, and I’ve probably shot some of my highest rounds ever at Oakmont.”
6. Augusta National, Augusta, Ga.
“Few places exceed your expectations. After watching it on TV for a long time growing up and then finally getting to play it several years ago for the first time—I’ve probably played five or six times since—it’s surreal how good it is and how beautiful it is.”
7. Sand Hills, Mullen, Neb.
“We did the Senior Open in Omaha last year, so we organized a trip with Tommy Roy and Mark Rolfing, who was involved in the original building of the course with Coore & Crenshaw. It’s absolutely one-of-a-kind, out in the middle of nowhere, and the design itself is brilliant. The more I played it the more I fell in love with it.”
8. Friar’s Head, Riverhead, N.Y.
“Another Coore/Crenshaw. It’s got a similar crescendo feel like Cypress, although you’re not on the ocean, even though the ocean is just over the cliffs and the dunes. But it’s got the same kind of buildup on the back nine as the great holes keep coming like wave after wave.”
9. Fishers Island, Fishers Island, N.Y.
“It’s a course designed by Seth Raynor, who is one of my all-time favorites. Every time you turn your head you’re looking out over the ocean. You’re out there on a true piece of art. It’s like a time warp where you might see guys playing in ties and tweeds.”
10. National Golf Links of America, Southampton, N.Y.
“Again, it’s one of those courses with the IT factor. It’s very quaint with the windmill and the whole feel. The finish, when the sun’s setting over the bay and that clubhouse, is just pure magic.”