The Top 10 Courses on My Bucket List

By: George Peper

Call me anal retentive, but I’ve kept a record of every golf course I’ve ever played. The current count is 694—spanning 36 countries and 37 states—and while I’ve been lucky enough to play many of the best ones, I also have some glaring gaps I’d love to fill.

Most of the courses on my bucket list come in pairs, and the first two are Prairie Dunes and Crystal Downs. I like them because they’re both in out-of-the-way areas of the Midwest (PD in Hutchinson, Kan., CD in Frankfort, Mich.) and both are classic designs by highly regarded architects (Perry Maxwell at PD, Alister MacKenzie at CD). The recent telecast of the NCAA Championship at Prairie Dunes took that course to the very top of my list. 

Sadly, it’s been more than a decade since my last visit to Bandon Dunes, which means I haven’t seen either Old Macdonald or Bandon Trails. People tell me I’ll love OM, may not love BT, but I’m looking forward to checking both of them out this summer. 

I suspect I will indeed love Old Macdonald because my two favorite golf course architects are C.B. Macdonald and his protégé Seth Raynor, especially Raynor. Two Raynor courses I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time are Camargo in Cincinnati and Yeamans Hall in Charleston.

Back in the late 1990s, when I was at GOLF Magazine, I was paid a visit by Julian Robertson, the billionaire founder of the Tiger Management hedge fund. He’d bought some property in New Zealand and was seeking advice on the choice of a course designer. “I don’t want one of the regular guys—Nicklaus, Jones, Fazio, Dye,” he said. “I’m looking for something different and I’d like to work with the next great architect.” I led him to a kid who had been writing articles on architecture for us for a few years and had begun to establish himself as a designer—Tom Doak. Tom got the job and gave Julian not one but two spectacular seaside courses—Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers. At least I’m told they’re spectacular—I’ve never seen either of them, but I will (I hope).

It would have been nice to neatly pair up the last two courses on my wish list, but they couldn’t be further apart. Kasumigaseki has been regarded for decades as one of the best golf courses in Japan and is slated to be the host course for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.  Meanwhile, back home in Cashiers, N.C., is the course viewed by many as Tom Fazio’s masterpiece, Wade Hampton.



  1. How about the Orchards in South Hadley, MA, site of the 2004 USGA Women’s Open. Great old Ross course!

    — Mike Riley · Friday June 20, 2014 ·

  2. Golf during long distance travel seems to stay in my memory longer than anything local or even in the state of Michigan. Your reference to Crystal Downs makes me envious since I think I’ve played all the courses in the northern lower peninsula except Crystal, and a good friend had promised to have me as a guest prior to passing away about 5 years ago. Now, my wife and I plan trips to Ireland, Canada, & Mexico, remembering the fabulous experiences we’ve had as guests in faraway lands. As soon as I have my 2 hips replaced, we’re off to the northwest including Alberta, where true beauty still abides.

    — Dave McDonald · Friday June 20, 2014 ·

  3. George-You have an invitation to visit Tulsa and play Tulsa Country Club with me and your old friend Hot Ball Harry Johnson. TCC just hosted the Women’s NCAA Championship in May. The course is in wonderful shape.

    — Bob Soucek · Monday June 23, 2014 ·

  4. Never knew that Kauri Cliffs was designed by Tom Doak, always thought it was David Harman.

    — Brian Ewen · Wednesday June 25, 2014 ·

  5. Great list of courses but if I am not mistaken the late Dave Harman designed Kauri Cliffs.

    — TK · Wednesday June 25, 2014 ·

  6. This past July my brother, nephew and I had the privilege to play Old MacDonald and Pacific Dunes courses at Bandon in the company of Mr. Peper which only added to our experience. George, I hope the courses met your expectations.

    Best Regards,

    — Barry Adamson · Tuesday October 7, 2014 ·


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