Links Courses of The Americas: The Few, the Proud, and the Imposters

By David DeSmith

 

Links Courses of the Americas
15th hole, Bandon Dunes (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

The British Golf Museum defines a links course as “a stretch of land near the coast characterized by undulating terrain, often associated with dunes, infertile sandy soil, and indigenous grasses such as marram, sea lyme, and the fescues and bents which, when properly managed, produce the fine-textured, tight turf for which links are famed.”

By definition, there are very few such courses in the Americas.

But there are plenty of tracks that aspire to be links. The first course in the U.S., Oakhurst Links, opened in 1884 in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. It had neither dunes, nor infertile soil, nor indigenous links grasses. And no one will confuse a view of the sea with one of a spring, sulphurous or otherwise. But Russell Montague, the golf pioneer who created Oakhurst, can be forgiven. He admired the links courses of Great Britain and Ireland, so his choice of name was meant to be an honorific.

The simply (and misleadingly) named Links Golf Club of Palestine, Ind., isn’t a links golf course, either. You won’t be buffeted by sea breezes in the middle of the Hoosier State.

The Links Golf Course of Paso Robles in California says that its course “boasts hard and fast Bermuda Fairways, lined by Bermuda and Rye rough.” No. Just no.

Ballyneal in eastern Colorado touts itself as “a private, authentic North American, inland links golf experience.” Ballyneal is a terrific course, but sorry. There’s no such thing as an inland links.

National Golf Links of America is a much-worshipped course—a Macdonald/Raynor beauty that many would sacrifice one or more digits to play. Its setting on Peconic Bay in Southhampton, N.Y., and golf holes named for famous links forbears like “Alps,” “Redan,” and “Eden” might almost earn it true links status were it not for the nature of its turf. Sorry. Awesome course. But again, not a links as defined.

Not even granting yourself the grandiose moniker of “Royal Golf Links” will make it so. The Las Vegas course of that name, with its replica Road Hole, Postage Stamp par three, and Swilcan Bridge, is still just a golf course. Not a links.

Truth be told, if you want to play a true links course without crossing an ocean, you’ll have very few choices. But what good choices they are. Here are the six (yup, just six) courses that qualify in my book as the true links courses of The Americas. It’s interesting to note that the first of them, the oldest, is only in its twenties.

Bandon Dunes

When Bandon Dunes’s designer, Scotsman David McLay Kidd, heard that there was gorse growing on the site of this first of the now five 18-holes courses at Bandon, he knew it might be possible to create a true links course there. The site turned out to be everything he’d hoped for—and the result of Kidd’s work there has been lauded ever since.

Links Courses of the Americas
Bandon Dunes (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

Pacific Dunes

Just along the coast from its Bandon Dunes sibling, Tom Doak’s design at Pacific Dunes similarly makes the most of its seaside setting. Its rumpled fairways, tall marram grasses, and deep pot bunkers scream “links” from start to finish.

Links Courses of the Americas
Pacific Dunes (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

Old Macdonald

Doak was back with Jim Urbina to pay homage to C.B. Macdonald at this third of Bandon’s links trio. Holes with names like “Biarritz,” “Redan,” “Leven,” and “Alps” owe their lineage to their Scottish ancestors.

Old Macdonald (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

The Sheep Ranch

Coore and Crenshaw’s contribution to Bandon’s bevy of links beauties just debuted and it’s a stunner, with more gorse than you can shake a niblick at and a tumbling, expansive seaside setting.

(photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

 

Cabot Links

On the other side of North America, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canadian course designer Rod Whitman did his nation proud at this spectacular “New Scottish” links masterpiece.

Cabot Links (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

Cabot Cliffs

Though situated on higher ground than its neighbor, the Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw design at Cabot Cliffs is still every inch a pure links experience. The closing three holes along the edge of the Gulf of St. Lawrence recall the Highlands at every step.

Links Courses of the Americas
Cabot Cliffs (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

It should be said that there are many courses in The Americas that look and play like links courses. If you can’t make your way to Oregon or Nova Scotia, here are a few that offer very enjoyable near-links experiences.

Streamsong (Red, Blue, Black Courses) – Bowling Green, Fla.

Sand Hills – Mullen, Neb.

Sand Valley (Sand Valley & Mammoth Dunes Courses) – Nekoosa, Wis.

Kiawah Island (Ocean Course) – Kiawah Island, S.C.

Chambers Bay – University Place, Wash.

The Links at Spanish Bay – Pebble Beach, Calif.

Arcadia Bluffs – Arcadia, Mich.

Lakewood Shores Resort (Gailes Course) – Oscada, Mich.

Whistling Straits (The Straits Course) – Kohler, Wis.

Diamante (Dunes Course) – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The Abaco Club – Great Abaco Island, The Bahamas

Highland Links (9 holes) – Truro, Mass.

 

Have you played one of our five links courses of The Americas? Tell us about your experience!

My Round at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club

By Al Lunsford

 

Caledonia Golf
Approach at the 18th hole (photo by Al Lunsford)

 

The moment you make the turn through the gate at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, you realize this is no ordinary public facility.

Your first exposure to the former rice plantation is a drive down the club’s long and narrow entrance road, a half-mile stretch splitting the gap between the 1st and 10th holes enveloped by 150-year-old live oaks covered in Spanish moss. A right turn guides you parallel to the Waccamaw River where you might drive next to a boat pulling out of the docks at the Fish Club. You get this feeling like you’ve been transported to a different place and time—something that lingers throughout the course of your round.

Consistently ranked among Golf Digest’s list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses,” Caledonia (Roman for “Scotland”) opened in 1994 as the first solo design of the late Mike Strantz, the commercial artist turned architect whose layouts are commended for their creativity and originality. In an effort to preserve the land’s natural beauty, Strantz and his team moved a mere 100,000 cubic yards of dirt in building a course that seems like it was meant to be there all along.

Caledonia Golf
18th tee (photo by Al Lunsford)

 

The tee markers are the first thing you notice, each designated as a different species of duck (the rice fields have been a popular duck hunting spot for the property’s owners). At most, the course extends to 6,526 yards from the Pintail tees—although seemingly undaunting, you’re dealing with a par-70 layout that has three par fives and five par threes. At the advice of the starter, we chose the Mallard tees which are listed at 6,121 but “play like 6,400.”

A couple of things to note before your round begins—if you plan to hit any balls to get warmed up, you’ll have to do so across Kings River Road about a mile away at Caledonia’s sister course, True Blue (another Strantz design) as there is no driving range on-site. And if you want to spend your round cruising on one of the club’s Finn Scooters (think a motorcycle with a bag holster) instead of the traditional two-man cart, it’s best to reserve one well in advance. Although $30 extra, they’re a hot item—and were all reserved when I called in a day earlier.

From the first—a short, tight par four with road on your left and woods on your right—it’s evident that the tee ball is a premium. The greens are generally big enough to give players an opportunity at redemption for a wayward drive—as long as you’re not blocked out by a well-placed oak—but are often guarded by a punishing combination of water and sand.

As my brother-in-law so eloquently put it staring down the 175-yard par-three 3rd (with a 40-yard-long, three-tiered green and sand just about everywhere but the putting surface), “just don’t be left, right, long, or short.”

Caledonia Golf
7th hole (photo by Al Lunsford)

 

The par-four 7th is another good example. At 346 yards from the Mallard tees, there is trouble all down the left. Yet if you bail too far to the right, your next shot is sure to be behind a massive tree situated less than 50 yards from the front of the green. Too long of a drive, if not hit perfectly left-center, means you’ll be punching under said tree on your approach—and too short means you’ll have to hit over it.

That being said, Strantz made the course fair and pretty straight forward. If you can hit the shot he’s asking you to hit, you’ll be in a good position to find the hole in par or better. If you don’t…let’s hope you’ve worked on your scrambling.

Playing through the 18 holes brings forth several Lowcountry charms like covered bridges, birdhouses, and plenty of alligators swimming around. A white wooden hut between the 9th green and 10th tee typically offers complimentary chowder. You’ll notice these features more than usual when you’re in the course’s interior, where there are no houses to be found.

The halfway house at Caledonia (photo by Al Lunsford)

 

The final three holes build to a dramatic finish. The 16th is marked as the toughest test on the scorecard—a 400-yard dogleg right requires you to split two bunkers off the tee and carry a pond short right with your approach. The 17th is a nervy 156-yard par-three island in the sand with nowhere to miss, but still plenty of room to find the dance floor.

It’s the 18th that many will look back and remember. After taking less than driver off the tee, all players face a forced carry over a popular fishing spot in front of the final green. Once you’re done, take your seat on the clubhouse’s back porch and watch the following groups attempt to escape Caledonia without losing one final ball.

The back porch at Caledonia’s clubhouse (photo by Al Lunsford)

 

In reflection, you won’t find a better public course to tee it up in the Myrtle Beach area than this sanctuary just south of the Grand Strand.

New 14-Hole Short Course “QuickSands” Coming to Gamble Sands

By Al Lunsford

 

Quicksands
A rendering of QuickSands (photo courtesy Troon Golf)

 

David McLay Kidd and Troon Golf recently announced that ground has been broken on a 14-hole short course called “QuickSands” at Gamble Sands in Brewster, Wash.—the first of its kind in the state of Washington.

The property’s second course joins the original McLay Kidd-designed 18-hole Sands course, the links style layout set in the high desert over the Columbia River which was voted “Best New” golf course of 2014 by both Golfweek and Golf Digest. QuickSands is anticipated to open for preview play this fall and fully open in 2021.

“Historically short courses were often after thoughts, squeezed into useless corners for non-golfers to go try their hand,” says McLay Kidd. “Today short courses have become a serious addition to world-class golf resorts. The best land is sought, the best talent is brought to bear, expectations are high, and we don’t plan to disappoint.”

Indeed, McLay Kidd says that QuickSands, being constructed east of the Gamble Sands clubhouse between the driving range and the entry road, sits on “maybe the best piece of terrain on the whole property” on a 25-acre parcel of sand dunes. The holes will range from 60 to 160 yards and have working names such as “Plinko” (1st), “Crater” (3rd), and “Corkscrew” (9th) based on the shapes of the wildly contoured greens awaiting players.

“I think that when the golfers get out there, they’re going to be shaking their heads and chuckling, and figuring out how they’re going to get the golf ball close,” says McLay Kidd.

QuickSands will become the first short course design for the highly regarded Scottish architect, whose award-winning resume also includes Bandon Dunes and his latest creation, Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa, Wis.

The golf itself will reward shot-making ability, but will have ample turf and limited forced carries, giving players plenty of shot options. It’s clear that fun is a priority around every corner of the new layout, which will also feature a course-wide sound system playing different tunes on different days (Metallica and the Eagles were explicitly mentioned).

Gamble Sands (photo by Brian Oar)

 

“We expect a lot of whooping and hollering throughout the course, giving it a strong social vibe,” says Gamble Sands General Manager Brady Hatfield.

My 10 Favorite Golf Course Logos

By Adam Stanley

 

Golf Course Logos
The Putter Boy statue at Pinehurst Resort (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

 

A good logo—whether it’s for a fashion brand, a trendy restaurant, or a golf course—should try to adhere to some of the principles of effective design, including being simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and relevant—according to popular design blog Tailor Brands.

With golf there’s seemingly endless inspiration to draw from.

Is it in a city that’s known for something? Is there a signature design feature on the course that would work well in the logo? What about the surrounding environment? Is the name of the club enough? Or maybe the location is all that’s needed?

Art is subjective, for sure, but these are my favorite 10 golf course logos. Reply in the comments with yours.

1. Sleepy Hollow Country Club (Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.): Located about 45 minutes from Manhattan, Sleepy Hollow was dubbed by Tom Doak in his book, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, as, “Westchester’s best unknown golf course.” The club is somewhat lucky to be able to lean on a centuries-old tale for its logo, but the spectacular drawing of the headless horseman and font choice that can only be described as haunting gives it the top spot on my ranking.

Golf Course Logos

2. Augusta National (Augusta, Ga.): Everyone knows the Masters’ logo. It’s iconic in itself. But the club replaces “Masters” with “Augusta National Golf Club” for the other 51 weeks out of the year, and rarer than that is the “ANGC” iteration of the logo. Even the most casual of sports fans will know what the United States in yellow and green with a flag popping out of Georgia means.

(Photo by Getty Images)

 

3. Merion Golf Club (Ardmore, Pa.): The host of multiple major championships located about 30 minutes from Philadelphia has long forgone the use of flags and instead uses wicker baskets on top of their pins. It’s no surprise the logo reflects this unique feature of the course. Simple, timeless (it’s been the same for more than 100 years), and relevant.

Golf Course Logos

4. Fishers Island Club (Fishers Island, N.Y.): A cliché used by property experts is that the three most important factors in determining the desirability of a property are location, location, location. Fishers Island is, of course, on an island off the coast of Connecticut (but technically in New York). The logo is a perfect summation: A map of where the course is. (Side note: Twitter went abuzz when Joel Dahmen, paired with Tiger Woods no less, rocked a sun hat with the Fishers Island logo on it in 2018.)

Golf Course Logos

5. Whistling Straits (Kohler, Wis.): The major-championship host facility on the shores of Lake Michigan has one of the finest and most impactful logos in golf. The pencil drawing is dynamic in black and white and features a Greek-mythology type with an impressive mustache-and-hair combination who is, well, whistling. Some say it looks inspired by Herb Kohler, the billionaire executive chairman of the Kohler Company and financier of the resort.

Golf Course Logos

6. McArthur Golf Club (Hobe Sound, Fla.): Bonus points for fun. The Nick Price/Tom Fazio design in south Florida (think Florida’s Pine Valley, if you’re trying to visualize) gets its name from the McArthur Dairy Farms, which owns the property. It’s no surprise then, that the logo is a simple milk jug. I love it because if you showed that to 100 people, I bet almost none of them would say it’s for a golf course.

7. Pinehurst (Pinehurst, N.C.): The sprawling golf resort in North Carolina also has one of the most memorable logos out there. The “Putter Boy” is a staple on the property and a symbol of the resort.

Golf Course Logos

8. Oakmont Country Club (Oakmont, Pa.): As minimalist design becomes more and more popular throughout many facets of life, there’s something to be said about Oakmont’s simple three-letter logo. An elongated “O” is split by a skinny “C” with a third “C” in the center. Long ranked as one of the top clubs in the world, you don’t need anything more from Oakmont.

9. Winged Foot Golf Club (Mamaroneck, N.Y.): The host club of the 2020 U.S. Open is an all-time A.W. Tillinghast design with a memorable logo. Quite literally, it is a winged foot. Why not? Makes sense, is memorable, reflects the club, and unless the club changes its name, it’ll remain relevant forever.

10. Cabot Links Golf Resort (Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada): I’m partial to Cabot’s Links course logo (although the rare blue lobster of Cabot’s Cliffs course is pretty great, too), but when Cabot burst onto the golf world’s radar in 2011, of course it had to have a ship in its logo. It’s named after John Cabot, the famous explorer who essentially discovered North America, and the pencil drawing of Cabot’s ship is perfect.

There are plenty of options out there—what are your favorite logos?

The Best of Harry Colt’s Lesser-Known Courses

By Tony Dear

 

Harry Colt's Courses
Northamptonshire County Golf Club (photo by Andy Hiseman)

 

U.S. readers will certainly know the name Harry Colt (born Henry in London in 1869)—the man who showed the world amateur golfers (though he did make the cut at the 1891 Open Championship) were capable of designing golf courses and doing it so well it could become a legitimate profession.

A Cambridge grad, Colt gave up a very promising and potentially lucrative career in law to become the secretary of Rye Golf Club on the south coast of England in 1895, before moving to Sunningdale Golf Club in 1901.

Colt worked on a handful of courses during three trips to North America in 1911, 1913, and 1914. He collaborated with Donald Ross at Old Elm in Chicago, created the original course at the Country Club of Detroit, extended Tom Bendelow’s layout at Bloomfield Hills Country Club in Michigan, had a significant hand in the design of George Crump’s Pine Valley Golf Club, and laid out Hamilton Golf Club and Toronto Golf Club in Canada. Following WWI he travelled less frequently and shorter distances, but still influenced course design on this side of the Atlantic to a degree as his associate, Charles Hugh Alison, completed a good deal of work here.

All told, Colt and his partners (Alister MacKenzie spent four years with him and Alison from 1919 to 1923; Alison and John Morrison formed a design company alongside Colt in 1928) worked in 16 countries and created well over 300 courses, Colt directly involved in about 115 of them.

He worked in a variety of settings—downland, moorland, parkland, woodland, and links—but is best known for what he created on heathland southwest of London at courses like Sunningdale (Old and New), Wentworth (East and West), St. George’s Hill (originally 36 holes, now 27), and Swinley Forest where he proved the best characteristics of links golf—raw, uncontrived, strategic—could indeed be transferred inland.

Part of the beauty of Colt’s work is that it didn’t really have a signature look. Though you’d certainly enjoy the Colt course you were playing, you might not necessarily recognize it as his. He routed courses supremely well and his short holes were outstanding, but perhaps the most common theme among every one of his designs was that they were as good as the land allowed them to be. He famously described Swinley Forest as his “least bad course.” In a similar vein, we might say the thing common to all Colt courses was that there was absolutely nothing wrong with them.

As we did with James Braid, we’re discarding Colt’s most famous works (Sunningdale, Royal Portrush, Muirfield, Hoylake, Swinley Forest, etc.) in favor of courses you might not know. Identifying so few courses from so extensive a list is agonizingly difficult.

Recognizing there are many more, here’s a dozen that demonstrate what he was capable of.

Northamptonshire County (Church Brampton, England)
An Open Championship Regional Qualifying venue an hour and a half northwest of London, Northamptonshire County opened in 1910 and has parkland, woodland, and heathland characteristics—sturdy oaks and stands of silver birch framing holes with gorse adding a nice touch of color.

Harry Colt's Courses
(photo by Andy Hiseman)

 

Tandridge (Oxted, England)
With expansive views over Surrey’s North Downs and the Sussex/Kent Weald, Tandridge is a glorious escape from London an hour to the north. It opened in 1924 and has two rather distinct nines—a gentle front and more dramatic back. It’s an intoxicating combination.

Harry Colt's Courses
(photo by Tandridge Golf Club)

 

Broadstone (Broadstone, England)
Tom Dunn laid out the original course in 1898, but Colt redesigned it during the first World War when he replaced the parkland holes (5th–16th) with a stretch far more heathland in character. The region around Bournemouth on the south coast possesses a group of excellent wooded heathland courses of which Broadstone may be the pick.

(photo courtesy Broadstone Golf Club)


Brokenhurst Manor (Brokenhurst, England)
Not widely known even in Britain, Brokenhurst Manor covers 6,222 yards of the New Forest which William the Conqueror established in 1079. Colt’s wonderful layout opened 840 years later.

(photo courtesy Brokenhurst Manor)

 

Edgbaston (Birmingham, England)
It’s hard to believe Colt’s lovely parkland layout that opened in 1936 (Colt was 66) lies just a couple of miles southwest of Birmingham City Center. In 2019, Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert provided input for the first phase of a bunker restoration, bringing Colt’s bunkers back to life, after locating aerial images from the 1940s.

(photo courtesy Edgbaston Golf Club)

 

Prestbury (Prestbury, England)
Mackenzie & Ebert have recently completed a restoration of Colt’s intimate parkland design that opened in 1920, on just 90 acres 20 miles south of Manchester.

Harry Colt's Courses
(photo by Prestbury Golf Club)

 

Camberley Heath (Surrey, England)
If Camberley Heath weren’t surrounded by quite so many world-renowned courses, indeed so many Colt-designed gems, its renown would surely have spread further. Set on 135 magnificent pine, heather, and sand-covered acres, the course opened in 1913 with Colt’s usual quota of great par threes as well as four splendid short fours.

Harry Colt's Courses
(photo by Camberley Heath Golf Club)

 

Blackmoor (Hampshire, England)
Like Brokenhurst Manor, par-69 Blackmoor enjoys a certain anonymity despite being as delightful a course as any of its more famous heathland neighbors. Colt laid out 12 holes in 1913 and returned in 1924 to build six more at the southwestern extreme of the sand belt.

(photo by Blackmoor Golf Club)

 

St. Andrews Eden (St. Andrews, Scotland)
It’s understandable with some fairly good golf quite close by, but it’s a shame relatively few people know just how enjoyable Colt’s 1914 design is with its enchanting mix of pot bunkers, contoured greens, and perfect links turf.

Harry Colt's Courses
(photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

County Sligo (Rosses Point, Ireland)
Like the road that takes you from Tralee out to Tralee Golf Club, the R291 between the town of Sligo and the course, otherwise known as Rosses Point, fills the golfer with wild anticipation. At its end is Colt’s brilliant 1927 remake of Willie Campbell’s layout which has hosted the West of Ireland Championship since 1923.

Harry Colt's Courses
(photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

Utrecht De Pan (Bilthoven, Netherlands)
Roughly equidistant from the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam is Utrecht where, in 1929, Colt designed a forest/heathland classic that bears comparison with the best of Surrey and Berkshire. Noted Colt expert Frank Pont (who has also worked at Tandridge, Broadstone, and Camberley Heath) has been involved at De Pan for the last 15 years systematically restoring the original design.

(photo by The Company Golf Club)

 

Golf de St. Germain (Saint-Germain-En-Laye, France)
A little parkland, a little heathland, and a lot of woodland make up Colt’s noble 1920 layout in the Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, about 20 miles west of the Eiffel Tower.

Harry Colt's Courses
(photo courtesy Golf de Saint-Germain)

 

What is your favorite of Harry Colt’s golf courses? Let us know in the comment section.

10 of Golf’s Polarizing Par Fours

By Erik Matuszewski

 

Golf's Polarizing Par Fours
The author (right) at Quail Lodge, 1st hole (photo by Erik Matuszewski)

 

When my parents lived in the golf mecca that is California’s Monterey Peninsula, they were never further than a flip wedge off some fairway, even while moving several times. One of their stops was the secluded Quail Lodge in the Carmel Valley, where I always seemed to head to the back nine with conflicting feelings. On the par-four 10th hole a giant tree blocks the fairway, which is also guarded down the right side by a canyon wall that starts near the tee box.

I’d often attempt to hammer a driver over the tree or finesse a tee shot just to the right of it. My dad would take the low route, punching one down the fairway with his abbreviated backswing and follow through. My brother, whose footwork on the tee is often more animated than Bubba Watson, would try slinging some kind of a shaped shot around the stately sentinel. Typically, my feelings about the hole varied from round to round based on the result, but I still remember thinking, “What in the world?” the first time I stepped on that tee box.

Sometimes a golf hole just doesn’t fit our eye or sensibilities, whether because of design, difficulty, setting, or situation.

That speaks to one of the unique beauties of golf: The playing field is always different. And while some golfers may absolutely love a particular hole for all its strategy, quirks, or charm, others might loathe it.

Previously, we ran through some of the most polarizing par three holes in the game.

Now it’s time for a completely subjective lineup of love ’em or leave ’em par fours. Again, this is not a definitive list by any means, rather a starting point to think of holes that often elicit strong feelings on either end of the spectrum. Let us know some of yours.

 

1st hole – The Golf House Club, Elie (Fife, Scotland)

A blind opening tee shot over a 30-foot rise? That’s the quirky start golfers will find at Elie, where a periscope salvaged from the Royal Navy submarine HMS Excalibur sits atop the starters’ office and offers a perfect view over the hill at the first hole to see if the coast is clear. For many, it’s absolutely a beloved feature that speaks to the course’s unique charm, but there have also been many a first-timer unnerved from the start.

The Periscope at The Golf House Club, Elie (photo by Scotland, The Home of Golf)

 

1st hole – The Virtues Golf Club (Nashport, Ohio)

Another opening hole that’s created its share of debate. Not far from Columbus, this Arthur Hills parkland design (which used to be known as Longaberger) starts with an uphill, dogleg right hole that has an expansive, mature tree right where you’d hope a well-struck tee shot might land. Try to cheat to the right and there’s a good chance your second shot of the day will be from one of the bunkers.

14th hole – Bandon Trails (Bandon, Ore.)

The short, downhill 14th has spawned more than its share of controversy over the years. It’s a potentially drivable hole, but has perhaps the most demanding tee shot on the course. Drives hit at the green or slightly to the right will kick further to the right by the sloped fairway, and even decent-looking approach shots often get ejected by the small, severe green that’s now been softened but still gives plenty of golfers fits.

Golf's Polarizing Par Fours
14th hole, Bandon Trails (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

18th hole – Whistling Straits (Kohler, Wis.)

This finisher, called “Dyeabolical” by its architect, Pete Dye, is a visual stunner heading inland from the shoreline of Lake Michigan. It’s also long, extremely hard, and as Dustin Johnson knows has a boatload of bunkers that don’t look like bunkers. There is plenty of trouble to contend with off the tee—dunes, waste areas, and a creek—while whistling winds can cause havoc with the downhill approach shot.

Golf's Polarizing Par Fours
18th hole, Whistling Straits (photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

 

18th hole – Cypress Point (Pebble Beach, Calif.)

Criticizing one of the world’s greatest courses just doesn’t feel right. But there’s no question the closer at Cypress Point is a polarizing hole, playing uphill through a somewhat tight chute of trees. It’s been called a connector hole by some, even caddies at the course, and definitely underwhelming in comparison to the three holes that precede it, as the 15th, 16th, and 17th are among the best holes you could ever hope to play.

Golf's Polarizing Par Fours
18th hole, Cypress Point (photo by Erik Matuszewski)

 

14th hole – Cruden Bay (Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

Again, this may be akin to someone complaining that the Mona Lisa’s smile isn’t lively enough. But the fact is that this hole features a blind approach shot to a sunken “bathtub” green that befuddles many first-time players. It’s quirky, no doubt, and some say the green itself feels forced into a tight space between a tall dune and the ocean.

Golf's Polarizing Par Fours
14th hole, Cruden Bay (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

12th hole – TPC Sawgrass (St. Augustine, Fla.)

The controversial change to the 12th hole at Sawgrass was essentially shortening it for the pros in recent years. It became a drivable par four, but perhaps one that didn’t generate the excitement that was hoped for, with players attacking it with hybrids and irons because there’s water so close to the small green. Alice Dye even said it’s awkward and “not a Pete Dye design.”

12th hole, TPC Sawgrass (photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

 

14th hole – Baywood Greens (Long Neck, Del.)

This one is a catch-all for the island fairway design element, which can elicit many a gripe about lost balls and pace of play. This particular hole, which has a bailout fairway well to the right that allows it to be played as a long dogleg left, also has the added challenge of a fairway bunker for some unfortunate souls who briefly celebrate finding the fairway. There are others of its ilk, like the 9th at McCormick Ranch in Arizona, that can similarly draw ire—especially when a good tee shot runs through the island green.

10th hole – Bethpage Black (Farmingdale, N.Y.)

Another example of a great golf course with a hole that has its share of critics. In this case, the debate extends to any number of par fours at courses around the country: What’s your acceptable length for a forced carry off the tee? Yes, we know it was more than 250 yards dead into the wind just to reach the fairway for the pros at the 2002 U.S. Open. It can still be a lengthy forced carry from the amateur tees on a good day, so this makes for a well-known case study of a particular hole type that’s gotten a thumbs-down from many a golfer.

Golf's Polarizing Par Fours
10th hole, Bethpage Black (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list, just a starting point for discussion.

Please share more examples of par four holes that you consider polarizing, from well-known courses to the most obscure—like the municipal course in Marquette, Mich., that has a totem pole in the middle of a fairway!

The Grove XXIII: Michael Jordan’s New Course

By Adam Stanley

 

Grove XXIII
17th hole (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

If there’s one thing that’s evident in The Last Dance, the new documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, it’s that Jordan loves golf. Like, really loves golf.

Golf architect Bobby Weed had the opportunity to work with Jordan on his latest project, The Grove XXIII—the roman numerals representing “23,” Jordan’s iconic jersey number while playing in the NBA.

Jordan was the client that commissioned the private course, near Hobe Sound outside of Jupiter, Fla., to be designed by the team at Bobby Weed Golf Design. It had a soft open in the fall of 2019 before opening for its first full year in early 2020.

Weed says he and the basketball superstar had some great early discussions and Jordan placed “the highest emphasis” on the golf course.

The property is about 227 acres on a flat, rectangular piece of land that was formerly a citrus grove—essentially a blank canvas where Weed was able to create a multi-faceted layout. The land is marked by two distinguishing features—drainage canals on the western and northern boundaries of the property.

Grove XXIII
16th hole (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

“I knew it would afford excellent drainage opportunities, but at the same time we were able to incorporate those drainage canals into features by setting golf holes up against them and tees on the other side of them,” says Weed. “It worked out really good in that respect.”

The course plays fast and firm, is virtually treeless (completely void of the palm trees typical of the region), and has some links-style features to it. There are water hazards, but they don’t really come into play, says Weed.

“From the clubhouse you can pretty much see every hole on the golf course out in front of you. It’s progressive and contemporary,” Weed says. “It turned out really good in every perspective.

“We ended up building a golf course that really does not feel like it’s in Florida.”

Once Weed and his team agreed to a layout, that’s when the real excitement began—in a routing that Weed dubbed, “Totally ingenious,” the course gives golfers the opportunity to play four distinct nine-hole loops.

Grove XXIII
13th hole (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

There is a north end and a south end, and each of the four nine-hole routings incorporates holes from both ends of the property. At the 5th and 14th holes, there is a cross-over where golfers can switch playing the back nine or front nine and still end up back at the clubhouse.

Weed says what struck him the most about having Jordan involved was how great of a listener he was. The NBA Hall of Famer enjoyed coming out to the golf course and observing as it was constructed.

One big stand out of the property has been the practice facility—the final tally of the facility was 20 acres, according to Weed’s website, with multiple areas to work on one’s game.

“Butch Harmon called me and said, ‘I hear those practice facilities are the best on the planet,’” recalls Weed. “I said, ‘I haven’t been all over the planet but everyone is speaking very highly of them.’ They may be the most technical, advanced practice facilities anywhere.”

Weed says the idea for the spectacular practice complex came from Jordan.

1st hole (photo by L.C. Lambrecht)

 

“In hearing how (Jordan) pushed himself to the extreme limits when he was playing basketball and practicing and the regiment he created—he wanted that same experience in golf. He wanted us to build a facility that would give players an opportunity to practice under conditions that are extremely challenging,” says Weed.

Weed has received positive feedback on the course from PGA Tour golfers and regular members alike. It’s hard to build golf courses that accommodate the wide variety of golfers that play the game today, but he believes they’ve done it at The Grove XXIII.

“The project was great because it is sheer golf,” says Weed, “and nothing else.”

Modern Classics: Great Waters

Jack Nicklaus returned to Reynolds Lake Oconee to modernize and renovate his three-decade-old gem

By James A. Frank

 

Great Waters
11th hole (photo by Russell Kirk)

 

Jack Nicklaus has done some great things in the state of Georgia. There are those six green jackets, of course. But Jack also did some pretty fancy tailoring about 100 miles west of Augusta, where he built—and recently renovated—Great Waters at the golf community/resort Reynolds Lake Oconee.

Perhaps Jack’s greatest accomplishment in creating Great Waters was convincing the powers that be that the available lakefront should be used for golf holes, not golf homes. As a result, half of the course is along the water. Both when he first saw the property back in the early ’90s and again after finishing the renovation last fall, Nicklaus called it “one of the really great pieces of property with which I have ever had the experience to work,” joking that he was given “more water than we could ever have asked for.”

The parkland-style front nine rolls through thick forests, with the occasional stream, pond, and stone wall, all set off by dramatic elevation changes. The back nine is a peninsula embraced by the lake, playing in and out of trees, to and from the water. With its mix of beautiful views and challenging angles, Great Waters, which originally opened in 1992, was not only a member favorite among the six courses at Reynolds, but perennially ranked among the state’s best.

While there was nothing really wrong with the course, time had taken its toll. “Things wear out and things change a lot in 30 years,” explains Chad Goetz, the Nicklaus Design associate who oversaw the project.

“Technically, we rebuilt the golf course. It is the same course, but now it is really polished.”

Great Waters
13th hole (photo by Evan Schiller)

 

The results are evident on every hole. Trees were cleared and trimmed to reduce shade, improve the quality of the turf, and open up the views—especially of the lake. Cutting back trees also widened the fairways and brought more turf into play, making Great Waters more player friendly, a course-wide goal further accomplished by softening slopes, re-contouring greens, and reducing overall bunker area.

The irrigation and drainage systems were updated and replaced, as was the turf itself: Fairways and tees are Zoysia, roughs are TifTuf Bermuda, and greens are TifEagle Bermuda. And tees were added at both extremes, with a new set way back at 7,436 yards (Great Waters regularly hosts collegiate events) and a forward set at 4,485 yards designed to increase participation, improve pace of play, and get everyone starting from the most appropriate points.

Six holes received even more extensive touch-ups, including moving tees and recontouring fairways. The par-three 8th was the only hole to receive a complete remodel, and now features a series of bunkers that wasn’t there before. A number of greens were moved closer to the lake, but usually with allied refinements to balance the challenge.

Among the words Nicklaus used to describe Great Waters while he was tinkering was “spectacular,” “exciting,” and “really strong.” Words that apply to all his Peach State accomplishments.

Ranking the World – Continental Europe

In the second installment of our four-part series ranking the world’s golf countries (outside of the U.S.), we turn to the increasingly attractive offerings among the 20-plus nations of Europe.

By Darius Oliver

 

Ranking Continental Europe
Morfontaine, France (photo by Julien Tizot)

 

Unlike golf in the British Isles, which we covered in the previous issue of LINKS, quality and quantity in Europe varies dramatically. There is less than one course per million residents in Turkey and Russia, for example, but more golf per capita in Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland than there is in England, which will surprise many.

Perhaps equally surprising is the quality at the top end. The 2018 Ryder Cup focused attention on our number-one nation, France. Beyond the somewhat contrived Le Golf National facility, however, are a number of high-end private and public-access courses that regularly rank among the finest in Europe and collectively rival the best golf available in a country like Ireland. Rounds at Morfontaine, Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Les Bordes, Golf du Medoc, Le Touquet, Hardelot (Les Pins), Prince de Provence, Sperone, and Grand Saint-Emilionnais would make for a wonderful golf trip.

The Dutch also have a number of great Golden Age courses, such as De Pan, Royal Hague, and Kennemer, but the quality falls away more noticeably after the top handful than it does in France.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the top five countries is Denmark, which earned its number-three spot on the back of a solid collection of good courses, both old and new. Along with interesting modern courses like The Scandinavian (New/Old), Lubker, Lyngbygaard, and Stensballegaard is the charming Copenhagen (Kobenhavns) Golf Club, which is the oldest in Scandinavia (founded in 1898) and set within the expansive grounds of a beautiful old castle.

Those looking for a warmer golf getaway could choose from a number of tourist-friendly regions in both Portugal and Spain, or perhaps 2022 Ryder Cup host Italy, which is an ideal self-drive destination because its most appealing courses are spread far and wide across an intoxicating landscape: from Verdura (West/East) in Sicily and Pevero on the island of Sardinia, through the likes of Acquasanta and Ryder Cup host Marco Simone near Rome, Castiglion del Bosco in Tuscany, and the northern lakes district, where golfers can enjoy Circolo Golf Bogogno (Bonora/DelConte), Villa d’Este, Castelconturbia, and the Milano Golf Club, set beside the world-famous Monza racetrack.

Ranking Continental Europe
Castiglion del Bosco, Italy (photo by Aidan Bradley)

 

Portugal is another impressive European destination with year-round sunshine and plenty of high-quality, affordable courses. It finished ahead of neighbor Spain primarily because its green fees tend to be lower and visitors have greater access to its best courses.

Both Spain and Portugal are popular winter destinations for Swedish golfers, who actually have it pretty good at home during their short golf season. Sweden finished second in our ranking on the back of the sheer volume of golf courses it has, as well as both value and bucket list venues like Falsterbo, Bro Hof Slott (Stadium & Castle), Ullna, Halmstad, Barseback, Ljunghusens, and the PGA of Sweden. For fans of old-school architecture, the likes of Stockholm Golf Club and Royal Drottningholm are also recommended.

When it comes to value, the best courses in each of Europe’s top six countries are much cheaper than their equivalents across the channel. In France, for example, although it’s tough to get onto Morfontaine and Prince de Provence, you can play seven of its best 10 courses for under $150 each. And though we would never dissuade readers from the great links of the UK and Ireland, these results show that for those interested in combining a little culture with their next golf trip, Europe is a terrific option. Most of the best golf on the continent is accessible for foreigners, inexpensive, and probably better than you expect.

HOW WE SCORED THEM:

NUMBER OF COURSES:

10 pts. = 5,000+, 9 = 2,000 to 5,000, 8 = 1,000 to 2,000, 7 = 500 to 1,000, 6 = 300 to 500, 5 = 100 to 300, 4 = 50 to 100, 3 = 25 to 50, 2 = 10 to 25, 1 = fewer than 10

POPULATION PER COURSE:

10 pts. = less than 10,000, 9 = less than 15,000 8 = less than 20,000, 7 = less than 25,000, 6 = less than 30,000, 5 = less than 50,000, 4 = less than 80,000, 3 = less than 100,000, 2 = more than 100,000

BEST 5/15 COURSES

In order to properly compare the quality of golf across Europe, we looked at both small- and medium-sized samples of the best courses in each country, judging each on the strengths of its top-5 and top-15 layouts. Not surprisingly, the leaders here were Holland and France, whose best old courses are usually prominent on European Top 100 ranking lists. Following close behind were Sweden, Portugal, and Spain.

BEST COURSES, COUNTRY BY COUNTRY

FRANCE: Morfontaine, Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Les Bordes, Grand Saint-Emilionnais, Golf du Medoc (Chateau/Vignes), Le Touquet, Hardelot Les Pins, Sperone, Terre Blanche, Le Golf National, Saint Germain, Chiberta, Prince de Provence, Biarritz Le Phare, Moliets. Top 5 (7), Top 15 (7)

SWEDEN: Falsterbo, Bro Hof Slott Castle/ Stadium, Sand, Visby, Ullna, Halmstad (North/ South), Barseback, Royal Drottningholm, Ljunghusens, Stockholm GC, PGA of Sweden (Links/Lakes), Svartinge. Top 5 (6) , Top 15 (6)

DENMARK: The Scandinavian (New/Old), Lubker, Copenhagen GC, Lyngbygaard, Stensballegaard, Great Northern, Himmerland, Silkeborg Ry, Holstebro, Rungsted, Esbjerg. Top 5 (6), Top 15 (5)

HOLLAND: Kennemer, Royal Hague, De Pan, Noordwijkse, De Swinkelsche, Hilversumsche, Eindhoven, Stippelberg, Rosendaelsche, The Dutch, Lage Vuursche, The International. Top 5 (7), Top 15 (6)

PORTUGAL: West Cliffs, Praia D’El Rey, Oitavos Dunes, Troia, Monte Rei, Quinta do Lago (South/North), Palmares, Vilamoura (Old/Victoria), San Lorenzo, Penina, Penha Longa, Vale do Lobo. Top 5 (6), Top 15 (6)

GERMANY: Hamburger, Budersand, Sporting Club Berlin (Faldo/Palmer), Frankfurter, Seddiner See, Winston (Open/Links), St. Leon Rot (Rot/St. Leon), Bad Griesbach, Beuerberg, Hubblerath, Rethmar, Fohr. Top 5 (5), Top 15 (4)

SPAIN: Valderrama, El Saler, PGA Catalunya, Sotogrande, Puerta de Hierro, Finca Cortesin, Sevilla, Son Gual, Neguri, Las Brisas, Santander, Las Colinas, La Reserva, El Prat, Villa de Madrid, Emporda (Links/Forest), Pedrena. Top 5 (6), Top 15 (6)

BELGIUM: Royal Zoute, Ravenstein, Royal Limburg, Royal Waterloo (La Lion/Marache), Royal Golf des Fagnes, Royal Ostend, Royal Antwerp, Royal Sart Tilman. Top 5 (5), Top 15 (5)

ITALY: Verdura (West/East), Villa d’Este, Circolo Golf Bogogno (Bonora/DelConte), Castelconturbia, Biella, Royal Park, Roma (Acquasanta), Donnafugata, Le Robinie, Castiglion del Bosco, Milano, Pevero, Is Arenas, Olgiata, Torino, Marco Simone. Top 5 (5), Top 15 (4)

NORWAY: Lofoten Links, Oslo GC, Kongsvinger, Miklagard, Stavanger, Atlungstad, Holtsmark, Notteroy. Top 5 (5), Top 15 (3)

ICELAND: Keilir, Brautarholt, Vestmannaeyja. Top 5 (4), Top 15 (2)

AUSTRIA: Eichenheim, Klagenfurt, Fontana, Adamstal Franz Wittmann, Gutenhof, Murhof, Seefeld-Wildmoos, Schloss Schonborn, Gut Altentann. Top 5 (5), Top 15 (3)

SWITZERLAND: Domaine Imperial, Crans-sur-Sierre, Zurich, Bad Ragaz, Engadine, Geneva, Lausanne. Top 5 (5), Top 15 (3)

FINLAND: Kytaja, Linna, Nordcenter. Top 5 (4), Top 15 (2)

TURKEY: Carya, The National, Antalya (PGA Sultan), Cornelia, Lykia Links, Montgomerie Maxx, Gloria. Top 5 (4), Top 15 (3)

Ranking Continental Europe
Gloria, Turkey (photo by Kevin Murray)

 

CZECH REPUBLIC: Albatross. Top 5 (3), Top 15 (1)

BULGARIA: Thracian Cliffs, Pirin, BlackSeaRama. Top 5 (4), Top 15 (1)

POLAND: Sand Valley, Modry Las, Rosa. Top 5 (3), Top 15 (1)

ESTONIA: Parnu Bay, Estonian. Top 5 (3), Top 15 (1)

SLOVAKIA: Penati (Legend/Heritage). Top 5 (3), Top 15 (1)

RUSSIA: Raevo, Pestovo, Tseleevo, Skolkovo, Zavidovo, Moscow CC, Peterhof, Agalarov. Top 5 (3), Top 15 (1)

AVERAGE GREEN FEES

For these criteria, we considered courses that featured on the Top 100 ranking lists for Europe in Golf World Magazine and on the Top100GolfCourses.co.uk website. The summary (collated) results were as follows.

AVERAGE GREEN FEES

10 pts. = < $80; 9 = < $100; 8 = < $120; 7 = < $150; 6 = < $180; 5 = < $220; 4 = < $260; 3 = < $300; 2 = over $300.

FRANCE €104.80 = $115 (8)

SWEDEN SEK 1020.35 = $104 (8)

DENMARK DKK 734.54 = $108 (8)

HOLLAND €115.70 = $127 (7)

PORTUGAL €131.20 = $145 (7)

GERMANY €88.45 = $97 (9)

SPAIN €180.30 = $198 (5)

BELGIUM €95.00 = $104 (8)

ITALY €125.66 = $138 (7)

NORWAY NOK 1090 = $120 (8)

ICELAND €72 = $81 (9)

AUSTRIA €84.85 = $93 (9)

SWITZERLAND CHF 146.40 = $147 (7)

FINLAND €105 = $115 (8)

TURKEY €146.00 = $160 (6)

Ranking Continental Europe
Montgomerie Maxx, Turkey (photo by Kevin Murray)

 

CZECH REPUBLIC €77 = $85 (9)

BULGARIA €79 = $87 (9)

POLAND €70 = $77 (10)

ESTONIA €75 = $82 (9)

SLOVAKIA €79 = $87 (9)

GOLF TRIPS

Although nothing in Europe can top the sort of Bucket List itinerary available in Scotland, Ireland, or England, a trip through the top courses of France would be world-class, especially because of the affordable green fees. The same is true of Holland, Sweden, and particularly Portugal, which stands out from neighboring Spain because its best golf courses are both more accessible and more reasonably priced.

BUCKET LIST TOUR

FRANCE: Morfontaine, Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Les Bordes, Grand Saint-Emilionnais, Golf du Medoc (Chateau), Le Touquet, Hardelot Les Pins, Prince de Provence, Sperone, Terre Blanche, Le Golf National. (8)

SWEDEN: Falsterbo, Bro Hof Slott (Castle/Stadium), Sand, Ullna, Halmstad (North/South), Barseback, Royal Drottningholm, Ljunghusens, Stockholm GC, PGA of Sweden (Links/Lakes), Svartinge. (7)

DENMARK: The Scandinavian (New/Old), Lubker, Copenhagen GC, Lyngbygaard, Stensballegaard, Great Northern, Himmerland, Holstebro, Rungsted. (6.5)

HOLLAND: Kennemer, Royal Hague, De Pan, Noordwijkse, De Swinkelsche, Hilversumsche, Eindhoven, Stippelberg, Rosendaelsche, The Dutch. (6.5)

PORTUGAL: West Cliffs, Praia D’El Rey, Oitavos Dunes, Troia, Monte Rei, Quinta do Lago (South/North), Vilamoura (Old), San Lorenzo, Penina, Penha Longa, Vale do Lobo. (7)

Monte Rei, Portugal (photo by Aidan Bradley)

 

GERMANY: Hamburger, Budersand, Sporting Club Berlin (Faldo/Palmer), Frankfurter, Seddiner See, Winston (Open/Links), St. Leon Rot (Rot/St. Leon). (5)

SPAIN: Valderrama, El Saler, PGA Catalunya, Sotogrande, Puerta de Hierro, Finca Cortesin, Sevilla, Son Gual, Neguri, Las Brisas, Santander, Las Colinas, La Reserva. (7)

BELGIUM: Royal Zoute, Ravenstein, Royal Limburg, Royal Waterloo (La Lion/Marache), Royal Golf des Fagnes, Royal Ostend, Royal Antwerp, Royal Sart Tilman. (6)

ITALY: Verdura (West/East), Villa d’Este, Circolo Golf Bogogno (Bonora/DelConte), Castelconturbia, Biella, Roma (Acquasanta), Donnafugata, Castiglion del Bosco, Milano, Pevero, Marco Simone. (5.5)

VALUE ITINERARY

Best golf under $150 peak rate

FRANCE: Fontainebleau, Chantilly, Grand Saint- Emilionnais, Golf du Medoc (Chateau/Vignes), Le Touquet, Hardelot Les Pins, Sperone, Saint Germain, Chiberta, Biarritz Le Phare, Moliets. (9)

SWEDEN: Falsterbo, Bro Hof Slott Castle, Sand, Visby, Ullna, Halmstad (North/South), Barseback, Royal Drottningholm, Ljunghusens, Stockholm GC, PGA of Sweden (Links/Lakes). (5.5)

DENMARK: Lubker, Copenhagen GC, Lyngbygaard, Stensballegaard, Great Northern, Himmerland, Silkeborg Ry, Holstebro, Rungsted. (5.5)

HOLLAND: De Pan, Noordwijkse, De Swinkelsche, Hilversumsche, Eindhoven, Stippelberg, Rosendaelsche. (6)

PORTUGAL: West Cliffs, Praia D’El Rey, Oitavos Dunes, Troia, Palmares, Vilamoura (Old/Victoria), San Lorenzo, Penina, Penha Longa. (6)

GERMANY: Hamburger, Budersand, Sporting Club Berlin (Faldo/Palmer), Frankfurter, Seddiner See, Winston (Links/Open), St. Leon Rot (Rot/St. Leon), Beuerberg, Hubblerath, Rethmar, Fohr. (5)

SPAIN: El Saler, Sevilla, Las Colinas, El Prat, Emporda (Links/Forest), Pedrena. (5.5)

Las Colinas, Spain (photo by Kevin Murray)

 

BELGIUM: Royal Zoute, Ravenstein, Royal Limburg, Royal Waterloo (La Lion/Marache), Royal Golf des Fagnes, Royal Ostend, Royal Antwerp, Royal Sart Tilman. (5.5)

ITALY: Villa d’Este, Circolo Golf Bogogno (Bonora/ DelConte), Castelconturbia, Biella, Royal Park, Roma (Acquasanta), Le Robinie, Castiglion del Bosco, Milano, Pevero, Is Arenas, Marco Simone. (5.5)

NORWAY: Lofoten Links, Miklagard, Stavanger, Atlungstad, Holtsmark, Notteroy. (5)

AUSTRIA: Eichenheim, Klagenfurt, Fontana, Adamstal Franz Wittmann, Gutenhof, Murhof, Seefeld-Wildmoos. (4)

SWITZERLAND: Crans-sur-Sierre, Zurich, Engadine. (4)

TURKEY: The National, Antalya (PGA Sultan), Cornelia, Gloria. (4)

American Dream Courses: Southwest

By Tony Dear

 

Dream Courses Southwest
Wente Vineyards (photo courtesy Greg Norman Golf Course Design)

 

After exploring the southeast, we stay at a similar latitude but move across the country to the southwest for the second installment of our “American Dream” series—specifically California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and southern Utah.

The southwest isn’t blessed with quite as much golf as the southeast perhaps, and there are comparatively few old-school golf clubs with similar history and character. There is a lot of excellent, modern, top-dollar resort golf, but that doesn’t really fit our mold. Remember, in this series we’re looking for quieter, lesser-known courses/clubs that anyone can play at a reasonable price—courses that might not necessarily ring a bell now, but which you’ll appreciate knowing.

Just as it was with our southeast selection, leaving some very enjoyable courses off our list of 10 was really tough. But we’re confident you’d have a memorable round at any of the following…

Olivas Links—Ventura, Calif.

In 2008, Forrest Richardson performed a major redesign of the original 1960s 27-hole Olivas Park Municipal, owned by the City of Ventura, creating an attractive 18-hole course adjacent to the Santa Clara River and overlooking Ventura Harbor. Now managed by Kemper Sports, Olivas Links can be played for $51 midweek, making it slightly dearer than nearby Ventura County courses—Rustic Canyon, Soule Park, and Saticoy—but still remarkably good value.

Dream Courses Southwest
Olivas Links (photo by Olivas Links)

 

The Course at Wente Vineyards—Livermore, Calif.

Wente Vineyards, a little closer to San Jose than San Francisco in the Livermore Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), is among Greg Norman’s best designs and opened in 1998. It climbs and falls over some fairly hilly terrain with views over the vineyards for much of the round, but levels out at the 15th. The final four may be flat but together cover 1,938 yards with the 18th fairway divided by a creek. Go right and the approach is shorter but must carry a pond. If you manage a four, you deserve a glass of Wente to the nth degree in the clubhouse. Not surprisingly perhaps, rates can rise quite sharply here, but come at the right time and you can play this beautiful course for $69.

Mt. Woodson Golf Club—Ramona, Calif.

The scorecard will undoubtedly put some off and if, indeed, you hit bombs off the tee, then perhaps this 1991 Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt design half an hour northeast of San Diego isn’t for you. But we’re not ashamed to recommend 5,800-yard courses (we’ve done it before), especially when they’re this enjoyable. $50 midweek gets you around.

Mt. Woodson (photo by Mt. Woodson Golf Club)

 

Apache Stronghold Golf Club—Globe, Ariz.

At 3,200 feet above sea level, playing Apache Stronghold is usually a lot more comfortable than grinding it out in the blast furnace of Phoenix, 100 miles due west. Part of the Apache Gold Casino Resort and owned by the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the course was Tom Doak’s first west of the Mississippi and opened in 1999. As you might expect given who created it, the layout is pretty much as good as anything you’ll find in the desert but, sadly, the condition of the course has never matched its design. If it’s architecture that interests you, we recommend you visit. If manicured surfaces and uniform bunker sand are more important, we suggest you drive on by. $45 midweek.

Los Cabelleros Golf Club—Wickenburg, Ariz.

A Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin design that just passed its 40th birthday, Los Caballeros sits at 2,100 feet above sea level just outside Wickenburg, 70 miles northwest of Phoenix. Not flashy by any means, the course opened before the target-golf era arrived so much of it is grassed, giving it more of a parkland feel than pure desert. Peak winter rates do top $100, but in summer you can play for as little as $45.

Los Caballeros (photo by Los Caballeros Golf Club)

 

Tubac Golf Resort and Spa—Tubac, Ariz.

You might expect a course 45 minutes south of Tucson and just 25 minutes north of the Mexican border to be surrounded by cacti and so stinking hot you’d have to tee off by 5 a.m. or later than 8 p.m. to have any hope of making it all the way round. You probably wouldn’t expect anything quite so charming as Tubac, whose holes are actually lined with mature cottonwoods and mesquites, and which doesn’t really feel like a desert course at all. The first 18 were designed by Red Lawrence in 1959, the third nine by Ken Kavanaugh in 2006. Play the course where Roy “Tin Cup” McEvoy dueled with David Simms for as little as $49.

Boulder Creek Golf Club—Boulder City, Nev.

The Desert Hawk, Coyote Run, and Eldorado Valley nines make up one of the most popular facilities in the Las Vegas area (25 miles southwest of the strip) and were designed by former Robert Trent Jones Jr. associate Mark Rathert. The original 18 (Desert Hawk/Coyote Run) opened in 2003 and though there’s plenty of grass, the desert, large bunkers, water hazards, and arroyos are never far away. The twilight (1 p.m. or later) rate for non-residents is $70.

Dream Courses Southwest
Boulder Creek (photo by Brian Oar)

 

University of New Mexico Golf Course—Albuquerque, N.M.

Our second Red Lawrence layout, the Championship Course at UNM in Albuquerque opened in 1967 and sits 5,300 feet above sea level, making it comfortable to play in winter, when you might need a sweater, and summer, when you’ll definitely take it off. The course has been ranked among the top 15 campus layouts in the country and has hosted four men’s NCAA championships and one women’s NCAA Championship. The weekday rate for N.M. residents is just $35. Non-residents pay $55.

Sky Mountain—Hurricane, Utah

After warming up on one of the most spectacular ranges in the country, you move on to the hugely enjoyable Jeff Hardin-designed course—20 miles northeast of St. George—with the magnificent peaks and ridges of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area looming to the north and west. The front side follows a fairly rugged path, seemingly miles from civilization, while the back circles a residential neighborhood before finishing with a couple of exciting holes looking down on the Virgin River. Walking rates range from $37 to $57.

Dream Courses Southwest
Sky Mountain (photo by Sky Mountain Golf Course)

 

Pinon Hills—Farmington, N.M.

Consistently ranked as one of the best municipals in the country, Pinon Hills is owned by the city of Farmington, 180 miles north of Albuquerque, and was designed by Ken Dye. It opened in 1989 and is playable all year round, though winter mornings can be pretty chilly and summer afternoons pretty warm in the high desert. During the week, non-residents pay $44.

 

Which clubs in the southwest would you recommend? Let us know in the comment section.