Buy your airline ticket, pack your clubs and get ready to unleash your inner Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson or Rickie Fowler. Andrew Marshall puts together a bucket list of public golf courses in America.
CALIFORNIA - Pebble Beach
“If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach (pictured left). I’ve loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus of this famed Califorinian course. And there are few thrills in golf to match teeing off for the first time on Pebble Beach Golf Links, previously ranked number one on Golf Digest’s ‘America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses’ list. The course oozes history and atmosphere, and since opening in 1919 has hosted some of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, including five US Open Championships and the annual Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Over the years, the exquisite beauty and unique challenge of Pebble Beach has thrilled golfers and spectators alike. The course hugs the rugged coastline, providing wide-open vistas, and cliffside fairways and greens, with ocean’s crashing surf as a backdrop. Some of the most spectacular holes are five to eight, which are on the promontory between Stillwater Cove and the Pacific Ocean. As you walk in the footsteps of legends, you anticipate each and every storied hole while recounting magical moments in golf history, such as the par-3 17th, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 US Open. Is it worth the eye-watering green fee of around $US500? Yes, at least once in a lifetime.
NEVADA - Wolf Creek
Located 124 kilometres north of Las Vegas at Mesquite, this is 18 holes of fantasy golf at its ultimate best. Opened in 2000, Wolf Creek’s captivating desert design immediately drew rave reviews and is now firmly established as one of America’s top public courses. There are precious few courses that can generate a genuine sense of awe for several holes at a stretch, and exceedingly rare is the layout that can sustain the feeling for an entire round. Wolf Creek is such a place.
Set high above the desert floor among red-rock canyons, teeming waterfalls and glistening creeks, it looks as though strips of green velvet have been laid out on a Mars-like landscape. After teeing off at the par-5 opening hole it’s a roller-coaster golfing adventure among sculpted hills and canyons with several elevation changes and forced carries over streams and ravines.
Developer Doug Clemetson was determined to leave the distinctive natural landscape in place, accepting that a number of non-traditional golf holes would result. On the 2nd tee box, for example, 90 granite steps lead up to the driving area, which is located some 11 storeys high. The third hole plays uphill to one of the highest points on the course with incredible views, and par-3 11th’s green is an island in a sea of red rock and typical of Wolfe Creek’s dazzling visual appeal.
NORTH CAROLINA - Pinehurst No. 2
This star attraction of Pinehurst Resort’s nine courses remains one of the world’s best and most celebrated golf courses. Pinehurst No. 2 has served as the site of more single golf championships than any course in America and, in 2014, made history again, becoming the first to serve as host to the US Open and US Women’s Open Championships in consecutive weeks. Opened in 1907, Pinehurst No. 2 was designed by Donald Ross, who called it “the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed”. Ross was associated with the course for nearly a half-century, improving the course continually until his death in 1948.
Pinehurst No. 2 is best known for its crowned, undulating greens, which are some of the most complex and widely hailed in the world. In March 2011, the course reopened following a 12-month, $2.5 million restoration by the design firm of Coore & Crenshaw that restored the course’s natural and historic character. Over the years, its champions have included some of the greatest players in history including Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Payne Stewart. The course will host the US Open once again in 2024.
FLORIDA - TPC Sawgrass
Home of the Players Championship, birthplace of the TPC (Tournament Players Club) Network and backdrop to the PGA TOUR headquarters, the TPC Sawgrass golf course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is one of the world’s most famous golf courses. The Players Stadium Course sports one of the most recognisable and most challenging holes on the PGA Tour – the notorious 17th, an island green par-3 that makes or breaks many a PGA tour pro’s round (pictured above).
Designed by Pete and Alice Dye, the Stadium Course was built to challenge the pros like no other golf course had done before, while providing an unprecedented experience for amateurs and spectators at the same time. Small, contoured greens demand a deft touch and every hole has elements of risk and reward, drama and excitement. The course tests every facet of the game and every club in the bag. Past winners such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Ricky Fowler understand and appreciate that they must have a well-rounded game to triumph over the Stadium course to become the Players Champion.
OREGON - Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Along the wild Oregon coastline amongst massive dunes, indigenous vegetation and hearty pines is the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort - one of the best golf destinations in America. Golf was born on rugged, windswept land just like this, and it’s the kind of place where you half expect to see the golfing forefathers in their plus-fours with a handful of hickory clubs. This is golf with a nod to the traditions of the time-honoured game, a collection of links-style courses by the sea with all the quintessential ingredients - stunning ocean views, towering grass dunes, rippling fairways, fast undulating greens, natural bunkers and ever-present winds. The natural feeling takes you to the British Isles, but the manicured course conditions and amenities are straight out of America.
The story began in 1999 with the opening of the first course, Bandon Dunes. The course is perched on a bluff high above the Pacific Ocean and designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd who said: “It thrills me now to watch the public playing the game as it was originally meant to be played, on the finest links land I’ve seen outside the British Isles.” Sixteen years later, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has developed into what Golf Digest describes as the “No. 1 Golf Resort in North America”, with all four public 18-hole courses ranked in the top 15 within the US. The additions of Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald, as well as the unique 13-hole Par-3 course, Bandon Preserve, provides the perfect destination for keen golfers.
HAWAII - Mauna Kea
“Mr. Rockefeller, if you allow me to build a golf course here, this’ll be the most beautiful hole in the world.” So said renowned course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr at the third hole site to developer Laurance S Rockefeller as they toured the raw, barren lava landscape that is now Mauna Kea Resort in 1962. The course (pictured left) opened in 1964 to begin the legend of Hawaii as a golfer’s paradise. Mauna Kea Golf Course has been ranked among Golf Digest’s Top 100 since 1969 due in part to the 242-metre drive signature third hole, where surging inlet waves thunder against the rocky shoreline.
In 2007/08, without changing the essential character of his father’s design, Rees Jones Inc re-planted the championship Course with highly efficient ultra-dwarf Tifeagle Bermuda grass on the greens and Tifway 419 hybrid Bermuda grass on the tees, fairways and roughs. State-of-the-art irrigation systems, liners in the bunkers, and advance drainage improvements keep the course in top shape and save on environmental resources. As for play, the number of bunkers increased to 99, overall metreage has expanded by about 180-plus metres from the tips, and multiple tees challenge all levels of players. Mauna Kea Golf Course ushers in a new age of golf with innovative new Golf boards, a fun way to carve through a round of golf in record time and surf the earth.
Published under license from Well Travelled Media.
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