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Mauna Kea Golf Course Kamuela, Big Island, Hawaii 33. The Greenbrier (Old White TPC) White Sulphur Springs, W. Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Ghost Creek) North Plains, Ore. Omni Barton Creek Resort (Fazio Canyons) Austin, Tex.
Thick desert flora frames every Talon fairway and mountain panoramas arrive early and often. Circling Raven Worley, Idaho (-) It may not sport a floating island green like its neighbor up the road, but this bird has everything else in its nest, including wetlands, grasslands and Ponderosa pines, plus unparalleled solitude disturbed only by the stray elk or moose.
The most memorable seaside tests are the par-4 fourth, the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th, each with eye-popping scenery and enjoyable risk/rewards. Mixing live oaks, lagoons, tiny greens, bunkers banked by railroad ties and a closing stretch along the Calibogue Sound, this Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus collaboration delights and terrorizes at every turn. Tall, odd-shaped sand piles, significant climbs and drops, firm, fast-running Bermuda fairways and lakes submerged in the sand spice the play on the Coore-Crenshaw-designed Red course. Women’s Open, when nine of its holes paired with Blackwolf Run’s original front nine (now the back nine of the Meadow Valleys course). (0-2) This clifftop, city-owned venue overlooking the Pacific Ocean in suburban San Diego stretches 7,600 yards, following a 2001 Rees Jones renovation that also moved greens closer to canyon edges. Strategic tests such as the double-fairway, par-4 10th and the drivable par-4 17th, framed with sand and fescues, are superb. Most remarkable was the 2012 event, when Tommy Gainey’s final-round 60 catapulted him over Davis Love, Jim Furyk and David Toms for the win. Designed by Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten, Erin Hills controversially was chosen to host the 2017 U. He also outfitted the layout with deep bunkers and closely mown green surrounds that place an emphasis on precise approaches. An antebellum clubhouse and 18th hole that border an old rice plantation and the Waccamaw River completes a pretty picture. Fallen Oak dishes out streams, orchards, lakes and wetlands, along with Fazio’s sprawling bunkers—plus an Acadian-style, Southern Mansion clubhouse. (5) Former Western Open/BMW Championship venue Cog Hill in the southwestern Chicago suburbs became Tiger Woods’ personal playground.
Scattered blow-out bunkers, gigantic natural dunes, smartly contoured greens and Pacific panoramas are headliners. Some sniff at its artificiality, yet for shotmaking options and memorable individual holes that require a blend of power and finesse, TPC Sawgrass has few peers. Ocean views stun the senses, along with bluff-top sand dunes sprinkled with Scotch broom and gorse bushes, coastal pines, crashing surf, wind-whipped tall native grasses, and stacked sod bunkers. A place of subtle beauty, this is a shotmaker’s paradise where power takes a backseat to precision. (-5) Streamsong dishes out a unique palette for Florida golf. (-9) An inspired Tom Weiskopf design three hours northwest of Detroit rolls through man-made sand dunes and red pine forests, with ground game options aided by firm, fast, rumpled fairways and perfectly groomed greens. Marsh-tinged wetlands, bold bunkers and views of the Atlantic Ocean are highlights. (5-0) Thirty-five miles northwest of Milwaukee, Erin Hills occupies a massive, topsy-turvy spread of ridges, dunes and fescue grasses, lending an Ireland-in-the-Heartland ambiance -- but no Emerald Isle course stretches to 7,823 yards, as this one does. (5-0) Deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 20 miles north of the North Carolina border, English architect Donald Steel draped the Highland course across mountain peaks and into valleys that edge a River Dan gorge. (-9) Don’t let Caledonia’s miniscule 6,526 back tee yardage fool you: Stands of hardwoods, lakes, wetlands and imposing live oaks whose branches swat away stray shots like Tim Duncan make this 1994 Mike Strantz design a complete test of shotmaking. (0) Picture Shadow Creek drenched in Deep South aesthetics and you have another Tom Fazio-MGM masterpiece, 20 minutes inland from the coastal Beau Rivage.
How can such a pipsqueak in the yardage department play so difficult? (-5) Hewn from the remnants of old phosphate mines, Streamsong Blue features a distinctive sand-based canvas that puts an emphasis on ground-game prowess. The PGA Tour has played here since 2010, amid the rolling terrain in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and players delight in the classic accents, such as the Redan par-3 8th, Punchbowl par-4 9th and Eden par-3 15th. Since then, folks have been scaling the snow-topped Cascades for a chance to duel with this sagebrush-lined, high desert treat that’s dotted with lava rock ridges and juniper trees, notably at the lake-guarded, dogleg-right, 378-yard, par-4 13th. Double bogeys and alligators await any sliced shot. Rolling, tilted, walkable fairways, imaginative green contouring, cactus-covered hillsides and no homes or roads make for a remarkable back-to-nature experience. creation south of San Jose darts through oaks and sycamores and is slashed with ravines and gorgeous sprawls of sand. (5-5) This low-key Jack Nicklaus-designed romp through the salt marshes and 300-year-old oaks of the Lowcountry features soft contouring and mostly level terrain, making for a wonderful walk and quick pace of play.
Along the way are stirring long views of the Pacific and a superb set of wildly different par-3s. Alister Mac Kenzie’s finest public access course first opened in 1929, yet it seldom takes a beating, even at the hands of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson or Tiger Woods, none of whom has bettered 67. The eye candy commences at the first hole, a par-4 that shares a fairway with the 18th a la St. It boasts his signature characteristics: long tees, propped-up greens protected by yawning traps and man-sized carries over water—notably at the 272-yard, par-3 third hole, which skirts the Pacific Ocean. If your luck runs out at the long, watery, par-4 18th, you can find it again down the street at the Pearl River Resort. The 330-yard, split-fairway, drivable par-4 15th is a standout. With breezes off the lake, tawny fescues and tall sand dunes, the course professes a linksy feel, without being quite as bouncy as a true links, but at least the wide fairways and large greens make for extra playability in the wind. The Greenbrier (Old White TPC) White Sulphur Springs, W. (0-5) Following a sensitive 2007 restoration by Lester George, this 102-year-old C. Macdonald-Seth Raynor effort has charmed the old admirers and wowed the new ones. (-5) This 2004 creation didn’t reach mass appeal until it opened its doors to outside play in 2010. creation that sports the master’s celebrated elevated greens, strategically deployed water hazards and heroic shot values, notably at the vaunted 590-yard, par-5 13th, that doglegs 110 degrees to the right around Lake Singleton. (-5) Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s 2006 gem may lack the in-your-face drama of its sibling the Cholla, but its jaw-dropping mountain vistas are no less impressive and its subtle strategies are superior.