2015 Golf Season in Review

For the first couple of years I wrote my blog, I did a write-up at the end of each year to put the season in to words, and to commend the courses I felt were the best that year in multiple categories.

As my site has continued to grow, this has become less academic, especially since I joined a private club a few years back and am obviously playing a much smaller sample of different courses each season.

It doesn’t hurt to write a little review, though, especially for my own pleasure to look back at in the future at what was the golf season of 2015.

The winter of 2015 extended a little longer than normal, with most golf courses opening in early April. This was a couple weeks earlier than in 2014, but months behind some years. I am already praying that 2016 will see course openings back in the February timeline again… Fingers crossed.

With last night’s first snow of the Winter, I figure this is as good a time as any to wrap things up… Not that I won’t be out there if/when the weather warms up and the grounds are healthy enough to play!

Most of my rounds this year were played at my home course of North Hills Country Club, which under the tutelage of Randy DuPont was in exceptional shape again all year round. My season was a roller coaster of sorts, starting out with an index of 12.1 and getting down to 9.0, shooting consistently for a while in the low 80’s.

Then I became a bad nine, right around September first, shooting 87-89 and losing money in my Saturday games. In games where the total monetary payout ranges from $3-5, I actually lost $45 one day. Ouch.

That is enough about my game, though – what about the courses from 2015?

2015: Best Public Golf Course Played

1. Pacific Dunes (OR)

Rated the number two public course by Golf Digest, number two modern course by GolfWeek, and number one public course in the country by Golf.com, Pacific Dunes is coastal golf at its very best. Designed by Tom Doak and opened in 2001, Pacific Dunes blends perfectly rugged Bandon landscape with ingenious hole layouts and execution.

Pacific Dunes hole 4

Pacific Dunes hole 4

Pacific Dunes Website

2. Streamsong, Red Course (FL)

Just a few years old, the Red course at Streamsong has already amassed an incredible number of accolades, including the number 18 public course in the United States.

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Golf Destination: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (OR)

It is the Mecca of the American golf world, and the formula that has inspired remote golf destination resorts across the globe.

It is the brainchild of Chicago businessman Mike Keiser, and the home of our nation’s number two, seven, twelve and fourteenth rated public golf courses and three of Golf.com’s top 100 courses in the world.

It is the only natural habitat of St. Andrews-like gorse bushes in the country, and the most true-to-form Scottish golf experience in the United States… And it is so much more.

It is Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and it has been a bucket list trip of mine for years until it was green-lit to coincide with a business trip out to Portland this past month.

To say I was excited to finally check out Bandon Dunes is an overwhelming understatement. During the months leading up to my trip I thought about it on a daily, no hourly basis, and prayed that the actual experience would live up to my lofty expectations.

I had a two queen bed standard room booked in the Lily Pond Cottages on-site, and my friend Greg figured he’d throw out the possibility of joining in on the fun as he had a free flight available and vacation days from work – an epic buddies’ golf trip came together well.

Greg flew in to Portland on Saturday night, and we left the busy city on Sunday morning. Trip advisers say to take the long route to Bandon from Portland for the scenery, but we were not about to add more time to our already four-plus hour drive and risk getting there without time enough to settle in before our afternoon round at the country’s number two rated public golf course, Pacific Dunes.

It was 106 degrees when my flight landed in Portland the Friday before, and upper 90’s when we left on Sunday morning. The closer we got to Bandon, and to the southwest Oregon coast, the more the temperature dropped, until finally we arrived in Bandon around one in the afternoon with temperatures in the upper fifties. We drove with the windows down, anyways, and were happy to breathe in the crisp ocean air.

For at least an hour, it felt like we were on the verge of pulling in to the resort. It took a bit longer than expected, but we made it to Bandon Dunes and had enough time to both check in to our room and get to the course at Pacific Dunes with enough time to grab a drink and play a quick eighteen on the Punchbowl.

The lodging at Bandon Dunes is famous for being “Spartan” – there is no need to have lavish amenities that will keep visitors in their rooms when the entire resort is built around bringing people together outside, as well as to the many restaurants and bars located throughout the sprawling property.

The beauty of Bandon Dunes is out of doors, and while the lodging is everything visitors need, it does not promote them staying inside rather than enjoying the beauty of the resort and its courses.

That being said, our room was perfect. My bed was extremely comfortable – I melted in to it each night and literally fell asleep in seconds. Our room was spacious, the TV worked great and there was even a fireplace in the corner. The high ceilings are great, as was the view from the back balcony and the bathroom and large tiled shower (kind of dorm room like, but I liked it).

Standard 2-bed room in the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Standard 2-bed room in the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Standard 2-bed room in the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Standard 2-bed room in the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Standard 2-bed room in the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Standard 2-bed room in the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

I even spent fifteen minutes watching a beaver swimming around the lily pond outside the balcony during our first day there:

The lily pond from our balcony at the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

The lily pond from our balcony at the Lily Pond cottages at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Pacific Dunes (Sunday afternoon, Monday afternoon):

Pacific Dunes is the quintessential coastal links golf course, with fast running fairways that tower over the beaches and Pacific Ocean below. The winds can be extreme on the Oregon coast, and players are told to come prepared with clothing for all possible weather conditions.

We both wore long pants for our first round of the trip, and regretted it for the most part as the light winds – “This is a one in a thousand day,” we were told – and abundance of sunshine for the majority of our round would have kept us plenty warm and comfortable in shorts.

Sun and light winds on the 11th hole of our first round at Pacific Dunes

Sun and light winds on the 10th hole of our first round at Pacific Dunes

While the weather never turned bad on us during our stay, we did encounter something very characteristic to the Bandon Dunes golf complex during this round: Fog.

When the fog drifts in off the ocean from the north, it literally engulfs the courses. It crept in like a living entity during our back nine at Pacific Dunes, and eventually left us with an eerie environment where visibility left us virtually no landmarks to aim shots towards.

Hole 3: Par 5 (499/476/476/309/452)

Fog starting to roll in over the par four 13th at Pacific Dunes

“Hit over this divot with a draw,” our caddie Charlie would tell us. “Sure, I don’t see what else I’m going to aim at so I might as well aim three feet in front of my ball.”

“This is like bowling,” Greg said, “Just aim over a certain plank and trust it’ll end up in the right place.”

It was so foggy toward the end of our first round on Pacific Dunes that we could only tell when the seventeenth hole’s green was vacated because of the ghost-like outline of their caddies’ white outfits:

Hole 17: Par 3 (208/189/164/118/128)

Dense fog on the seventeenth hole of the same round at Pacific Dunes – zoom in and notice the outline of the group before ours’ caddie uniforms

“Blind tee shot” on the par five 18th at Pacific Dunes

WiscoGolfAddict golf course review of Pacific Dunes

Following a long day of travel and a walk of more than eight miles around Pacific Dunes, we were both exhausted on Sunday night but were motivated to experience as much as possible at Bandon Dunes.

Pacific Dunes’ clubhouse is home to the Pacific Grill, which is the resort’s fresh seafood and steaks restaurant. Without a reservation, we were not able to get a table so instead enjoyed a drink and perhaps the most magnificent sunset I have ever seen before heading back to the Lily Pond cottages:

Sunset over the Punch Bowl and Pacific Dunes GC outside the Pacific Grill at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Sunset over the Punch Bowl and Pacific Dunes GC outside the Pacific Grill at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Hunger had set in, and we called a free shuttle to bring us to McKee’s Pub, located just outside of the Bandon Dunes clubhouse and main lodge.

Famished, we started with a pepperoni pizza (Greg was ticked about that – I am an incredibly boring eater and there were certainly more interesting pizzas on the menu), which was served quickly while we waited for our main entrees. I got the cod fish fry, and Greg got Uncle Larry’s Burger, which consists of ground wagyu beef, bacon, grilled tomato, provolone, onion rings and fried egg.

Cod fish fry, fries and pizza at McKee's Pub

Cod fish fry, fries and pizza at McKee’s Pub

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Greg’s “Uncle Larry’s Burger” at McKee’s Pub – served with a side of fruit because he’s obviously very health-conscious

McKee’s hit the spot, and was reasonably priced. They also have an excellent selection of whiskeys, bourbons and scotches, which we would find to be a trend around the property.

McKee’s Pub Website

After dinner, we made our way next door to the Bunker Bar, located in the main lodge at Bandon Dunes. The Bunker Bar is a cigar-friendly pub in the basement with a hardcore ventilation system that makes it seem like it’s not. A free pool table is in the back of the room, and I took the opportunity to chat with some people from the East Coast about their trip while trying to “Hustle” them in games of 3-ball. Only problem is that I haven’t played in years, and lost every game. Gonna have to work on that.

The Bunker Bar also has card tables, a great bar with high-end booze, a ton of televisions, and small lounge areas for enjoying a Bandon Dunes branded cigar (or others) and a drink. I give this spot an easy A for ambiance and entertainment.

The Bunker Bar Website

Earlier than expected, it was time to try getting caught up on sleep before Monday morning’s 7:40 round at Bandon Dunes.

Bandon Dunes (Monday morning):

Our second round of the trip was on Monday morning at Bandon Dunes. The charter course for the resort was opened in 1999 to rave reviews, and the success of David McLay Kidd’s destination track led to the future openings of the rest of the courses and amenities onsite.

McLay Kidd’s track features some of the most exciting real estate on the entire property, both on the coast and inland including one of the world’s most acclaimed golf holes: The par four fourth, as well as the spectacular stretch from fifteen to seventeen.

The sixteenth on Bandon Dunes may be the most beautiful golf hole I have ever seen, as a drivable par four along the cliffs as shown below:

Hole 16: Par 4 (363/345/301/210/250)

Hole 16: Par 4 (363/345/301/210/250)

Coming back inland, the par four seventeenth manages to somehow be just as scenic:

Hole 17: Par 4 (389/375/329/244/324)

Hole 17: Par 4 (389/375/329/244/324)

WiscoGolfAddict golf course review of Bandon Dunes

We made reservations for the Pacific Grill on Monday night, which was probably my favorite meal of the entire trip.

White sturgeon entree at the Pacific Grill at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

My white sturgeon entree at the Pacific Grill at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Greg's meal at the Pacific Grill at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Greg’s meal at the Pacific Grill at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Pacific Grill Website

The Punchbowl (Monday afternoon):

Bandon Dunes is home to one of the most unique golfing experiences in North America: The Punchbowl. The Punchbowl is a 2.3-acre, 100,000 square foot putting surface set up differently on a daily basis.

Designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, the “Course” features 18 white holes and 18 red holes. Each “Teeing area” has a tandem drink holder, and there are scorecards to promote competition.

Waitresses keep a keen eye on the Punchbowl area, and will bring drinks out to the course for players to enjoy. My favorite hole of the day during our round on the white course was a simple five-footer. Located on a plateau that had maybe six inches of level space on it, it was do or die. Greg and I were tied at the time, and he drained his first putt. Mine slipped by the left side, fell off the hill and rolled about 40 feet away. My next two tries did not get to the top of the hill, but my fourth went straight in.

Game. Set. Match.

The Punchbowl is a free amenity at Bandon Dunes, and for sure one not to be missed!

Panoramic view of the Punchbowl, and out over Pacific Dunes to the ocean

Panoramic view of the Punchbowl, and out over Pacific Dunes to the ocean

Old Macdonald (Tuesday morning):

When Doak and Urbina were awarded the bid for the Old Macdonald course design, the question was: “What would Charles Blair Macdonald have designed if he had this glorious Oregon canvas to work with?”

Similarly to the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York, Old Macdonald was developed as an homage to the greatest golf designs of probably the most legendary golf course design team in the history of the world: CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor.

While there are no true replica holes, a majority of them are based on the greatest features of some of Europe’s best golf courses. There is the “Road Hole,” for example, from St. Andrews Golf Links, “Sahara” (Royal St. Georges), “Hell Bunker” (St. Andrews) protecting the fairway on the sixth, a beautiful “Principle’s Nose” bunker fronting the first hole green, the “Strath Bunker” on the second/”Eden” hole, “Alps” (Prestwick), and of course fantastic redan, biarritz and punch bowl greens.

For having the largest average green complexes in the world, the putting surfaces at Old Macdonald are some of the hardest to hit! Huge swales, contours, false fronts and depressed collection areas, and of course intense winds make precision on approach shots key, and these greens that average nearly 15,000 square feet each are no virgin to three-, four- and more-putts.

Hole 6:

Hole 6: “Long” (Par 5, 555/520/467/354/401)

WiscoGolfAddict golf course review of Old Macdonald

Bandon Trails (Tuesday afternoon):

The final round of our trip was played at Bandon Trails. Inland from the Pacific Ocean, Bandon Trails is the perfect complement to the coastal and links courses onsite, and a terrific way to find a little shelter from the harsh coastal winds that gush across the property.

Our morning round at Old Macdonald was played in extreme winds, and they only picked up as the day wore on. Our scheduling was perfect, as the mature forests that surround the Trails made playing this mature, eight year old gem a pleasure without gale force winds.

When asking fellow golf writers about their “Rankings” of the four championship courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon Trails collected the most number ones, by far. It is easy to see why, too: It is what it is… Flawlessly.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed this course to provide a world-class inland golf experience, and delivered it exceptionally.

Bandon Trails stands in stark contrast to the coastal links courses at Bandon Dunes, and stands alongside them in quality and playability.

Hole 5: Par 3 (133/124/114/104/104)

Hole 5: Par 3 (133/124/114/104/104)

WiscoGolfAddict golf course review of Bandon Trails

Following our round at Bandon Trails on Tuesday afternoon, we had one more piece of property at the resort to check out: It’s world-class par three course, Bandon Preserve.

Bandon Preserve uses some of the most prime real estate on the entire property in a 13-hole executive layout like nothing I’d ever seen before.

Coore/Crenshaw designed this course that opened in 2012 to have massive greens, and to provide a variety of one-shot challenges for settling bets and enjoying a leisurely walk with just a few clubs in hand. The views are breathtaking, and the quality of the golf on Bandon Preserve is wonderful.

This par three course has probably the best conditioned putting surfaces on the property, as I assume they are used less than the others and are well within ten years of the time they were laid down.

As Bandon Dunes’ Director of Communications, Michael Chupka, told us over lunch, at around ten years fescue greens start becoming more and more susceptible to attack by the poa annua that thrives so well in this type of coastal environment.

Evidence of this war against poa annua infestation can be seen a little on the other courses, and the staff works hard to stave it off and keep the wonderful fine fescue conditions that Bandon Dunes is so well known for.

The greens on Bandon Preserve roll magnificently, and the sand blowouts and visual lines were developed with great care.

The Preserve also plays a significant roll in the local economy and environment, as all of the course’s profits go to the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance to support conservation, the community and economy of the southern Oregon Coast.

I will admit that I expected the par three holes on the Preserve to be a little more varied in length – specifically, I was expecting there to be 175-225 yard holes. While this parcel of land does not allow for that kind of length, players can tee off from virtually anywhere (sans the greens, themselves), and can therefore make holes as short or long as they desire.

Bandon Preserve Hole 1

Bandon Preserve Hole 1

Bandon Preserve Hole 2

Bandon Preserve Hole 2

Bandon Preserve Hole 2

Bandon Preserve Hole 2

Bandon Preserve Hole 3

Bandon Preserve Hole 3

Bandon Preserve Hole 4

Bandon Preserve Hole 4

Bandon Preserve Hole 5

Bandon Preserve Hole 5

Bandon Preserve Hole 5

Bandon Preserve Hole 5

Bandon Preserve Hole 6

Bandon Preserve Hole 6

Bandon Preserve Hole 7

Bandon Preserve Hole 7

Bandon Preserve Hole 8

Bandon Preserve Hole 8

Bandon Preserve Hole 9

Bandon Preserve Hole 9

Bandon Preserve Hole 9

Bandon Preserve Hole 9

Bandon Preserve Hole 10

Bandon Preserve Hole 10

Bandon Preserve Hole 10

Bandon Preserve Hole 10

Bandon Preserve Hole 10

Bandon Preserve Hole 10

Bandon Preserve Hole 11

Bandon Preserve Hole 11

Bandon Preserve Hole 12

Bandon Preserve Hole 12

Bandon Preserve Hole 12

Bandon Preserve Hole 12

Bandon Preserve Hole 13

Bandon Preserve Hole 13

As a side note, make sure to get to each course a little early to check out the pro shops. All pro shops have different clothing manufacturers, so while one course will carry Adidas and Peter Millar, another will carry Ashworth and Nike, another Cutter & Buck and Oakley, etc. The logoed merchandise at all of them is great.

Golf enthusiasts the world over know Bandon Dunes as “The remote golf destination that is tough to get to but well worth the travel.” While that is true, significant measures have been taken recently to start cutting down on travel time, and in particular the amount of driving necessary after flying in.

United Airlines now offers direct flights from Denver International Airport to nearby Southwest Oregon Regional Airport (OTH in North Bend), which is just an easy 30-minute shuttle to the Bandon Dunes complex.

This new flight service (started in July, 2015) operates on Sundays and Wednesdays between July 1 and October 18, with arrival times in North Bend that allow for same-day golfing.

Bandon Dunes: Getting Here

Along with world-class golf, the customer service at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is tremendous. Every single person I spoke with onsite was a golfer, from the caddies to the bartenders, waitresses and shuttle drivers.

“What do you like best about working at Bandon Dunes?” I would ask them. “I get to play as much free golf as I want,” was a consistent answer, and also that Mike Keiser is a tremendous person to work for.

Unassuming and kind, he is well known to show up at the resort and sit at a table in one of the many restaurants while reading the paper and chatting with anyone who engages him. That’s a great kind of boss to work for, and I am sure a key element that has played in to the success of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and the happiness of his employees there.

A trip to Bandon Dunes is not cheap, as I am sure all golf enthusiasts already know, but it is a true bucket list golfing destination that does not disappoint.

One more present for you all: A surprise video journal of sorts that showed up on my computer when I got home and loaded everything to my laptop from my camera’s memory cards – this hodge podge of photos/videos works nicely to walk viewers through the Bandon experience:

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort Experience: A Video Journal

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort Website

Golf Course Review: Pacific Dunes (OR)

Pacific Dunes Course Rankings:

Golf Digest: #2 US public, #18 US top 100, 18 toughest, #1 Oregon
GolfWeek: #2 US modern, #1 US resort, #1 Oregon
Golf.com: #1 US public, #20 world, #12 US top 100, #1 Oregon

Designer: Tom Doak (2001)

While the course measures only 6,633 yards from the tips, extreme thought should be put in to tee selections at Pacific Dunes (the same as at Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old MacDonald!). The wind in Bandon, Oregon ranges from tolerable to extreme – extreme being over 40 miles per hour with intense gusts off the ocean.

View from the Pacific Grille at Pacific Dunes Golf Course over the Punch Bowl and out over the Pacific Ocean

View from the Pacific Grille at Pacific Dunes Golf Course over the Punch Bowl and out over the Pacific Ocean

We had a “One in a thousand day” for our first round of the trip at Pacific Dunes, with winds that were typically around ten or so miles per hour. “If there was ever a day to play the tips here, this is the one,” our caddie Charlie Kloss told us.

Choosing the tips means teeing off in front of spectators outside of the Pacific Grille, located upstairs from the pro shop at Pacific Dunes. Know what you’re doing and you’ll be fine, but if the wind is blowing hard then maybe the first tees in are a great decision!

Chances are there will be people inside your flight zone from the tips on one, as seen below. Was this intentional to make sure players who choose to play the tips know what they are getting in to?

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

If playing without a caddie, the first hole can be quite confusing – the fairway rises uphill and the hole actually bends slightly to the right.

Greg and I took a caddie for our first round at Pacific Dunes, and elected to carry our own bags the second time. We both hit the middle of the fairway off the tee, then stood there discussing where the hole ends up. I walked up a ways, then he did. Neither of us could tell for sure. “Do you have pictures from yesterday?” “If I remember correctly, it goes a little to the right.” “Good enough by me.”

We both ended up in greenside traps.

The green on one is one of the fastest on the entire course, and rolls hard from back to front from the right side.

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

Hole 1: Par 4 (370/304/287/200/253)

I hit balls in to the fescue left during both of our rounds at Pacific Dunes, so I cannot say a whole lot about the fairway here other than that I had a lot of difficulty hitting it.

To be fair, though, the setup of the hole on two is absolutely beautiful – central fairway traps and one of the narrower fairways on the course.

The hole runs uphill to a green that is elevated and fronted on the right by a deep bunker with a huge lip.

Hole 2: Par 4 (368/335/335/180/275)

Hole 2: Par 4 (368/335/335/180/275)

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Upcoming Golf Trip: Bandon Dunes (OR)

Bandon. Dunes.

For years, I have looked at the website (Bandon Dunes website) and dreamed of the day when I can get there and play golf at the Mecca of American public golf courses.

A lot of the guys at my home course North Hills Country Club have been to Bandon, and they all rave about how incredible the golf and resort is. I will get my opportunity to go there someday, I kept telling myself.

In a month and a half, I will finally have the chance to play and experience all that Bandon Dunes has to offer, and whoa am I excited!

Home to four of Golf Digest’s top fourteen tracks in the country, as well as arguably the greatest [13-hole] par three course anywhere, Bandon Dunes has built a massive reputation in the golf world since Mike Keiser introduced his original masterpiece in 1999. Bandon Dunes, in fact, beat out the Straits course at Whistling Straits for the best new upscale course in the country that year.

Home to the second-rated (behind only Pebble Beach) Pacific Dunes, seventh-rated Bandon Dunes, twelfth-rated Old MacDonald and fourteenth-rated Bandon Trails, it was the success that Keiser saw in this unbelievably remote destination on the southwestern Oregon coast that led him to create a similar upscale destination on the East Coast in Nova Scotia (Cabot Links), and next right here in my home state of Wisconsin with the highly talked-about Sand Valley project.

Pacific Dunes:
Designer: Tom Doak (2001)
Ranked #2 in Golf Digest’s 2015-16 America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses (#1: Pebble Beach Golf Links)
Ranked #2 in GolfWeek’s 2015 Best Modern Courses (#1: Sand Hills Golf Club)

13th hole at Pacific Dunes (courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

13th hole at Pacific Dunes (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

Bandon Dunes:
Designer: David McLay Kidd (1999)
Ranked #7 in Golf Digest’s 2015-16 America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses
Ranked #8 in GolfWeek’s 2015 Best Modern Courses

15th hole at Bandon Dunes (courtesy of website)

15th hole at Bandon Dunes (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

Old MacDonald:
Designers: Tom Doak, Jim Urbina (2010)
Ranked #12 in Golf Digest’s 2015-16 America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses
Ranked #5 in GolfWeek’s 2015 Best Modern Courses

6th hole at Old MacDonald (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

6th hole at Old MacDonald (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

Bandon Trails:
Designers: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2005)
Ranked #14 in Golf Digest’s 2015-16 America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses
Ranked #21 in GolfWeek’s Best Modern Courses

14th hole at Bandon Trails (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

14th hole at Bandon Trails (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

Bandon Preserve:
Designer: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2012)

2nd hole on the Bandon Preserve 13-hole par 3 course (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

2nd hole on the Bandon Preserve 13-hole par 3 course (photo courtesy of Bandon Dunes website)

Sand Valley is slated to open to members (his 155 investors who contributed $50,000 apiece) in 2016, and to the general public in 2017. Keiser’s winning recipe of a steady dose of Coore/Crenshaw and McLay Kidd is the plan for the first two courses at this highly anticipated site with enough land for five to six world-class tracks.

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The Country’s Best Non-Wisconsin Golf Courses… That I’ve Played

My brother and his wife bought me a golf ball cabinet (shown at the bottom of this post) about ten years ago, and I started collecting logo balls from all the different courses I played.

I filled the cabinet years ago, and when I had to start replacing really good golf courses in order to add new ones I figured it was time for a new cabinet. Researching options online, I saw some good looking cabinets but nothing that really screamed to me – especially not for hundreds of dollars.
I decided to create one. During a week where my wife was on the road for work, I spent over 30 hours in the basement backroom constructing, painting, sanding, staining, allowing it to dry, drilling… Over and over again until I had a 203-ball cabinet that is everything I wanted it to be.
I’m sure this one will eventually fill up, too, but my golf ball display case now has room to grow.
IMG_8859

From left to right, top to bottom: Row 1: Lake Breeze (FL), Kettle Hills, TimberStone (MI), Bristlecone Pines, Horseshoe Bay, Wild Ridge, Wild Rock, Castle at the Bay, Stone Creek (OR), Chambers Bay (WA), Lawsonia, Pumpkin Ridge (OR), The Wilderness at Fortune Bay (MN), Blue Mound CC, Muskego Lakes, Kettle Moraine, Devils Head Row 2: Vail (CO), Mee-Kwon, Willbrook Plantation (SC), The Legend at Bristlecone, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, TPC Deere Run (IL), Kiva Dunes (AL), Pine Hills CC, Bandon Dunes (OR), Whistling Straits, Streamsong (FL), WGA logo ball, The Classic at Madden’s Resort (MN), Rolling Hills, Whispering Springs, Drugan’s Castle Mound, Wanaki, Quit Qui Oc Row 3: Paganica, Rock River Hills, Hartford, Deer Creek, Baraboo CC, West Bend CC, Geneva National, University Ridge, ThunderHawk (IL), Dismal River (NE), Sand Valley, Pacific Dunes (OR), Kiawah Island Ocean Course (SC), Milwaukee CC, Chicago Highlands (IL), Hawk’s View, Edgewood, Morningstar, Lake Arrowhead, Arrowhead HS Row 4: West Bend Lakes, Atlantis (Bahamas), Tuckaway CC, Kiawah Island Osprey Pointe (SC), Strawberry Creek, Bandon Preserve (OR), The Harvester (IA), RTJ Ross Bridge (AL), The Prairie Club (NE), Johnsonville Sausage, Old Macdonald (OR), Bandon Trails (OR), SentryWorld, Big Fish, Washington County GC, Golden Sands, Songbird Hills, Willow Run Row 5: The Preserve at Deer Creek, Rainbow Springs, Grand Geneva, River Club (SC), Fire Ridge, Harborside International (IL), Racine CC, SentryWorld (old), Blackwolf Run, Erin Hills, North Hills CC, Torrey Pines (CA), Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread (IL), World Woods (FL), Bulls Eye CC, TPC Tampa Bay (FL), Blackstone Creek, Old Hickory Row 6: Western Lakes, Fox Hills, Nagawaukee, Juliette Falls (FL), Sweetgrass (MI), Ozaukee CC, Greywalls (MI), Peninsula (AL), PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Westmoor CC, Bishops Bay, Ironwood, Christmas Mountain, Oakwood Park, Dretzka Row 7: McCall CC (ID), Broadlands, Missing Links, Brighton Dale, Shepherds Crook (IL), Fairways of Woodside, The Oaks, True Blue (SC), Hawk’s Landing, Trapper’s Turn, The Bog, Chula Vista, New Berlin Hills, Silver Spring, Lake Jovita

I have been blessed to be able to play some great golf courses over the past half decade, both in Wisconsin and out. This listing is dedicated to the top ten golf courses I have played in the country, outside of our great state.

This does not mean that these are the top ten courses in the United States, of course – merely the top ten that I have played.

Living in Wisconsin gives a lot of great reasons to stay in-state for golf, but the Winter provides an even better excuse to play outside of it, as well. Without further adieu, here are my favorite non-Wisconsin courses in the country.

1. Pacific Dunes (Bandon, OR):

Yardages: Black-6633, Green-6142, Gold-5775
Slope/Rating: Black-142/73, Green-133/70.7, Gold-129/68.6
Golf Digest: #2 US public, #18 US top 100, 18 toughest, #1 Oregon
GolfWeek: #2 US modern, #1 US resort, #1 Oregon
Golf.com: #1 US public, #20 world, #12 US top 100, #1 Oregon
Architect: Tom Doak (2001)

Maybe the most awarded public course in the entire country, Pacific Dunes is the crown jewel of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort property. Chocked full of spectacular views from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the winds and elements that come in to play at Pacific Dunes help create a truly European golfing experience right here in the United States.

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The beautiful par four 4th at Pacific Dunes

Pacific Dunes Website

 

2. Bandon Dunes (Bandon, OR):

Yardage: Black-6759, Green-6247, Gold-5751
Slope/Rating: Black-130/73.6, Green-129/71.1, Gold-122/68.7
Golf Digest: #7 US public, #37 US top 100, #33 toughest, #2 Oregon
GolfWeek: #8 US modern, #5 US resort, #2 Oregon
Golf.com: #8 US public, #63 world, #34 US top 100, #2 Oregon
Architect: David McLay Kidd (1999)

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Maybe the country’s best drivable par four – the 16th at Bandon Dunes

Bandon Dunes Website

3. Kiawah Island, Ocean Course (Kiawah Island, SC):

Yardages: Tournament-7356, Ocean-6779, Dye-6475, Kiawah-6202
Slope/Rating: Tournament-144/77.3, Ocean-138.73.6, Dye-134/72, Kiawah-132/70.9
Golf Digest: #21 US top 100, #3 US public, #1 South Carolina, #44 world
GolfWeek: #15 modern, #1 South Carolina, #8 resort
Golf.com: #6 top 100 you can play, #25 US, #1 South Carolina
Architect: Pete Dye (1991)

Site of one of the most dominant PGA Championship victories in the history of golf (Rory McIlroy decimated the field in 2012), the 1991 “War by the Shore,” and of course the upcoming 2021 Ryder Cup, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is an esteemed Pete Dye design on one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the country.

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Hole 2: Par 5 (543/528/501/495/419)

Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Ocean Course Website

4. The Prairie Club, Dunes Course (Valentine, NE):

Yardages: Tour-8073, White-7525, Blue-7099
Slope/Rating: Tour-135/75.0, White-133/72.4, Blue-128/71.7
Golf Digest: #35 US public, #3 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #82 US modern, #2 Nebraska public, #21 US resort
Golf.com: #74 US public, #1 Nebraska public
Architect: Tom Lehman (2010)

Maybe the most underrated course on the entire top 100 courses list for every major publication, the Dunes course at The Prairie Club in the Sand Hills of Nebraska is a world-class Tom Lehman design that rewards and punishes golfers over its 8,000-plus yards of links golf.

The highest rated track at one of the most unique, remote golf destinations in the country, the golf and resort at The Prairie Club are well worth the travel time.

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The par three 7th on the Dunes course at The Prairie Club

5. Old MacDonald (Bandon, OR):

Yardages: Black-6944, Green-6320, Gold-5658
Slope/Rating: Black-133/74.1, Green-127/71.3, Gold-119/68.2
Golf Digest: #12 US public, #55 US top 100,  #3 Oregon
GolfWeek: #6 US modern, #5 US resort, #2 Oregon
Golf.com: #10 US public, #88 world, #45 US top 100, #3 Oregon
Architects: Tom Doak and Jim Urbina (2010)

Designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, and opened to the public in 2010 as Bandon Dunes Resort’s fourth course, Old MacDonald pays homage to arguably the greatest golf course designer of all time, Charles Blair MacDonald. “What would C.B. MacDonald have created on this magnificent parcel of rural land alongside the Pacific Ocean?” Doak and Urbina’s design is masterful in its simplicity, with wide open fairways but the hardest green complexes I have ever seen. Paradoxically, Old MacDonald’s greens are the largest greens in the world.

Old MacDonald offers a unique experience: True and spectacular links golf in the United States.

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The par four 14th at Old Macdonald

Old MacDonald Website

6. Streamsong, Red Course (Streamsong, FL)

Yardages: Green-7148, Black-6584, Silver-6094, Gold-5184
Slope/Rating: Green-130/74.2, Black-125/71.7, Silver-119/69.4, Gold-122/70
Golf Digest: #18 US public, #100 US greatest overall, #4 Florida
GolfWeek: #30 US modern, #2 Florida public, #12 US resort
Golf.com: #52 US top 100, #12 US public, #2 Florida public
Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2012)

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Tee shot on the par five 18th on the Red course at Streamsong Golf Resort – missing here is the incredibly well constructed green

Streamsong Resort Website

7. Chambers Bay (University Place, WA):

Yardages: Teal-7585, Sand-6513, Navy-7165
Slope/Rating: Teal-142/76.8, Navy-139/75.6, Sand-135/72.4
Golf Digest: #26 US public, #2 Washington
GolfWeek: #29 US modern, #1 Washington public
Golf.com: #64 US top 100, #17 US public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. with Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi (2007)

Site of the 2010 US Amateur, and future site of the 2015 US Open, Chambers Bay is Scottish golf on American soil… Beautiful American soil, that is, nestled among the cliffs alongside the Puget Sound just outside of Seattle.

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“The Lone Fir” at Chambers Bay – one of four out-of-this-world par threes

8. Dismal River, Tom Doak “Red” Course (Mullen, NE):

Yardage: 6994-4830 (range), club tees-6334
Slope/Rating: Not Available
Golf Digest: #2 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #23 US modern
Architect: Tom Doak (2013)

One of Golf Digest’s best new courses in 2014, and GolfWeek’s #23 overall course in the United States for 2015, the Red course at Dismal River is the perfect complement to the Nicklaus White course at the same club.

A softer course with great angles and beautiful scenery, the Doak course is a must-play for anyone visiting the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

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A look back at the rolling terrain beyond the 18th hole of Doak’s fabulous Red course at Dismal River

Dismal River Golf Club Website

9. Bandon Trails (Bandon, OR):

Yardage: Black-6759, Green-6247, Gold-5751
Slope/Rating: Black-130/73.6, Green-129/71.1, Gold-122/68.7
Golf Digest: #14 US public, #74 US top 100, #4 Oregon
GolfWeek: #21 US modern, #9 US resort, #4 Oregon
Golf.com: #13 US public, #49 US top 100, #4 Oregon
Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2005)

The perfect complement to the coastal, links courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon Trails is a masterfully created Coore/Crenshaw design that features out-of-this-world elevation changes among sand dunes, meadows and rich forests.

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The controversial, yet spectacular, par four 14th at Bandon Trails

Bandon Trails Website

10. Streamsong, Blue Course (Streamsong, FL):

Yardages: Green-7176, Black-6698, Silver-6285, Gold-5531
Slope/Rating: Green-131/74.1, Black-127/72, Silver-123/69.7, Gold-122/71.6
Golf Digest: #24 US public, #6 Florida
GolfWeek: #43 US modern, #3 Florida public, #14 US resort
Golf.com: #62 US top 100, #16 US public, #3 Florida public
Architect: Tom Doak (2012)

A slightly “Softer” course than its sister Red course at Streamsong, the Blue course features wide fairways and diabolical greens.

Featuring the signature par three hole of all par three signature holes, the Blue course is a wonderful combination of strategic golf and beautiful scenery in the most un-Florida-like setting of Florida.

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Quite possibly the world’s most photographed par three, the 7th on the Red course at Streamsong

Streamsong Resort Website

11. Shoreacres Golf Club (Lake Bluff, IL):

Yardages: Black-6530, Raynor-6309, Green-5457
Slope/Rating: Black-133/71.4, Raynor-130/70.4, Green-120/66.5
Golf Digest: #99 US top 100, #7 Illinois
GolfWeek: #20 US classic
Golf.com: #30 US top 100
Architect: Seth Raynor (1921)

One of the best back nines ever, and a truly ingenious layout and routing by Seth Raynor make this Illinois gem one of the country’s perennial best of the bests.

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Seth Raynor’s ultimate masterpiece? The back nine he created among the ravines at Shoreacres is amazing

12. Reynolds Plantation, Great Waters (Greensboro, GA):

Yardage: One-7073, Two-6581, Three-6069, Four-5667, Five-5107
Slope/Rating: One-138/74.0, Two-133/71.9, Three-129/69.6, Four-122/67.7, Five-126/70.1
Architect: Jack Nicklaus (1992)

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Reynolds Lake Oconee, Great Waters Website

13. The Classic at Madden’s on Gull Lake (Brainerd, MN):

Yardages: Tour-7102, Black-6717, Blue-6438
Slope/Rating: Tour-145/75.6, Black-141/73.9, Blue-134/72.1
Golf Digest: #63 US public, #10 Minnesota
GolfWeek: #8 Minnesota public
Golf.com: #5 Minnesota public
Architects: Scott Hoffman, Geoffrey Cornish, John Harris and Warren Rebholz (1996)

The Classic at Madden’s has been a perennially top 100 rated course in the United States for the past eleven years, and for great reason.

This course was designed from the tournament tee boxes in, allowing for a challenging and fun track to all skill levels of golfers.

2013 finds the Classic with a new charge: Trying to return the game of golf to walking and/or facilitating their world class caddy program. The signature (if you can say there is only one) hole on the course, the par four eleventh, was voted one of the three prettiest golf holes in the state of Minnesota.

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Consistently voted one of the most beautiful golf holes in the state of Minnesota, the par four 11th is an absolute masterpiece

14. Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club (Marquette, MI):

Yardages: Black-6828, Gray-6685, White-6114
Slope/Rating: Black-144/73, Gray-140/71.4, White-132/69.2
Golf Digest: #9 Michigan
GolfWeek: #66 US modern, #2 Michigan public
Golf.com: #81 US public, #3 Michigan public
Architect: Mike DeVries (2005)

From the first tee on, the Greywalls course at Marquette Golf Club is unlike any course I had ever played or seen. Tremendous elevation changes, picturesque cliffs and rock walls, and exaggerated mounding and undulations make for a “Wild and wooly” golfing experience at this U.P. golfing gem.

Greywalls is anything but fair, but provides one unique and visually mezmorizing hole after another. Rated the number two public course in the state of Michigan, this course is well worth the drive and $130 greens fee.

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Mountain golf in the Midwest? You can’t beat Greywalls at the Marquette Golf Club or “The Perfect Foursome” golf trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

15. The Harvester (Rhodes, IA):

Yardages: Black-7340, Blue-6840, White-6430
Slope/Rating: Black-140/76, Blue-132/73.1, White-128/70.8
Golf Digest: #42 US public, #1 Iowa
GolfWeek: #99 US modern, #1 Iowa public
Golf.com: #55 US public, #1 Iowa public
Architect: Keith Foster (2000)

A Midwest new-school gem from Keith Foster, The Harvester is rated perennially as the number one course in the state of Iowa, and top 50 in the country.

Foster masters the use of angles and setting up strategic golf at The Harvester, making it a true shot-makers paradise.

The Harvester features one of the best sets of par three holes I have ever seen – equaled only by courses like Whistling Straits, Chambers Bay, SentryWorld and Blackwolf Run.

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The par three 8th at The Harvester – one of 18 fabulous golf holes 

The Harvester Website

16. Dismal River, Jack Nicklaus / “White” Course (Mullen, NE):

Yardages: Black-7457, Gold-6726, White-6046
Slope/Rating: Black-149/77, Gold-139/73.2, White-135/69.6
Golf Digest: #5 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #168 US modern
Architect: Jack Nicklaus (2006)

One of the toughest golf courses in the entire country, the “White” course at the Dismal River Club is a brute of a golf track! It is also absolutely gorgeous, features some of the greatest use of elevation I have ever seen and is a ton of fun to play.

Reviews of the Nicklaus course have been mixed throughout the years, with some saying it is an unfair course or difficult for the point of being difficult (ie: The sand trap in the middle of an elevated green complex). I disagree, though, I think it offers an unparalleled golfing experience with some of the most unique golf holes in the country.

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The most dramatically challenging tee shot I’ve ever played – the 18th on Jack Nicklaus’s White course at Dismal River

17. RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge (Hoover, AL)

Yardages: Black-8191, Purple-7466, Orange-6783, White-6200, Teal-5312
Slope/Rating: Black-135/78.5, Purple-127/74.9, Orange-118/71.3, White-117/68.7, Teal-123/70.2
GolfWeek: #2 Alabama public
Golf.com: #7 Alabama public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones (2005)

The premiere course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Ross Bridge is one of the five longest golf courses in the entire world – almost 8,200 yards from the tips and almost 7,500 yards from the first tees in!

The expansive yardage at RTJ Ross Bridge is far from the only jaw-dropping aspect of the course. It’s rolling terrain offers amazing vistas, almost ridiculously elevated tee shots, great conditions and practice facilities, and wonderful shot values.

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17th hole tee shot with the Ross Bridge Resort looming overhead

RTJ Trail at Ross Bridge Website

18. Kiva Dunes (Golf Shores, AL)

Yardages: Gold-7092, Blue-6464, White-5849, Red-5006
Slope/Rating: Gold-132/73.9, Blue-129/70.8, White-119/67.8, Red-115/68.5
GolfWeek: #4 Alabama public
Golf.com: #2 Alabama public
Architect: Jerry Pate (1995)

The former number one rated course in the state of Alabama, Kiva Dunes is the crown jewel of Gulf Shores golf. Designed by former US Amateur and US Open champion, Jerry Pate, the course features great conditions and beautiful scenery, not to mention an incredibly challenging layout just inland of the Gulf of Mexico.

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6th hole tee shot

Kiva Dunes Website

19. World Woods, Pine Barrens (Brooksville, FL):

Yardages: Yellow-7237, Black-6817, Green-6316
Slope/Rating: Yellow-133/75.3, Black-131/72.5, Green-125/70.2
Golf Digest: #66 US public, #23 Florida
GolfWeek: #112 US modern, #5 Florida public
Golf.com: #36 US public, #5 Florida public
Architect: Tom Fazio (1990)

A perennially top 100-rated course in the country, the Pine Barrens at World Woods is a very unique and beautiful golf course, even for Florida. World Woods does away with the typical 4-hole-types in Florida golf (houses left and houses right, house lefts and water right, water left and houses right, or water left and water right) and provides a very different, very secluded environment and wonderfully manicured golf courses.

Cut from pine tree forests, the courses at World Woods actually feature very little water, and replace it instead with sand and a surprising amount of elevation for Florida golf.

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Consistently named one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, a look at the approach on the par four 12th on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods

20. The Prairie Club, Pines Course (Valentine, NE):

Yardages: Black-7403, White-6824, Green-6080
Slope/Rating: Black-134/75.0, White-128/72.4, Green-115/69.4
Golf Digest: #75 US public, #6 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #94 US resort, #3 Nebraska public
Golf.com: #3 Nebraska public
Architect: Graham Marsh (2010)

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Decisions… Decisions… Challenge carrying the ravine or lay up right on the glorious par five 18th on the Pines course at The Prairie Club?

21. Reynolds Lake Oconee, The Oconee (Greensboro, GA):

Yardages:
Slope/Rating:
Architect: Rees Jones (2013)

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Reynolds Lake Oconee, The Oconee Website

22. True Blue (Pawleys Island, SC):

Yardages: Black-7126, Blue-6812, White-6375
Slope/Rating: Black-145/74.3, Blue-141/72.8, White-127/70.1
Golf Digest: #29 South Carolina
GolfWeek: #6 South Carolina public
Golf.com: #77 US public
Architect: Mike Strantz (1998)

True Blue is a huge course. With seemingly as much sand as there is fairway, the course features dramatic water features and some of the most creative and visually awesome hole layouts I have ever seen – including on television.

True Blue is a must-play for any off-season group planning a trip to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina.

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The renowned par three 3rd at True Blue – site of an oft-played Dustin Johnson commercial for Myrtle Beach

23. Pumpkin Ridge, Witch Hollow (North Plains, OR):

Yardages: Black-139/74.7, Blue-131/72.4, White-134/69.7, Green-142/73.9
Slope/Rating: Black-7017, Blue-6537, White-6083, Green-5740
Golf Digest: #8 Oregon
GolfWeek: #151 US modern
Architect: Bob Cupp (1992)

35 minutes outside of downtown Portland, Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge has played host to some major golf events since opening in 1993, including playing host to Tiger Woods’ third and final US Amateur championship in 1996 before turning professional and changing the game of golf forever.

The course is mature beyond its 22 years of play, and with small greens, tight fairways and high fescue is a great challenge for golfers of all skill levels.

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A look back at the tough par four 14th on the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge

Pumpkin Ridge, Witch Hollow Website

24. Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread (Lemont, IL):

Yardages: Black-7554, Gold-7144, Blue-6750
Slope/Rating-151/77.8, Gold-144/75.8, Blue-138/73.9
Golf Digest: #53 US public, #11 Illinois
GolfWeek: #134 US modern, #1 Illinois public
Golf.com: #34 US public, #1 Illinois public
Architect: Dick Wilson (1964), Rees Jones (2008)

Host to dozens of PGA events in its storied past, No. 4 Dubsdread is the number one rated golf facility in Illinois, and Golf Digest’s 18th toughest course in the country. The course is perhaps best known for its 98 deep sand traps that were structurally fortified during 2008’s course rework by Rees Jones. The bunkers, located around every green and in virtually every area a drive can land, play a major role in making this the second hardest course I have ever played.

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Insane [yet typical] bunkering on the fifth hole of Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread

 25. TPC Deere Run (Silvis, IL):
Yardages: Black-7075, Blue-6530, Green-6274
Slope/Rating: 141/74.4, Blue-135/71.9, Green-133/71.2
Golf Digest: #25 Illinois
GolfWeek: #6 Illinois public
Golf.com: #4 Illinois public
Architect: DA Weibring (2000)

Host to the PGA’s annual John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run is the true golfing gem of the Quad Cities area. Situated along the Rock River, the course has been the site of some unbelievable heroics in the past couple of years, including Zach Johnson’s fairway bunker shot to two feet in a 2012 playoff, and last year’s hole-out on eighteen by then up-and-comer Jordan Spieth to force the playoff he would later win.

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The par three 16th at TPC Deere Run, host to the PGA’s annual John Deere Classic

Other Out-of-State Courses Reviewed/Photographed:

Craft Farms, Cotton Creek (Gulf Shores, AL):

Yardages: Gold-7127, Blue-6617, White-6080
Slope/Rating: Gold-133/73.3, Blue-124/71.4, White-117/69.1
Architect: Arnold Palmer (1987)

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Approach shot in to the par four 18th on the Cotton Creek course

Craft Farms Website

Harborside International, Port Course (Chicago, IL):

Yardages: Gold-7123, Blue-6589, White-5977
Slope/Rating: Gold-136/74.8, Blue-130/72.3, White-124/69.4
GolfWeek: #14 Illinois public
Designer: Dick Nugent (1995)

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The par three 15th / “Anchor Hole” at Harborside International’s Port course

Juliette Falls (Dunnellon, FL):

Yardages: Viking-7236, Platinum-6729, White-6269
Slope/Rating: Viking-143/75.4, Platinum-139/72.6, White-130/70.4
GolfWeek: #18 Florida public
Architect: John Sanford (2007)

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Dogleg left par four 8th at Juliette Falls

Kiawah Island, Osprey Point (Kiawah Island, SC):

Yardages: Tournament-6902, Osprey-6545, Fazio-6162
Slope/Rating: Tournament-135/72.8, Osprey-133/70.5, Fazio-130/69
Architect: Tom Fazio (1988)

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Hole 11: Par 3 (223/208/179/97/82)

Kiawah Island, Osprey Point Website

Lost Key Golf Club (Perdido Key, FL):

Yardages: Black-6801, Blue-6447, White-6001
Slope/Rating: Black-144/72.6, Blue-135/70.3, White-123/68.2
Architect: Arnold Palmer (1997)

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The gorgeous dogleg right par four 5th at Lost Key

Lost Key Golf Club Website

Peninsula Golf Club (Fort Morgan, AL)

Yardage:
Marsh to Lakes: Tee#1-6976, Tee#2-6472, Tee#3-5774, Honours Tee-5325
Marsh to Cypress: Tee#1-7185, Tee#2-6693, Tee#3-5889, Honours Tee-5315
Lakes to Cypress: Tee#1-7003, Tee#2-6495, Tee#3-5685, Honours Tee-5316
Slope/Rating:
Marsh to Lakes: Tee#1-125/72.6, Tee#2-116/70.1, Tee#3-104/67, Honours Tee-120/70.1
Marsh to Cypress: Tee#1-121/73.2, Tee#2-116/70.6, Tee#3-103/67.1, Honours Tee-115/68.7
Lakes to Cypress: Tee#1-124/72.
Architect: Earl Stone (1995)

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A look back at the par four 7th on the Lakes course at Peninsula Golf Club

Peninsula Golf Club Website

Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek (North Plains, OR):

Yardages: Black-6839, Blue-6386, White-5921, Red-5111
Slope/Rating: Black-147/74.5, Blue-139/72.1, White-136/69.8, Red-132/71
Golf Digest: #67 US public, #13 Oregon, Best new public (1992)
GolfWeek: #7 Oregon public
Golf.com: #56 US public, #6 Oregon public
Architect: Bob Cupp (1992)

Ghost Creek at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club is the top public course in the greater Portland area, and is named for its meandering, shows-up-when-you-don’t-expect it “Ghost Creek.”

The creek runs throughout the property, sneakily in spots that oftentimes seem to be completely safe. The course’s small greens and mature trees provide great protection against scoring, although there are fantastic opportunities to score with terrific drivable par fours and reachable par fives.

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A look at the approach on the tough par four 9th along Ghost Creek

Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek Website

Reynolds Lake Oconee, The National (Greensboro, GA)

Yardage: One-7034, Two-6544, Three-6094, Four-5759
Slope/Rating: One-139/74.0, Two-138/72.0, Three-136/71.1, Four-128/68.6
Architect: Tom Fazio (2000, 2014)

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A great approach shot in to the 8th green on The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee

The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee Website

Shepherd’s Crook (Zion, IL):

Yardages: Silver-6,827/6,769, Black-6,272, Gold-6,002
Slope/Rating: Silver-128/72.1, Black-123/69.5, Gold-119/67.9
Architect: Keith Foster (1999)

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Tee shot on the par four 15th at Shepherd’s Crook

Shepherd’s Crook Website

Stone Creek (Oregon City, OR):

Yardages: Black-6873, Blue-6525, White-5989
Slope/Rating: Black-132/73.2, Blue-127/71.4, White-126/68.8
Architects: Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy (2002)

A gorgeous Peter Jacobsen designed course in Oregon City, Stone Creek has one of the toughest back nines I have played anywhere, with several long, uphill par fours. The property runs through a beautiful track of land with tall trees and significant changes in elevation, and was the site of my first ever even par nine – 36 on the front.

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Par three 6th over water at Stone Creek

Sweetgrass (Harris, MI):

Yardages: Black-7275, Blue-6829, White-6439
Slope/Rating: Black-143/75.2, Blue-137/73.3, White-134/71.3
GolfWeek: #12 Michigan public
Golf.com: #17 Michigan public
Architect: Paul Albanese (2008)

A beautiful new links-style course at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan, Sweetgrass features some of the most prime golfing conditions I have found anywhere. From the tee boxes to the fairways and greens, every detail of the care and maintenance of this course is held to a high standard that provides a phenomenal golfing experience.

The seventeenth hole was an instant classic for me: A long par four over a marshland with an elevated green and traps everywhere.

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One of the coolest par fours found anywhere: The 17th at Sweetgrass, nicknamed “Turtle”

ThunderHawk (Zion, IL):

Yardages: Black-7031, Brass-6631, Silver-6124
Slope/Rating: Black-137/74.1, Brass-133/72.3, Silver-128/69.9
GolfWeek: #5 Illinois public
Golf.com: #7 Illinois public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (1999)

Part of the Lake County Forest Preserve, ThunderHawk is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course near the border of Wisconsin and Illinois. Rated as a top ten course in the country in 2010, I expected a lot from this course and was not disappointed. It helped that I shot the lowest nine at that point in my life with a front nine 39. Play slowed considerably on the back and I finished with an 86, but it was one of the most enjoyable rounds I have ever played.

ThunderHawk compares favorably to The Bull and Blackwolf Run in terrain and layout, and is what I would consider to be a fantastic “hidden gem.”

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Demanding tee shot on the par four 12th at ThunderHawk

TimberStone (Iron Mountain, MI):

Yardages: Forest-6937, Boulder-6533, Timber-5836
Slope/Rating: Forest-148/75, Boulder-144/72.9, Timber-135/69.8
GolfWeek: #89 resort, #10 Michigan public
Architect: Jerry Matthews (1996)

One of the most well-kept golf courses in the Midwest, Timberstone was to me the biggest surprise among the three courses played during our “U.P. Golf Trio” vacation. A converted ski hill during winter time, Timberstone at Pine Mountain has elevation only outdone by Greywalls, and phenomenal tee-to-green conditions that make this one of the best overall golf experiences anywhere.

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The most awe-inspiring tee shot in the Midwest: The par three 17th at TimberStone

TPC Tampa Bay (Lutz, FL):

Yardages: TPC-6898, Blue-6610, Green-6332
Slope/Rating: TPC-140/74.2, Blue-136/72.1, Green-131/70.4

A typical TPC layout with water and deep, white sand traps everywhere, and devilishly fast greens, TPC Tampa Bay is a must-play in the Tampa area.
Architect: Bobby Weed (1991)

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Tee shot on 18 at TPC Tampa Bay

World Woods, Rolling Oaks (Brooksville, FL):

Yardages: Yellow-7333, Black-6873, Green-5943
Slope/Rating: Yellow-132/74.8, Black-129/72.3, Green-121/70.3
GolfWeek: #9 Florida public
Golf.com: #11 Florida public
Architect: Tom Fazio (1991)

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A look back at the long, gorgeous downhill par three 8th on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods

Notable Media Rankings:

 


 

My previous 64-ball golf cabinet got me started with ball collecting, and I want to memorialize it here:

My brother and his wife got me a golf ball trophy cabinet four years ago for Christmas, and so I started collecting logo balls from the courses I’ve played since then. It holds 63 balls, and I’ve gotten to the point where I am now removing balls and replacing them with better courses on a regular basis.

Any time I play with somebody new, I inevitably get into the conversation of “the best course you’ve ever played.” Man, that’s a tough question, but one I am going to attempt to tackle in this post.

My trophy ball cabinet as of July 12, 2015:

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Top Row: Wilderness at Fortune Bay (MN), Stone Creek (OR), The Bull, Milwaukee CC, Erin Hills, TimberStone (MI), Chicago Highlands (IL), Classic at Madden’s (MN), Legend at Bristlecone
2nd Row: Pumpkin Ridge (OR), TPC Deere Run (IL), Lawsonia, Sand Valley, Streamsong (FL), Pacific Dunes (OR), SentryWorld, West Bend CC, University Ridge
3rd Row: Geneva National, Greywalls (MI), World Woods (FL), Whistling Straits, North Hills CC, Prairie Club (NE), Dismal River (NE), Racine CC, Washington County
4th Row: Peninsula Golf Club (AL), Strawberry Creek, Torrey Pines (CA), Bandon Trails (OR), Johnsonville Sausage, Kiva Dunes (AL), Chambers Bay (WA), Wild Rock, Sweetgrass (MI)
5th Row: True Blue (SC), The Oaks, Old Macdonald (OR), Blackwolf Run, Kiawah Island (SC), Pine Hills CC, ThunderHawk (IL), Wild Ridge, Horseshoe Bay
6th Row: Westmoor CC, Ozaukee CC, Cog Hill (IL), The Harvester (IA), Bandon Dunes (OR), Castle at the Bay, Juliette Falls (FL), Hawks Landing, Bishops Bay
7th Row: Bulls Eye CC, Big Fish, Harborside (IL), The Bog, TPC Tampa Bay (FL), Trappers Turn, Tuckaway CC, Hawks View, Grand Geneva