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Unforgettable is the par-5 3rd, its fairway dominated by a giant boulder positioned dead-center of the landing area. The Harvester Golf Club Rhodes, Iowa (-9) Iowa hasn’t exactly produced a bumper crop of superior public courses, but this 16-year-old Keith Foster design 30 miles northeast of Des Moines is an exception. Creeks, wetlands, woods and tall fescues grasses will terrorize the wayward hitter. The lake comes into play on the back nine and must be carried on tee shots of both the 17th and 18th holes. (-9) Wetlands, bunkers and the Deschutes and Little Deschutes Rivers come into play early and often on this 1995 Bob Cupp/John Fought design. (5-0) One of the rare Donald Ross creations west of the Mississippi, Ross carved the Broadmoor from the foothills of the Cheyenne Mountain in 1918. Contrasting the brutish 503-yard, par-4 ninth with the 320-yard, drivable par-4 10th speaks to the diversity of the challenge. Strategic shot options, acres of salt marshes and handsome views of the Atlantic City skyline are all part of the package. This 2001 Arthur Hills design zigzags through wetlands, salt marshes and hardwoods—often on the same hole— and pauses here and there to dish out superb vistas of Assawoman Bay and the Ocean City skyline. However, these fairways feature firm, rumpled landing areas that will funnel side-spinning shots into dense native fescues or, worse, into some of the largest formalized bunkers ever created. Wetlands, rock ledges and rolling, forested terrain provide all the golf you could want. Engh’s unique “muscle” bunkers flex throughout the round, their narrow, squiggly shapes bracketed by biceps of grass. (-9) Situated 25 minutes south of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and recently retooled by original architect Brian Curley and original consultant Fred Couples, this still-muscular 7,546-yard design features sprawling bunkers, fescue-framed fairways, inspired green contouring and nary a weak hole, together with mountain vistas—and no homes to mar the views. The option-laden drivable par-4 fourth hole is one of the Lowcountry’s best risk/reward tests. While the final four holes along the Atlantic rightly earn acclaim as “the Bear Claw,” the best of the 18 might be the 437-yard, par-4 9th, with the ocean looming to the right. At their best, during their 1920s heyday, they blended design characteristics of both Donald Ross and Seth Raynor with the result here a rolling, mostly treeless layout (hence the “Links” misnomer), though one with a fabulous set of deep bunkers and elevated greens. Blind shots, mounds in incomprehensible places and greens that list like a ship in a storm explain how a 6,500-yard course can boast a slope of 150. Most memorable are the back-to-back oceanside par-3s at 12 and 13, the latter a two-green setup with the putting surfaces separated by an enormous sand feature. (0-0) It’s startling to imagine that until 1995, this tract housed the Glenview Naval Air Station—total elevation change: three feet.
The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa Grand Junction, Colo. The Gold is currently closed for a Rees Jones renovation and will reopen in 2017. Mountain backdrops, insanely deep bunkers, such as the 19-foot pit that guards the 16th green and formidable carries over the desert are further takeaways. Forced carries over wetlands and 150 feet of elevation change are further highlights. In fact, there are two of them, both framed by lush desert vegetation and mountain vistas. Women’s Open on Ghost Creek’s private sister, Witch Hollow, but don’t weep for this walkable Bob Cupp design in suburban Portland, which boasts better finishing holes on each of its nines and which witnessed a marquee event of its own, in 1993, when David Duval captured the Nike Tour Championship. (5) Tom Fazio routed this immaculately groomed, naturally rolling course through a blackjack oak forest and around 110-acre Lake Louise, named for the wife of course benefactor Karsten Solheim. The tough closing stretch, known as “the Snake Pit,” has crowned recent winners such as Jordan Spieth and Charl Schwartzel. A collaborative effort from Nick Faldo and Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design, the Wilderness Club embraces skillfully sculpted rugged bunkers, open meadows, deep-blue glacial lakes and corridors of Ponderosa pines. The 119-year-old layout was most recently reworked by Tom Doak in 1999 and today’s version is a par-70, 6,577-yard layout that unfolds over flattish coastal terrain. (-9) Situated just west of the Intracoastal Waterway near Ocean City, Lighthouse Sound shines with endless scenery and strategic options to match. (0-0) Picture the widest fairways imaginable—then double it—and you have the driving zones at this six-year-old Tom Lehman/Chris Brands design carved into the heaving, wind-sculpted terrain of northwestern Nebraska. It’s well worth the short ride to sample holes that are handsomely framed by oaks and sycamores and that feature the Short Springs Branch, a limestone creek bed that adds beauty and menace. Rees Jones chiseled two formidable spreads from the rock-studded hills, the public-access North and the South. (-0) Jim Engh’s distinctive design style is on full display at this 14-year-old creation north of Grand Rapids that blends woods and wetlands in a striking package. Love’s Donald Ross-infused, inverted saucer greens, imaginative contouring and chipping areas and re-created plantation house ruins add up to pure fun. (-5) This seaside, linksy layout was the site of 13-year-old Michelle Wie’s triumph at the 2003 U. Women’s Public Links Championship and it’s easy to see why she was so inspired. (-) It’s likely only architecture buffs have heard of William Langford and Theodore Moreau, the gents that sculpted the Badger State’s best bargain, but no matter. Or, put another way, Tobacco Road at times resembles a Dali painting, so warped are some of the landforms and putting surfaces. (0-0) Dating to 1991, the elder of the Tom Fazio courses here features wide fairways, coastal breezes and landscaping and the usual artful Fazio shaping.
Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club Southern Pines, N.
Golden Horseshoe Golf Club (Gold) Williamsburg, Va.
Tall pines frame most of the holes, but the essence of the course centers on superior risk/reward tests such as the par-4 9th, par-4th 11th and par-5 18th, each of which challenges the mind and delights the eye with lakeside peril. Trivia buffs: 16-year-old Jack Nicklaus aced the par-3 14th hole in a practice round at the 1956 U. The rest of the course isn’t far behind, with holes twisting among black lava outcroppings above the Pacific Ocean. Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club and Lounge (Challenger/Champion) Orlando, Fla. Gently rolling—unusual for Florida—and splashed with lakes, bunkers and doglegs, Bay Hill favors shotmakers, as well as someone with nerves, as the watery two-hole finish is as scary as they come. features topsy-turvy, wooded terrain that yields one of golf’s best par-3 quartets. Dustin Johnson won his first PGA Tour title here, in 2008, Matt Kuchar took the title in 2009 and Tiger Woods shows up annually to compete in Notah Begay’s Foundation Challenge. The 1999 Arthur Hills design mixes open and wooded holes, all flawlessly groomed. (-0) No course in America serves up as many “Caution: Steep Grade” signs on the cart paths, likely because no course in America takes you on such a perversely thrilling ride. (5-0) Compared to its older, brawnier brother, the Straits, the Irish is clearly the overlooked sibling. A smattering of wetlands and parkland holes intrude on the faux-Emerald Isle experience, yet for whatever it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for with heroic, testing holes. Most memorable are the granite outcroppings that serve as turfed-over houses for elevated tee boxes and as aiming points behind greens, as well as jabbed into and alongside fairways.
Few have conquered its dune-flecked, oceanside start, nor its final 13 holes through the pines, except Phil Mickelson in 2005 and Luke Donald in 2006, when both posted astonishing 10-under-par 62s. Hewn from flat, featureless desert, Shadow Creek emerged with rolling hills, a forest of pines, bursts of flowers and a network of creeks and lakes. (9-5) Few courses so successfully fuse beauty, challenge and playability as this 1992 effort that hugs the shoreline of Lake Oconee for nearly the entire back nine. (0-0) Abutting the postcard perfect campus of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., Taconic blends heart-of-the-Berkshires charm with superb shotmaking challenges. Still, it’s the 470-yard, downhill, par-4 11th that will set your camera clicking. Most memorable, however, are the Gotham visuals, from the Whitestone Bridge to the East River to the Manhattan skyline. Manele Golf Course Lanai City, Lanai, Hawaii (5) Jack Nicklaus’ 23-year-old hillside layout in the shadow of the Four Seasons Resort is best known for its incomparable 202-yard, par-3 12th, its green and tees separated by vertical cliff faces and the crashing surf of Hulopo’e Bay 150 feet below. (-5) We-Ko-Pa’s original course, designed by Scott Miller in 2001, zigzags through cactus-framed canyons, climb atop ridges and offer stunning vistas of Four Peaks Mountain and Red Mountain, with nary a home or road in sight. (-5) This 1963 creation from Robert Trent Jones Sr. (0-5) Open only to guests of Turning Stone, this pristine, 12-year-old Tom Fazio parkland creation is maintained like a PGA Tour course—which it once was. Trout-filled Grandmother Creek affects play on 14 holes, including at the signature 472-yard, par-4 3rd, where it must be carried to find the green. The Virtues Golf Club Nashport, Ohio (-) Situated 45 minutes east of Columbus, this gift to the masses from its legendary basket-making parent, Longaberger, is newly renamed and now under new management. The Irish is blanketed with bunkers, crisscrossed with streams and pockmarked with gigantic man-made dunes. (-0) This 2005 Mike De Vries design on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula twists through forests and edges wetlands throughout its rough-and-tumble, up-and-down journey.
Dense forests, deep ravines and a plethora of water hazards further spice up the play. (-9) Back on the rota for the PGA Tour’s 2016 Career Builder Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Classic and Humana Challenge), Pete Dye’s west coast follow-up to Sawgrass pays brilliant, if brutal homage, right down to the island-green par-3 17th and the scary par-4 closer that wraps around a massive lake. This means extra-wide, pine-framed fairways, festooned with spectacular, sprawling bunkers, as well as massive, artfully contoured greens and their surrounds, which demand touch and ingenuity—and perhaps multiple plays—to figure out. (-9) With nine holes designed by the team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish and the other nine a Weiskopf solo effort, there’s sure to be a signature drivable par-4. Gurgling streams, lakes and a bevy of sprawling bunkers add beauty and menace. This 44-year-old, Tampa-area layout sports Carolina-like towering pines and surprisingly hilly terrain, along with fiercely trapped, elevated greens. (-0) Few courses are as aptly named as this remote seven-year-old layout set in northwest Montana, 10 miles south of the Canadian border. (-5) Talk about history—Walter Travis, Babe Zaharias and Don January have all won at ACCC—and the term “birdie” was born here. (-9) Softened over the years, but still worthy of the Mike Strantz signature, the 18-year-old True Blue remains among Stantz’s finest designs and it’s easy to see why. A mostly open course, True Blue provides beauty and peril with lakes, marshland and plenty of scrub-filled natural sandy areas. (9-0) The younger sibling to the Barton Creek Fazio Foothills course is a 16-year-old Tom Fazio creation that sits two miles from the resort. (9-0) The Manshantucket Pequots pioneered the tribal casino-resort with their prosperous Foxwoods in southeastern Connecticut, yet it wasn’t until 2005 that they had a course worth bragging about. (-0) This 15-year-old Davis Love III creation stands out in a town loaded with great golf. (0-0) Towering sandhills, remarkable variety in landscape-shaping and plenty of alternate routes to get from tee to green characterize this Pinehurst-area, 1998 Mike Strantz design.
(-4) Arnold Palmer and Bay Hill have been synonymous since 1965, when Arnie shot 66 and waxed Jack Nicklaus in an exhibition. Tiger Woods owns eight Tour triumphs at Bay Hill and captured the 1991 U. The downhill 16th, its banana-shaped green jutting out island-style into a lake, is unforgettable. (-5) This 2010 Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw creation hews closely to the duo’s winning design formula. At 6,200 feet, with mountain backdrops, both distance control and green-reading vex the best. The downhill plunge at the par-5 5th and the long par-4 8th that’s backdropped by a lake are two of the Midwest’s best. Wolf Creek’s holes either plunge downhill or climb uphill, nearly all of them cocooned by massive sandstone formations and enormous canyon walls. (5-0) Back in 2006, Ernie Els gushed, “Copperhead is the best golf course the PGA Tour visits in Florida.” Who are we to argue with the Big Easy? (-5) Famous since its 1982 opening for the par-3 16th that’s adorned with 50,000 colorful flowers, the central Wisconsin course benefited from a 2015 renovation that featured two new par-3s, four re-designed holes and improved shot options and playability, courtesy of original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., associate Bruce Charlton and former associate Jay Blasi. The view of Lake Superior from the first tee is, well, superior. Omni Barton Creek Resort (Fazio Canyons) Austin, Tex.
The Golf Courses of Lawsonia (Links) Green Lake, Wis. Mountain is home to a truly memorable back nine, especially holes 14 through 16 that plunge up and down the mountainside. The course name is rooted in holes that are crisscrossed by barrancas and framed by native sagebrush and steep cliffs and by the old-fashioned shaggy-fringed bunkers. (6-2) Arthur Hills’ 27-hole creation wows with jaw-dropping holes that skirt Lake Michigan and complements the sizzle with a prime collection of strategic holes that zigzag among trees and rock outcroppings. This 2003 Gene Bates design also sports a modest green fee that enhances the tranquil ambience. 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. Pelican Hill Golf Club (Ocean South) Newport Coast, Calif. It has been called the public Sand Hills, which comes as no surprise, because course architects Dave Proctor and Dave Axland were instrumental in helping Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw bring Sand Hills to fruition. Sunday River Golf Club Newry, Maine (-) Sunday River is carved from dense stands of hardwoods and pines and dishes out sandy waste areas, mountain brooks and 400 feet of elevation change. (-) Situated in the state’s far west, this 2001 Jim Engh creation rolls out one visually arresting hole after the next, with no two the same. This 2001 Rees Jones design 30 minutes south of the Vegas Strip is a high desert links with firm, fast fairways that burrow through stark, brown rock-encrusted hills. Background photography: Courtesy Barefoot Resort The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa Hole 17 91. (.50-) This Carnoustie of the Corn Belt tumbles through windswept, treeless terrain , where half the battle is keeping the ball from scooting into links-like bunkers and tall native grasses. The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa Grand Junction, Colo.
Play it soon; rumor has it that it’s on the chopping block. For back-tee golfers, the swinging bridge tee box at the 175-yard, par-3 11th rocks.