Swing a club at the best places
Get ready to unleash your inner Tiger Woods. We visit six public golf courses in the US
California - Pebble Beach
"If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach. 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. There are few thrills in golf to match teeing off for the first time on Pebble Beach Golf Links, often ranked number one on Golf Digest's '100 Greatest Public Courses in America list. The course oozes history and atmosphere, and since opening in 1919, it has hosted some of golf's most prestigious tournaments, including five US Open Championships and the annual AT&T 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 the 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 $550? Yes, at least once in a lifetime.
South Carolina - Caledonia Golf & Fish Club
Voted the Fifth Best New Public Course in America upon opening its gates in 1994, the accolades have never stopped rolling in for Mark Strantz's first design on the Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach. It feels like a journey back in time as you drive along the grand entrance lined with rows of centuries-old live oaks draped with Spanish moss to reach the Old South clubhouse. Often compared to Augusta National for its exquisite style, floral beauty and velvety fairways and greens, Caledonia has a sleepy ambience that embraces its Southern roots.
Built on the site of an old rice plantation and overlooking the picturesque Waccamaw River, Strantz has artfully crafted the site's streams, ponds and moss-covered oaks to create a hugely enjoyable test of golf. Amid the scenic backdrop of blooming flowers and colourful shrubs are some memorable holes such as the picturesque par-3 11th with a snaking creek to the green, the par-4 13th that doglegs around a giant oak tree and the wonderful closing hole.
The par-4 18th borders the plantation's old rice field, and requires a precise drive that sets up a difficult second shot - a forced carry onto a green at the foot of the clubhouse, where it's tradition for onlookers sitting in rocking chairs to respond appropriately and, sometimes, bet on the results of player's shots.
Wisconsin - Whistling Straits
Billionaire bathroom supplier Herb Kohler had a dream of building a Scottish-style links sculpted along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in Wisconsin, and Pete Dye's creation in 1998 exceeded his expectations, going on to become a major championship venue. The course first hosted the fourth major of the year, the PGA Championship, in 2004 when Vijay Singh was the champion, and since then, Martin Kaymer in 2010 and, most recently, Jason Day in 2015 have made up the trio of golfers to lift the Wanamaker Trophy.
It's a rugged, windswept layout which is more akin to Irish or Scottish links with undulating fairways bordered by wispy fescue grasses, contoured greens and roughly 1,000 bunkers, which must be heading for a world record. There are several standout holes including two memorable shore-hugging par-3's; hole-7 (Shipwreck) and hole-17 (Pinched Nerve) with spectacular views over Lake Michigan. Polls regularly acknowledge Whistling Straits as one of America's top 10 greatest public courses and the exciting news for golfers is that it will be home to the Ryder Cup in 2020.
Arizona - Troon North
Troon North is the essence of the desert golf experience, with two top-notch 18-hole layouts (the Monument and Pinnacle Courses) stretching through natural ravines and foothills of the high Sonoran desert, in the shadows of Pinnacle Peak. Both immaculately groomed courses will challenge you with their lush green fairways bordered by boulders, rock formations and huge Saguaro cactus that can reach heights of 45 feet. It's the kind of environment where you half expect to see the 'Magnificent Seven' come riding over the horizon on horseback as you tee off.
There are some great holes at Troon North, and none better than the Monument Course's third, aptly named 'The Monument.' This 564-yard, par-5 is an intriguing hole with plenty of risk-reward options that requires you to first dodge a giant boulder anchored in the middle of the fairway. Over the years, Troon North has won a multitude of accolades and awards including Golf Magazine's "Top 100 Courses You can Play in the US" and Conde Nast Traveler's "Top 100 Golf Resorts in North America and the Caribbean" .Make sure to add it to your bucket list of places to play in the USA.
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 the 'No. 1 Golf Resort in North America' according to Golf Digest 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." This was said in 1962 by renowned course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr, at the 3rd hole site to developer Laurance S Rockefeller as they toured the raw, barren lava landscape that is now Mauna Kea Resort. The course 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 265-yard drive signature third hole, where surging inlet waves thunder against the rocky shoreline.
In 2007-2008, 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 yardages have expanded by about 200 yards 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.