Sunday, January 31, 2010

Courses I Would Love to Play

I want to start off by stealing a line from the mission statement over at The London Golfer:

I do not intend to play the world's top 100 golf courses

Sure, I'd love to play as many of the top tracks in the world and any opportunity that arises to play a highly-ranked course will be strongly considered and likely acted upon with great appreciation.

That being said, playing courses of this magnitude is usually expensive, first and foremost and secondly, takes a lot of time if it involves travel. When you're running a business to support your family and get only a few waking hours each weekday with your wife and infant son, money and time are precious commodities.

Thankfully, I have an awesome wife who sympathizes with my golf addiction and fully supports the occasional golf getaway.

Okay, on to the list -

I fully expect this post to evolve over time and I will update it as need be, whether it's to add a course to the list or to cross one off that I end up playing.

This is not meant to be a definitive list of every course I want to play - that list would go on forever. Instead, this list only includes the courses that I'd be hard pressed to decline an invitation even on short notice, regardless of price OR courses I'd book an entire trip around just to play.

THE NO-BRAINERS:

- Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, USA
- Cypress Point Club, Pebble Beach, California, USA
- Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, USA
- Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York, USA
- Pine Valley Golf Club, Pine Valley, New Jersey, USA (shown below)

An invitation received to play any of these clubs would almost certainly be accepted and acted upon even on the shortest of notice. I'd likely be on a plane or on the road that night even if the tee time was less than 24 hours away.

There are a couple of things all these courses have in common: first of all, almost every one of them are ranked in the top 10 in numerous publications either in the US or Canada. The ones that aren't, like Oak Hill, are within easy driving distance from the Niagara Region here in Ontario. Secondly, they are all intensely private clubs where invitations are few and far between.

The rest of the courses on my list would be places I'd likely try to build a trip or vacation around.

ALBERTA, CANADA:

- Banff Springs Golf Course, Banff, Alberta, CANADA (shown below)
- Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Jasper, Alberta, CANADA
- Blackhawk Golf Club, Spruce Grove, Alberta, CANADA

If I'm ever back in the province, I'll likely extend the stay and play Kananaskis Country Golf Course, where they have two courses ranked inside the top 100 in Canada (Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette). Blackhawk is a Rod Whitman design in the Edmonton area.

AUSTRALIA:

- Barnbougle Dunes, Bridport, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA
- Kingston Heath Golf Club, Cheltenham, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
- Lost Farm, Bridport, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA
- New South Wales Golf Club, La Perouse, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
- Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Black Rock, Victoria, AUSTRALIA (shown below)

At some point in my life, I hope to make a trip down under to take in some of the best golf on the planet. Royal Melbourne is the jewel of the Sand Belt and Kingston Heath is right around the corner from what I understand. New South Wales has some of the most picturesque views in all of golf with many holes hugging the coastline. All three of those courses are private but like the great courses in Europe, these gems will all accept limited unaccompanied guest play with a proper introduction.

Tasmania is home to Barnbougle Dunes, which is soon to be a 36-hole resort featuring Lost Farm, the very highly anticipated Coore/Crenshaw design which is set to open at the end of 2010.

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA:

- Capilano Golf & Country Club, West Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA

Capilano is another of Stanley Thompson's finest designs. When I head back to Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club again, I'll likely look into accessing Capilano and perhaps Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club as well.

CALIFORNIA, USA:

- Los Angeles Country Club, Los Angeles, California, USA
- The Olympic Club, San Francisco, California, USA
- San Francisco Golf Club, San Francisco, California, USA
- Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Pebble Beach, California, USA

California is a big state so you definitely have to plan a Northern California vacation and one for Southern California as well.

Northern California is home to the Monterey Peninsula, where I was fortunate enough to play Pebble Beach and MPCC (Shore) in 2013. Cypress Point is ultra private and a very tough course to access while Spyglass Hill is a resort course, open to the public but extremely expensive. There are two private clubs in the San Francisco area I'd love to play as well in The Olympic Club's Lake Course and San Francisco Golf Club, another tough course to get an invite to. During my 2013 trip, I was lucky enough to play the Cal Club in South San Francisco and the delightful Pasatiempo GC in Santa Cruz.

In Southern California, LACC is a very exclusive private club that I actually turned down a chance to play while playing Riviera CC in 2007. If I was in the area and had a chance to play it again, I wouldn't turn down the invitation. I'd likely play Riviera again in the area and also try to play private clubs like Bel Air CC and Sherwood CC and perhaps publics like Rustic Canyon GC.

FLORIDA, USA:

- TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

There's not much else in Florida that I need to see other than Pete Dye's most famous design, the Stadium Course, home of the Players Championship on the PGA Tour. Perhaps Seminole GC, an ultra-private club in North Palm Beach. Maybe World Woods (Pine Barrens Course) in Brooksville but that's about it.

IRELAND:

- Ballybunion Golf Club, Ballybunion, IRELAND
- Enniscrone Golf Club, Enniscrone, IRELAND
- Lahinch Golf Club, Lahinch, IRELAND
- Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, IRELAND
- Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, N. IRELAND (shown below)
- Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, N. IRELAND

This is probably the trip I want to take more than any other. In fact, getting the chance to experience Royal County Down may be right at the top of my list. This is a trip that will likely take two weeks to do the right way or will require multiple visits due to the fact there are places both in Ireland and Northern Ireland that I want to see. A number of other courses deserve mention and I'm sure I will play others that aren't listed above but these are the ones I really want to see.

NEW YORK, USA:

- Friar's Head, Baiting Hollow, New York, USA

New York, like Michigan, is chalk full of great golf courses, many of which have hosted major championships. There are a few other New York State courses listed in the 'No Brainers' section. They are all very private, as is Friar's Head and there are a couple other notable private clubs in the state, like Fisher's Island and Sleepy Hollow.

NEW ZEALAND:

- Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, NEW ZEALAND (shown below)
- Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand would definitely be a stop on any trip down to Australia and Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs are two of the most picturesque places on the planet. CK has a similar look to Tobiano in British Columbia, a course I played for the first time in 2009, with fingers of land sitting well above a body of water. Both CK and KC host the annual Kiwi Challenge, a silly season event usually featuring four young up-and-comers on the PGA Tour.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA:

- Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina, USA
- Tobacco Road, Sanford, North Carolina, USA (shown below)

The #2 Course at Pinehurst is a historic course and the facility itself is enormous. It seems that every true golf fan has to make this pilgrimage at some point in their life. Tobacco Road is another Mike Strantz design, another public track like Pinehurst but one that is a very polarizing design. Many hate the course, many love it. That's Strantz for you! A couple of other notable courses in NC include Pine Needles and Mid Pines, part of the same resort in Southern Pines.

NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA:

- Cabot Links, Inverness, Nova Scotia, CANADA
- Cape Breton Highlands Links, Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia, CANADA

Highlands Links (shown above) has always been ranked near the top of the ScoreGolf ranking of Canadian courses and it looks like I'm finally going to get my opportunity to play this esteemed course in 2012. I will be in Newfoundland on a business conference that year (yes, some things are planned that far in advance) and I'll likely extend my stay to venture out to Cape Breton to play Highlands and also Cabot Links, a Rod Whitman and Ran Morrissett collaboration which isn't completed yet. I'll likely also try to play Crowbush Cove in Prince Edward Island and perhaps Humber Valley Golf Resort in Newfoundland, assuming it will still be operational (they are having liquidity issues from what I understand).

OHIO, USA:

- The Golf Club, New Albany, Ohio, USA
- The Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio, USA

I had the pleasure of visiting some of Ohio's best courses in July 2011, including Scioto CC and Muirfield Village, shown above. I definitely would like to return someday and play a few courses we didn't see the first time, like Pete Dye's The Golf Club and the Donald Ross classic Inverness. I'd also like to visit Firestone Country Club in Akron, the home of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. The very private Double Eagle GC is also a possibility.

SCOTLAND:

- Carnoustie Golf Links, Carnoustie, SCOTLAND
- Cruden Bay Golf Club, Cruden Bay, SCOTLAND
- Kingsbarns Golf Links, St. Andrews, SCOTLAND
- North Berwick Golf Club, North Berwick, SCOTLAND
- The Old Course at St. Andrews, St. Andrews, SCOTLAND (shown below)
- Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Dornoch, SCOTLAND
- Turnberry Golf Resort, Turnberry, SCOTLAND

I could probably list about 20 courses I'd love to see in Scotland and any trip there would likely have to be two full weeks in order to see as much as possible. In addition to the great courses listed above, I'd likely also try to see places like Machrihanish GC, The Castle Course at St. Andrews, Muirfield GC (very private though) and Castle Stuart GL, among others.

SOUTH CAROLINA, USA:

- Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina, USA (shown below)

I'd likely try to play some golf in Georgia if I was visiting South Carolina, with courses like Cuscowilla GC, Peachtree GC and East Lake all hopeful destinations. I won't hold my breath on Augusta National but a man can dream...

WISCONSIN, USA:

- Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wisconsin, USA
- Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin, USA

The American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin is home to four world class golf courses. Blackwolf Run's River Course is joined by the Meadow Valleys course at the resort and just a few miles away in Haven sits Whistling Straits, with the famous Straits Course (host of the 2010 PGA Championship and shown above) and Irish Course on that site. Very expensive golf but open to the public. I've also heard great things about Milwaukee Country Club.

MISCELLANEOUS COURSES:

- Kapalua (Plantation Course), Kapalua, Hawaii, USA
- Redtail Golf Course, St. Thomas, Ontario, CANADA
- Rock Creek Cattle Company, Deer Lodge, Montana, USA

I'll likely be crossing Redtail off this list in 2010, as I expect to spend a day there sometime this summer. The other courses here are all quite remote or located in places I'm not likely to visit off the cuff - I mean, really...when am I ever going to be in Montana? Tom Doak's Rock Creek (shown above) looks tremendous but barring a long weekend invitation, there is no chance of me getting out there.

COURSES I'VE CROSSED OFF THE BUCKET LIST...BUT WOULD RETURN TO IN A HEARTBEAT!

- Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, Arcadia, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club, Holyoke, Colorado, USA PLAYED IN 2010, 2012 & 2013
- Bandon Dunes, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Bandon Trails, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Bethpage State Park - Black Course, Farmingdale, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- California Golf Club of San Francisco, South San Francisco, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Crystal Downs Country Club, Frankfort, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Devil's Paintbrush, Caledon East, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2013
- Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Ancaster, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2010
- Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course, Pebble Beach, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Kiawah Island Golf Resort - Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Kingsley Club, Kingsley, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- National Golf Club of Canada, Woodbridge, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2011
- National Golf Links of America, Southampton, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Oakland Hills Country Club - South Course, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania, USA PLAYED IN 2007
- Old Macdonald, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Pacific Dunes, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Pasatiempo Golf Club, Santa Cruz, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California, USA PLAYED IN 2007
- Sand Hills Golf Club, Mullen, Nebraska, USA PLAYED IN 2010
- Scioto Country Club, Columbus, Ohio, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Sebonack, Southampton, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- St. George's Golf & Country Club, Etobicoke, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2012
- Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- The Course at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut, USA PLAYED IN 2013

So there is the list, an exhaustive one at that! I look forward to hearing your comments - what have I not included that should be on my dream list? What have you played on this list that you feel shouldn't be on the list?

Hope to hear from everyone who visits!

6 comments:

  1. Hi Matt,

    that a nice list. And close to my dream list. But in Europe you forgot England and Wales... and France and Netherlands and and and... A long way to go.

    best wishes from another golf addicted from Germany

    Andreas

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  2. Thought I should comment so you can save face.
    Either everyone has the exact same list as you, or your blog isn't the powerhouse online golf blog you thought it was.

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  3. DR:

    You're right - England was left off just because the list was already so long. There is certainly a lot of great golf there but only a couple of key places in Wales from what I understand.

    Harris:

    Thanks for commenting and I'd agree that it must be the latter ;)

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  4. Matt,
    Love that Sand Hills is your background photo. You wrote about your trip there and mentioned my grandfather, Tom Simonson. It made me cry my eyes out, but you got to experience something that is so magical. I grew up in Mullen and spent summers caddying and working at Sand Hills and it will always be special in my heart. (By the way, Friar's Head is another Ben n Bill creation and the original pro at Sand Hills, Jim Kidd, was the pro for F.H. when it opened--great course!)
    Thank you for mentioning my Papa Tom. Wish you could have met him. He added to the majesty that is Sand Hills Golf Club

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  5. you missed a few in Florida.

    Pine Tree in Boynton beach, Fl. Very close Seminole. Hogan called it the bes flat course he ever played. Jupiter Hills golf club, Calusa golf club in Naples. Old Memorial golf club, a Steve Smyers design and one of my favorite in Florida. A lot of people say it is very similar to the Australian courses in the sancd belt region. Also has one of the best 19th holes anywhere. Pablo Creek in Jacksonville FLorida. The Bears club, The Metalist, Mcarther, Old Marsh, The dye Preserve are in palm beach and top notch among the tour players.

    best of luck.

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  6. You have checked off some great ones. I have only played 10 on your list, about 30 of top 100 so a long way to go. Other great ones you I recommend, The Honors Course, Chicago Golf, Butler National, Medinah, Olympia Fields, Rich Harvest Farms, Victoria National. I live in Indy but 5 of these are Chicago top 100, great in summer/fall. What do you have scheduled for 2015? I'm headed to Maui tomorrow, will be playing Kapalua a few times during my stay.

    ReplyDelete