8 Tracks Every Golfer Needs to Play Before They Die
By Michael Sneeden
If you’re like me, you plan your vacations around proximity to great golf courses. Sure, most of the time will be devoted to spending time with your family, but you can always sneak away for a twilight round. When you’re deciding on a destination, use this basic formula: Interesting Area of the World + Enough Activities For Everybody + Premiere Golf Course. Never fails.
Although we spend most weekends on courses that won’t break the bank, every now and then, we have to treat ourselves. After all, you’ve put in the hours hacking away at the munis and executives – you’ve earned it. This list is not comprehensive by any means, but it’s a good start. Put these eight courses on your bucket list, and start checking them off right away.
Old Course at St. Andrews
The Old Course in Scotland, also known as “The Home of Golf”, is where it all started. Open to the public for going on 500 years, it’s a no-brainer if you’re ever overseas. Though it can be a little tricky to nab a tee time, with some arriving much before the crack of dawn for even a chance at playing, it’s well worth the early wake up call.
You watch Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake, and Mark Wahlberg play every year at the AT&T Pro-Am, but it may surprise some people to know that you, too, can tee it up on the Monterey Peninsula. It rightfully sits atop the ranking of Top 100 Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine, beating out Pinehurst, Whistling Straights, and a few others on this very list. But make sure to glance at your checking account before setting off for California – 18 holes here can cost you north of 500 bucks. The consensus reports, however, it is well worth it.
And if you’re trying to do the west coast all in one trip, travel due north to the most prestigious cluster of courses in the country at Bandon Dunes. The five courses (Bandon, Pacific, Old MacDonald, Trails and Preserve), are all considered some of the best in the USA, but the one that offers the most pristine views is certainly Pacific. With holes running right along the ocean, the stunning fairways have nothing on the sunset views that you’ll witness during a twilight round.
Players on the PGA Tour often tout Sawgrass as one of their favorites, and for good reason. The stadium course in Ponta Vedra Beach is home to the Players Championship, a regular gathering of all the biggest names in the sport. Its island green on the par-3 17th is the ultimate test in accuracy. But, hit it or not, any day here is a good one.
Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club
As one of the few courses on this list that I’ve actually played, I can attest that this ocean-view course on the coast of Georgia is a sight to behold. Which is exactly why tour players like Davis Love III and British Open runner-up Matt Kuchar make their home here. And with an immersive spa experience and a wine cellar that puts Napa millionaires to shame, golf is just one of the many things that you can experience at this top-notch resort.
The Highland Course at Primland Resort
Although most of these courses so far have been in proximity to the ocean, this mountain course situated in Meadows of Dan, Virginia is worth going out of your way. And with a full list of activities to partake in – skeet shooting, ATV riding, fishing, hunting – you’ll probably only have time for one round. If you want to see leaf colors ranging all across the spectrum, make sure to head down to Primland in the fall to truly experience the beauty of the course.
Royal County Down
Former world number one and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy names this Northern Irish gem as his favorite course in the world. I’d say he’s got good taste. The Old Tom Morris-designed links boasts 36 holes of sweeping fairways and undulating greens, and is a true test of the game.
A relative unknown in the golf destination world, this cliffside track is the pinnacle New Zealand golf, a quietly impressive country for playing 18. With ocean views that put even the most elite in California to shame, it is a must-see for every golf fanatic in the world.